The WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strikes matter – for every single one of us.
What does a strike by a bunch of multi-millionaire movie stars and mega-rich writers have to do with us? And why should we care?
First of all, this isn’t about the millionaire movie stars and big name screenwriters, although you’ll hear plenty from and about them over the coming weeks (and probably months). The studios and their complicit corporate press hounds will focus on the big names who are speaking out, trying to vilify them with charges of hypocrisy and high-handed virtue signalling. Don’t fall for it. The big names, your Matt Damons, your Emily Blunts, they’re doing what you’d expect decent people to do: using their platform and their position to speak out and up for the little guys.
The vast majority of the members of both unions are not immensely wealthy household names. They’re jobbing actors and writers, going from gig to gig, making ends meet and relying on their unions to make sure they get paid and treated fairly and can get things like health insurance and all the other myriad of pay-to-play add-ons the American way of life seems to demand in the name of “freedom”. These are every day folk working a job to make ends meet for their family. Most of them aren’t in it for the megabucks celebrity lifestyle, they’re doing it for the love of the craft, for the chance to create and participate in an artform they (and we) love. They deserve our wholehearted and unwavering support.
Still not convinced? Look at who you’d be siding with against the strikers. Vast multi-billion dollar corporations which, rather than share their enormous profits a little more equitably, publically announce that they’re content to wait it out, relying on the strikers to start losing their homes and everything else to force their capitulation. Multi-million dollar yacht owners whining about how disturbed they are by writers and performers having the temerity to want enough to live on. Adam Conover sums up this particularly severe example of cognitive dissonance quite succinctly here:
Okay so hopefully you get why, just from a moral standpoint the strikers deserve support. I mean the idea that the people who actually create and bring to life the art that we enjoy so much should be fairly paid for the work they do seems pretty undeniable to me.
But the decision by SAG-AFTRA to join the WGA in a strike revealed a whole new reason why everyone who cares about their job, their future and their children’s future should be full-throated in their fierce support of these strikes: the looming threat of Artificial Intelligence.
The threat of AI
The television and film industry wants to use AI technology to replace real people in every possible way, including paying background actors once to scan their image which they can then use in perpetuity without any further payment. It’s the woman in the red dress from THE MATRIX taken to the nth degree by disaster capitalism. They want AI to supplement and eventually supplant writers. It’s cheaper, more obedient and utterly unresistant to studio interference. Creativity is, by its nature, a wholly analogue thing, a chaotic, collaborative and comparative process that forges something different, something unique, something new. AI ingests and regurgitates what already exists in an increasing Ouroborean orgy of replicative reduction. To support the studios’ AI agenda is to embrace a future of increasingly homogenised slurry as entertainment.
Because here are the wider stakes: every other industry is watching what happens here. Every single one. And if the writers and actors can’t stem the AI tide, it’ll be coming for your job next. This is a real Martin Niemöller moment for us all and if we don’t start speaking out now, by the time it’s our turn we can’t be sure who’ll be left to speak out for us.
What Can I Do?
Support can take a myriad of forms:
- If you’re able to, go join a picket line. Shout slogans, stand with the strikers.
- If you can, support the strikers with a donation to The Entertainment Community Fund or Green Envelope Grocery Aid or find ways to raise funds for these important organisations.
- Use your own social media accounts to amplify the voices of the organisations and individuals taking a stand. Post about your own support and your opposition to the likes of the AMPTP.
- If you want to show solidarity by cancelling streaming services etc., let your provider know why you’re cancelling, specifically calling out the AMPTP. By all means, let the AMPTP know what you think of how they’re acting.
- The unions haven’t called for a boycott of movies or tv shows, so there’s no need to avoid watching things you want to but be prepared for your favourite things to be weaponised as the strikes drag out.
Your most anticipated or beloved movies and TV shows are going to be held hostage, severely delayed or even cancelled by studios trying to break the solidarity of the audience and the strikers.
Every TV show or movie sacrificed to bring the studios to the negotiating table in good faith will be worthwhile.
This isn’t just a battle for the soul of movies and television from this point forward (watch as studios scramble to lure YouTubers and *shudder* Influencers to fill the gaping void in their production schedules), this is the front line of a battle the outcome of which could have repercussions for everyone’s livelihoods.