Vanity Fair recently published a photo displaying 10 men, all dressed in suits, sipping glasses of scotch and perfectly embodying the idea of an all-boys club. These men, including Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brian and Jimmy Kimmel, have been dubbed the “titans” of late night television. But for a photo that was so perfectly laid out and stylistically created, there is one thing glaringly wrong: the lack of a single female presence. Vanity Fair’s photo creates a visual representation of the unfortunate ratio of males to females in late night television.
Some people have compared the photo to sexist, gendered advertisements that only highlight the achievements of men while others have criticized the photo for reinforcing the idea that women are not cut out for comedy. Of course, in an article all about the current state of late night television, it would be expected for the photo to be dominated by men, as there are presently no mainstream female hosts. But it was the title of the article and accompanying photo that really sparked a controversy amongst Vanity Fair readers and social media users alike. The title, “Why Late-Night Television Is Better than Ever,” was read by many people as being supportive of the all-male landscape of late-night television.
Many women have already taken over daytime television, including Chelsea Handler and Ellen DeGeneres, but some people would like to see more equality and diversity in late night programming as well. As Caroline Framke stated in response to the photo on Twitter, “That’s the reality. It looks bad, as it should.”
On the other hand, some people do not see the photo as a representation of the diversity problem in late-night television but rather, as an indicator that change is already happening in the realm of late night television. These people are pointing to the representation of the two non-white late night television hosts included in the shot, Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah.
The new Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, argues that women in comedy are actually having a bigger moment than men in comedy right now. He points to Melissa McCarthy, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler, all women who are leading successful comedic careers in the entertainment industry. He said, “Yes, that Vanity Fair [spread] is all men, which is what it is, but I guess what we need to look at is how is that evolving?” Noah continues by saying, “Pretty soon there will be a woman that’ll be added to that. And there will probably be more women, which is gonna be fantastic.”
And slowly, we are beginning to see women entering the realm of late night television. Samantha Bee’s new show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee will debut on TBS in January. The former Daily Show correspondent is producing her own show and pointing out the gender disparity at every turn. She recently released a TV commercial to make a sharp joke about the lack of female hosts in late night television as well to promote her upcoming show.
No matter what the current ratio of males to females in late night television might seem to indicate about the entertainment industry, there is definitely the potential to see a more equal late night lineup in the near future.
Cover image courtesy of Vanity Fair.