A new article in Vanity Fair argues that “Late Night Television Is Better Than Ever.” To illustrate its point, it features a photograph of the ten most prominent hosts. The whole package was then promoted on Twitter:
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) September 14, 2015
This did not go over well. Commentators were quick to note that Vanity Fair was celebrating the superiority of a group that included zero women. Some sample reactions:
this photo could make you sad and angry UNLESS you remember that women are genetically incapable of being funny https://t.co/EGDrm0veEk
— laura olin (@lauraolin) September 14, 2015
And then they hung the "no girls allowed" sign over their clubhouse and shut the door. https://t.co/Kh7XcYkkf4
— Michele (@inthefade) September 14, 2015
actually initially thought this was a shutterstock photo for the search term 'business bro' https://t.co/kdXdYmqfDG
— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) September 14, 2015
The criticisms mirror those tracked on the popular Tumblr “Congrats, you have an all male panel!” On her Tumblr, Dr Saara Särmä, a professor from Finland, mocks all male panels with a thumbs up from David Hasselhoff.
Of course an article about the current landscape of late-night television, which currently includes no mainstream female hosts, was bound to be dominated by men. But Vanity Fair took this a step further and essentially endorsed this all-male group as a uniquely compelling mosaic. The photo itself is also highly gendered — the guys look like they are lounging on the set of Med Men, drinking whiskey in dark suits.
At the end of the Vanity Fair article itself, the author acknowledges the issues with the photo and the current late night lineup, calling the exclusion of women “gobsmackingly insane”:
What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women. How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person? While Amy Schumer has acknowledged that she turned down The Daily Show, happy where she is at Comedy Central, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that Chelsea Peretti, Megan Amram, and Jen Kirkman, to name but three contenders, are alive, sentient, funny, and presumably open to taking a meeting.
The piece notes that two late-night shows hosted by women, Samantha Bee’s for TBS and Chelsea Handler’s for Netflix, are slated to debut in 2016. Bee mocked up what next year’s photo will look like:
— Samantha Bee (@iamsambee) September 14, 2015
This is still a discord, however, with the celebration of “new faces” at the top of the piece with an acknowledgement later on that, at the moment, most of the faces look the same as ever.