Generally speaking, I tend to be supportive of Unions. Growing up, my mom had to belong to one to work for the phone company, who always seemed to be on the verge of going on strike, which used to terrify her to no end. And the few times they did, we'd have no income and she'd be forced to walk picket lines. And to me it always sounded like the union was a second boss she hated. But if I ever dared say a bad thing about them, I'd get a stern (but kind and loving) speech about how it's because of them we could afford doctor's visits and the glasses on my adorable, boyish nose.
Maybe that's why, whenever there's a labor dispute, I default to the worker's side. Even when those workers aren't the most sympathetic figures. Take the MLB strike that shut down the 1994 postseason and lasted into '95. During that time, I did comedy at a charity event that was emceed by a Major Leaguer who was good enough to give his time to help the cause. He did a Q&A where, without exception, every member of the audience who spoke was hostile to him and the rest of the players. "You get paid millions to play a game …" etc. etc. He was super gracious about it. And off stage told me he understood their frustration. "But," he said, "Would it make them happy to know more of that money was going to Marge Schott?" (A monster who owned the Reds and famously refused to cover Eric Davis' medical expenses or provide scores of out of town games because it cost $350 a month.) Which I thought was an excellent way to look at it.
In fact, I'm often surprised how hostile fans can get toward the players in a labor dispute. During the summer of 2011, the NFL successfully got its media lapdogs to portray the shutdown of offseason workouts as "Millionaires vs. Billionaires." Despite the fact the average salary was nowhere near $1 million, the average career is just over three seasons, and most of these guys live their lives one ligament tear away from unemployment. And, by the way, it wasn't the players striking; it was the billionaires locking out the hundredsofthousandaires.
Which I bring up because Hollywood writers and actors have been on strike for months now. And while I think anyone who earns a living using the written word is a divine gift to the world, should be cherished and celebrated and be given a life of riches beyond measure, luxury befitting an ancient king, and first dibs on all the most desirable women in the world.
Actors are a different story. There's a few I really like. But I'm sort of indifferent to their plight. In a world where sympathy is in limited supply, it's hard to invest much of it in people who get to live in oceanfront mansions because they're good at pretending to be other people. And most of whom seem to hate their audience and the IP they get paid to work on.
Still, like the writers, they're pitted in this dispute against Hollywood studios. Who for a century have been run by some of the most sleazy, mendacious people in the country. Just ask anyone who had to listen to one of Walt Disney's anti-Semitic rants or forced to watch Harvey Weinstein whip up a batch just to land a cameo. So in a situation not unlike presidential elections or that year the Yankees played the Mets in the World Series, it's a matter of asking yourself who you hate least. And it seems most of us hate the studios more:
The Wrap - In the new poll released Wednesday, 72% of those surveyed said that they support striking television and film writers compared to just 19% who support the studios. Actors are enjoying a similar level of support with 67% saying they support the SAG-AFTRA strike with 24% saying they support the studios.
Which is good news if you're out on strike. Public support is crucial to getting the corporations to cave in and settle the dispute. What's not good news though, is that majority support is a minority opinion. The majority of the public simply gives none of the fucks the strikers need:
Gateway Pundit - [A] Los Angeles Times/Leger poll showed that the striking writers and actors do not have majority support, even though 60 percent of those polled admitted they had “somewhat” of an understanding of the grievances due to mass media coverage. Only 38 percent of Americans polled sympathized with the strikers while just 7 percent sympathized with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). …
Most respondents actually stated they were either ambivalent or unsure about their opinion on who’s on the right side of things; with 29 percent saying they sympathize with both sides equally and 25 percent said they don’t know which side they favor.
I think there's a lot of reasons for the indifference.
First is that the entertainment landscape has changed. For good. We all have millions of hours of old content at our disposal we never got around to watching. Enough that we could live like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone where he's the sole survivor a nuclear holocaust, but finds all the books he'll ever need to keep him happy for the rest of his life. But we've also got new content being produced everyday on YouTube, podcasts, Twitch and so on. Hollywood could stop producing altogether for years and it would barely be noticed like it would have even 10 years ago.
Second, it's not like movies and TV have been hitting upper deck homers lately. There have been some very good films. Top Gun Maverick, John Wick 4, and Oppenheimer come quickly to mind. Some TV hits. I'm a big fan of Cobra Kai and Stranger Things had a good bounce-back season. But we've had to sift through a lot of dogshit to find those diamonds. The trend that started with the last season of Game of Thrones has only picked up steam. And the vast majority of dreck being produced since tends to be preachy, self-important, didactic garbage from film school students instead of genuine artists with actual life experience.
Third, it's not like the film and TV industry has been winning hearts and minds over the last 3 1/2 years or so. The "Imagine" song. Self-righteous lectures over every, single part of life today. The awards shows where the servers and support staff were forced to wear masks by the nominees didn't. And remember when Hollywood was declared an "essential industry" and was allowed to keep working while small businesses by the thousands were being permanently shut down by the thousands?
Remember when this woman was told she had to build an outdoor dining area in order to stay open? And once she did so - at huge expense - she was told she couldn't serve food because it was too dangerous? But then across the parking lot a movie production was allowed to set up a dining tent in order to feed the film crew?
I haven't forgotten. And I think a lot of people filed that kind of straight up evil, corrupt and cruel treatment that the normies received while Hollywood got to keep drawing fat paychecks and can't muster much sympathy now that the turn has tabled.
You hear the pain in that woman's voice and it's hard to cry the buckets because we have to wait for the next Transformers sequel or because Dwayne Johnson can't make $20 million for sweating through his shirt in a jungle:
Finally, the strike is starting to lose support from their own. One of the most successful late night hosts and daytime hosts have decided to throw up their hands and work without the writers:
Agree or disagree with Bill Maher and Drew Barrymore, this is exactly how labor stoppages fall apart. Once people decide to ignore the picket lines and just get back to work anyway, it's the first pebble rolling down the hill that causes the avalanche that buries you. The questions remain: How long it will take? What it will mean to the entertainment business? And most important of all, when it does get settled, will any of the rest of us even notice?