Hollywood is a status obsessed town.
It’s why credits matter so much. Credits don’t mean experience – you could have a 3 mile long IMDB page, but if all your credits are shit no one’s ever heard of, doesn’t matter. If you’ve got one good credit on something that’s in the canon – that’s better. Because that’s status and status beats experience.
It’s why women have such a hard time in this town. Because in our culture women inherently have less status than men. And in a town where status is everything – where people hire you because on a gut level they think you’re cool and want to hang out with you – people who came into the world with less status, like women and minorities and those with disabilities, are always going to be picked last for the team.
Writers rooms on TV shows are full of struggles over status – and rightly so, because everyone knows, consciously or not, that that’s the root of what they’re being evaluated on. The following can be applied to how people act in the room, in life — or how you write characters, to show them engaging in these power struggles.
How You Raise Your Status:
- Give permission to do things — or withhold it.
- Evaluate others’ work.
- Keep others at arms’ length while appearing to summon them closer.
- Talk frankly about things others find upsetting.
- Look with with your eyes down at people.
- Speak authoritatively, with or without the expertise to do so.
- Make decisions for groups.
- Speak cryptically, in code or inside jokes.
- Surround yourself with an entourage of any kind.
How Others Lower Your Status:
- Mock you.
- Criticize you.
- Correct you, especially in front of others.
- Prove how you are wrong.
- Insult you.
- Tell you what to do.
- Give you unsolicited advice.
- Approve or disapprove of something about you or something you do.
- Pick a fight with you.
- Refuse to engage you — act as if they don’t hear you or aren’t concerned enough about you to notice.
- Ignore what you’re saying and change the subject.
- One-up you. Always top you with something better, or worse, or more absurd, or more dramatic in their own lives.
- Win. Beat you at something.
- Talk sarcastically to you.
- Disregard your opinion.
- Announce something great about themselves in your presence.
- Make you wait.
- Never wait for you.
- Taunt you. Tease you.
- Disobey you.
- Violate your boundaries.
- Beat you up in front of your friends or rivals.
- Make you back down.
I’m not saying I endorse any of this. I’m just an observer, making sense of what I witness. And using it to inform my characters, and you.
What I’m reading right now: 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam