There’s a familiar formula that cable television networks like to stick to, often both white and suburban. That’s because there’s an ingrained perception in cable culture which believes that predominately-white programming is safer because it’s more lucrative.
Lucky for us, Netflix doesn’t play by these safe rules.
From shows like Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, and Dear White People, Netflix isn’t afraid to veer away from the mainstream. It’s setting aside current mainstream standards, including featuring stories predominantly about people of color.
A clear example of this new standard recently included partnering with Ava Duvernay for her documentary 13th, a film that tackles the realities of mass incarceration in our criminal justice system. Netflix stood out to the highly sought after director as a company who offered her inclusion and complete creative freedom.
When talking about the mindset of old Hollywood studios, Duvernay told Variety, “Inclusion is a necessity for survival. It’s ignorance to think you can continue to operate in the same way as an industry and shut out a country that is largely made of people who are not white men. If you’re going to be holding onto that, you’re going to keep having companies that can read the tea leaves, like Netflix, come in and snatch your wig.”
More recently, news has spread that after fifteen years at ABC Studios, Shonda Rhimes has made the decision to move her production company ShondaLand on to Netflix. Rhimes has broken barriers for the ABC production unit with shows like Scandal, which featured the first African American female lead in a network drama in almost 40 years, played by actress Kerry Washington.
So it should come as no surprise that two giant companies, known for their creative prowess and diversity, would converge to break even higher barriers.
With creators like Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes, and many others as added feathers to Netflix’s wings, it looks like there’s no sight too high nor border surrounding their vision.