Jewish Mom Aline Brosh McKenna, the screenwriter and producer behind iconic rom-coms The Devil Wears Prada and 27 Dresses, is changing the way writer’s rooms work in Hollywood. She’s currently the show-runner of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (alongside Rachel Bloom) and their writers’ room — a general term for the writing offices for a TV show — has six (six!) working moms.
In a CNN series on moms in writers’ rooms, Brosh McKenna said, “I always want to create a comfortable environment for people where they feel safe and part of that is making sure that they feel like they’re taking care of their family obligations.”
Brosh McKenna’s writing staff has barely changed since season one — something she is super proud of. For her, the stability confirms that she’s made an environment where writer’s lives can be accommodated — and those lives include new babies.
At Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Brosh McKenna recognized the difficulties in returning to work after giving birth. So she decided to convert one of the writer’s offices into a nursery. (Amazing!) As CNN reported, “One mom brought in a rocker for the room. Cribs were moved in. Brosh Mckenna hung a picture that had once been on the wall of her own son’s room.”
And while this sounds like common sense — yes, let’s make it easy for new moms to return to work! — it’s rarity in Hollywood. Take this New York Times story, from 2006, which notes “being a mother in the industry feels slightly revolutionary.” (As the piece recounts: One time, when a producer-mom had to leave early one day to take care of her child, the show’s head writer quipped, “Don’t hit your head on the glass ceiling on your way out.”)
And while things may be changing, they’re not necessarily changing fast enough. In the CNN story, one anonymous writer said she felt like she had to chose between “doing [her] job” and “doing the right thing for [her] body and [her] baby.” She was so afraid of her boss she would “delay pumping for hours” if he was around — to the point of physical sickness.
Brosh McKenna believes that the prevailing attitude in Hollywood is “terribly anti-family.” She explains, “It’s one of those subtle things that just selects out women. If we want to include women and their voices and the only way to work on these shows is to prove you’re a machismo guy, staying until midnight every night, women are going to opt out of that. Parents are going to opt out of that.”
But Brosh McKenna and Bloom are clearly onto something — the great environment in the writing room is clearly leading to some incredible mom comedy. Take “The Miracle of Birth,” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s hilariously accurate song about childbirth. In writing that song, two (male) songwriters collected anecdotes from the female writers “in a five-page document named ‘Gross Mom Stories’ that covers everything from mucus plugs to walking epidurals to the placenta.”
Said Rachel Specter, one of the mom-writers on the show, “I’ve never seen anyone be real about birth on TV.”