TV Writers On the Importance Of Diverse Storytelling, ’13 Reasons Why’ Controversy & Starting A Conversation – ATX


During an ATX fest panel today, Parenthood exec producer David Hudgins summed up a discussion of “socially impactful” TV in three crucial elements: “authenticity, truth, and point of view…As long as you’re telling the truth,” he said, “then that’s the battle.”

The panel was called “Power(ful) TV: A Look at Socially Impactful Television,” and Hudgins shared the stage with Sweet/Vicious creator Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, Dear White People creator Justin Simien, and One Day At A Time producer Gloria Calderon Kellett.

For Simien, telling the truth through story represents his “greatest responsibility as an artist.”

“Black folks,” he said, “are often the side characters or the novelty characters. They are not the character you really go home with and learn their internal struggles. By me telling the truth in the show about the layers, the ugliness and the beautifulness of what goes on in the black experience, it paints us as human beings.”

While acknowledging the positive strides television has made in diverse storytelling, the panelist agreed that there was still a way to go. “We’re telling one story in the hopes that it can start a conversation for more stories,” said Kellett.

Another big topic during the talk was the importance of starting conversations about difficult subjects within various groups. Robinson defended the Netflix drama series 13 Reasons Why, which drew controversy for its portrayal of teen suicide, saying, “I do think that 13 Reasons Why did a lot of things to start a conversation…any conversation feels good because at least we’re talking about it,” though she added that she didn’t agree with the show’s approach.

On subjects that should be off limits, Simien said, “If [a topic] is taboo but has a point that we really need to make and I’m afraid what’s going to happen, that’s my cue.”

As Hudgins put it: “We’re making television and telling stories and at the end, the goal is to entertain… you don’t want to lecture the audience” but it’s important to “provoke some kind of reaction.”‘

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