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Robin Wright Takes the Helm

Netflix has decided to bring actress Robin Wright’s House of Cards character Claire Underwood front and center for the show’s sixth and final season, which resumes production in 2018.

Focusing on Wright’s character seemed like the right move for the upcoming season, as Claire was gradually becoming more prominent throughout the show’s run, ultimately taking on the role as President in the season five finale after Frank Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey, resigned.

“We’re really excited about bringing some closure to the show for fans,” Ted Sarandos said in an official statement at UBS’s Global Media and Communications Conference.

The decision to greenlight season six with the show’s central focus on Wright came after allegations that Spacey had attempted to sexually assault actor Anthony Rapp in 1986 surfaced the web.

The network’s decision to bring Wright as the frontrunner for its hit political drama, rather than canceling the show abruptly, is another step forward in the long battle for equal opportunity in the entertainment industry, which has shown time and time again its gender-diversity problem.

The lack of female representation in leadership positions in television and film is an issue that ultimately begins behind the scenes.

Martha Lauzen, executive director for San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, conducted a study examining women’s employment in the specific industry. Results showed that women only made up 27 percent of directors, editors, writers, and producers. On screen, female presence abysmally rose from 37 percent to 42 percent in the span of 18 years.

“People tend to create what they know and having lived their lives as females, women tend to be drawn to female characters,” Lauzen said. “We need to have greater diversity behind the scenes if this is going to change.”

The director’s chair is primarily occupied by males, according to a Hollywood Diversity Report. Film studio executives are 94 percent white males, while 96 percent of TV studio executives are white, and of that group, 71 percent are male.

A 2016 study by the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative highlighted the inclusion crisis in film by analyzing the top 100 films in 2016. Of those films, 34 out of the 4,583 speaking characters were portrayed by female leads.

The study also showed that online streaming services such as Amazon and Hulu were rated as being more inclusive for women.

While Wright’s run as lead will only be for eight episodes next year, the announcement sparks hope that the demographics of the industry can become more inclusive by providing opportunities on and off the screen.

The championing of women in film for more leadership roles is a modern Rosie the Riveter tale. Women taking over a man’s role proves that yes, women can take charge. And in true Claire Underwood fashion, it’s Robin Wright’s turn to lead.

Featured Image by Disney ABC Television Group on Flickr

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