Today I want to talk about the concept of the glass cliff.
We know the glass ceiling is an invisible but rigidly maintained barrier against the advancement of women or other underrepresented people.
A glass cliff is when these creators are set up to fail but then blamed for their own failure.
On Monday I talked about Sense8. That’s a prime example. Netflix didn’t promote the show as heavily as their other comparable shows, then cancelled it when it got lower viewership.
OF COURSE it got lower viewership. YOU DIDN’T MARKET IT.
This has been going on in fantasy fiction for decades with women authors and authors of color.
A woman author, for example, get picked up by a publisher but gets less promotion and marketing because “women don’t sell well in fantasy.”
Then, to no intelligent person’s surprise, the woman author doesn’t sell well. And this is a justification for publishers to do the same thing again in the future.
Never mind the fact that women and other diverse creators have shattered the glass cliff over and over again.
Hunger Games, Hidden Figures, Wonder Woman, Get Out—over and over again diverse creators prove that they DO have an audience.
But even if a diverse creator has a hit success, if their next project isn’t EQUALLY successful, they’re suddenly persona non grata to traditional publishers and film studios.
This is another form of glass cliff. Ryan Reynolds can make Green Lantern and is still given big-budget Hollywood films, but the Wachowskis were so spurned after the second and third Matrix movies that they had to do their own fundraising for Cloud Atlas.
What’s the solution? Well, it’s complicated, but one way we can help is showing support for diverse creators who are SELF-FUNDED.
We can go support Ava Duvernay’s newest film releases, but we can’t change the Hollywood studios’ minds if they decide to kick her out of their good ol’ boys club.
So consider seeing a few less movies pumped out by Hollywood or reading a few less books from traditional publishers and support films that are owned by their own, diverse creators, or buy books from indie authors who keep 100% of their own profits.
And I am definitely NOT referring to myself here, since I am, like it or not, a straight white guy.
The indie space is as jam-packed with overconfident white men as any other creative space out there. But it IS the space where creators can build the most sustainable careers.
If traditional media insists on chucking non-cishet-white-man creators off a cliff, then screw them. Support creators who are doing it right. They can’t be thrown off a glass cliff if we build a safety net to catch them on the way down.