Hollywood writers have announced that they plan to go on strike for the first time in almost 20 years. The union contract between film and TV producers and the 2000-plus members of the Writers Guild of America expired at midnight on Oct. 31, and neither side seems willing to budge. Writers want a higher share of residual payments for work that’s re-used on TV shows and movies released on DVD, as well as work that’s distributed on the Internet and over cell phones, but producers think their demands are unreasonable.
What the commentators said
The writers have every reason to strike, said Jonathan Tasini in The Huffington Post. This is “a classic example of unadulterated greed of the few trying to triumph over the very people who made the few fabulously wealthy.” Hollywood operates on a “plantation-like economic model." Many WGA members are not on salary, which means that they crank out shows and films, and Big Media doesn't even have to "pay their health care or pensions.” Meanwhile, top CEOs rake in “in astronomical salaries and stock options.”
Maybe a strike would actually make TV better, said Dave Lucas on his blog. “Americans are tired of Survivor and Paris & Nicole and the whole lot of what has been ‘Reality TV’—perhaps the next step is to import foreign shows, like XiaXue’s Girls Out Loud or even better, the South African Big Brother series." If that doesn’t happen, there are other things to do besides watching TV—like checking out “YouTube, Facebook, and blogs!”
From a financial perspective, said Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes in The New York Times, this strike couldn’t come at a worse time. “It threatens to tear a hole in the economy of Southern California, even as it already copes with a collapse in home sales and widespread devastation from last month’s fires.” And it’s not just writers that would be affected. “Thousands of businesses, whether mom-and-pop companies that train dogs for television shows or lumber yards that specialize in building materials for sets, face possibly dire consequences.”
With all that’s going on in the world, it’s hard to feel sorry for the entertainment industry, said John Robin Baitz, also in The Huffington Post. “Millions of kids remain uninsured in this country, and we are embroiled in a war that WILL go on and on, with no real end in sight.” And “most of what we make is of questionable value”—and that's coming from a TV writer. “I am a (skeptical) advocate for the strike.” But I’d rather focus on “lining up behind a candidate for president.”
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why is American internet so slow?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 7 ways to be the most interesting person in any room
- Colorado’s new ‘drive high, get a DUI’ commercials are actually pretty clever
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Sorry Belle Knox, porn still oppresses women
- Here are the people who want to take a one way trip to Mars
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
Subscribe to the Week