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The Big Problem With More Wall Street-Themed Films And Television Shows

By Carimah Townes  

"The Big Problem With More Wall Street-Themed Films And Television Shows"

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CREDIT: Paramount

Forget about spy dramas and series about supernatural creatures — Wall Street-themed shows are slated to become the next big television trend.

With the success of The Wolf of Wall Street, which earned $375 million at box offices internationally, network executives are discovering the value of developing shows centered on the financial industry. Several Wall Street-centered series are already in the works, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Showtime is set to produce a hedge fund drama, while it’s network affiliate, CBS, is developing a thriller about “an Iraq vet-turned-hedge-fund-trader.” The Buy Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess will be adapted by Sony Pictures Television, and Fox is developing a series about Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruit, the popular book about a fledgling group of financiers.

A reality show may not be too far behind. The man behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s infamous character, Jordan Belfort, is shopping around a series about bouncing back from “rock bottom.”

There is one big problem with that approach, though: Wall Street is a predominately white male environment, which may conflict with networks’ attempts to add more diversity to their programming.

Of the four shows that have already been approved, at least three will likely feature white men. Charlie Cox is in talks to play the aforementioned Iraq veteran, and the writer behind The Buy Side, an autobiography, is white — as is Jordan Belfort. One show may potentially mix up its cast: Young Money presents a more diverse picture of the financial world. The eight people featured in the book come from different walks of life, rather than following the same trajectory: “traders at Bank of America or kids who went to Duke.” For the adaptation to remain authentic, the leads will reflect the author’s concerted effort to depict a mixed group. But, overall, the newest trend looks to be white and male.

Wall Street is filled with white men in powerful positions — over “60 percent of workers aged 46 and over between 2005 and 2009″ were white men, according to a survey from the CUNY’s Center for Urban Research. African Americans make up only 2.8 percent of Wall Street’s top-level positions. And those masses of white men on Wall Street are dominating. They earn more than the women they work with and colleagues of color, and perpetuate stereotypes about fraternity culture, from privilege to the misogynistic treatment of women.

Wall Street based movies, then, put women of color at a huge disadvantage.

But networks keep touting their efforts to diversify their casts and production teams. The President of ABC Entertainment Group said during a panel discussion hosted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition this week that “It completely reflects the fact that if you do not reflect the face of America you will not get the ratings. Anyone who says you cannot have a Latino lead or an African-American lead is now proven wrong. We’ve all proven that that actually drives audiences. It’s good for business as well as being the right thing to do.”

The upcoming Wall Street shows may undermine that claim. Based on the information we have so far, the future series may just be more homogeneity, with minorities shunted into peripheral, typecast, roles.

Release dates have not been set, so there’s hope that the four shows will implement some much-needed diversity.

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