Call For Comments: Hollywood is on Strike

From Mav: I think it’s fairly safe to assume that pretty much anyone who listens to our show already knows the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) are on strike. You likely are also in favor of the workers who are on strike. I suppose it’s possible that we have listeners that aren’t, but I honestly find that hard to even imagine. And you probably have news sources that are talking about the reasons for the strike and you can more or less guess where we stand. We’ve done LOTS of shows on organized labor before, and we certainly will do more in the future. However, it is still the biggest story in Hollywood and because Hollywood has such a presence in not just American, but global popular culture, it is very much something we want to address. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to talk about not just the strike, but the culture surrounding and being created by the strike.

One of the things that I find most interesting is the the way in which the strike (actually the strikes because there really are two of them) are being talked about in the media, both traditional media and on social media. Everyone is very quick to point out that working actors and writers are NOT rich and that this strike is not about millionaires… right before they interview Matt Damon or Fran Drescher… which undermines the message just a bit. Of course on social media we have a bit of the opposite problem. There’s a lot of trying to talk about how the strike does affect the little people. But there’s not really enough actors representative of “the little guy” to give a face to it. And really, that’s all SAG. No one is really talking to WGA members at all! Because people forget that someone has to WRITE these movies before anything else happens. Which is sorta/kinda a bit why all of this matters in the first place!

So we’re going to try to fix that… at least as much as our little tiny show can, by talking to working actors and writers who are part of the strike. Schedule permitting we hope to have friend of the show, SAG actor Ryan Scott Thomas, and hopefully WGA writer Jamie Nash on to talk about their experiences with the strike so far. What’s it like to be a part of it all, both on the line and just existing in this cultural moment?

I also want to talk about sort of … cultural misconceptions about what the strike is and isn’t that people who aren’t members might have… even if they’re being supportive. For instance, going way back to when the WGA strike first started, there was a lot of talk of people calling Ken Jennings a scab for continuing to film Jeopardy even though Mayim Bialik offered to walk off set. Except, that’s not what scabs are! Similarly, Disney opted to have Disneyland performers walk the red carpet at their Haunted Mansion premiere since no SAG actors were available to them. They were also called scabs. And this was also wrong! So we’re going to talk a bit about what scabs are (and aren’t) and what crossing a picket line really means. Similarly I want to cover the differences between strikes and boycotts and why you aren’t really helping anyone by not going to the movies or watching TV or writing about them online.

Plus, well… you know our show. We’ll go wherever the conversation takes us. We’re us, so we’ll probably talk about unions and labor organization in general and how all of this affects culture as a whole outside of Hollywood.

From Hannah: Mav summed it up really well, but I also would like to add that in her speech, Drescher in fact noted that the SAG strike isn’t in isolation, it is part of a larger worker movement. (And as we write this, there are strikes that have just been adverted or strikes that loom as possibilities. Not to mention all of the union movements across the country.) This is an important point: workers across the country are the ones who produce value for the big corporations.

And, well, not to keep paraphrasing Drescher, but the landscape of how business has been done has radically shifted … and had been for a long time (see the 2007 WGA strike). The AI proposals from studios alone are only artistically bankrupt but anti-labor. These developments remind me of how wealth in general is distributed has shifted, particularly during the pandemic. No matter how much there might be a push to go back to living like it’s 2019, it’s not 2019. So why are these strikes important for art and for the greater labor movement?

Anyway, let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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