The Writer’s Strike is A Battle for Diverse Stories
THERE’S BEEN NEWS
Unless you’ve been completely ignoring the news, you know that the Writer’s Guild has gone on strike. If you’re a creator or in the entertainment industry, this is a huge deal. But if you’re not, it may seem trivial. However, this strike is not simply about compensation for a privileged few. But also about how we think of creativity and who gets represented in the world’s biggest storytelling platforms.
Because if the studios get their way – TV and movies will go backwards. Leaving us all searching for the stories that represent the way the world actually is.
This is secretly a battle for representation.
THE WRITER’S GUILD
The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has long been an advocate for the rights and fair treatment of writers in the entertainment industry. However, the recent strike has shed light on persistent issues that threaten the livelihoods of writers. Which impacts the quality of the content they produce.
Studios and production companies have referred to anything “digital” as something done on a lower budget. The original agreements for working with actors and writers on a digital project, were created with the idea of paying them as little as possible.
These same agreements were used as a baseline for anything on a streaming platform – including the major ones such as Netflix, Disney+ and Paramount. The staffs were cut down to the minimum, writer’s asked to wear multiple hats to work long days for lesser pay. And essentially, writers became gig workers who were asked to work long hours. With little to no guaranteed that their job was secure. In addition to other considerations such as rewriting scripts generated by AI. The WGA had had enough of working their writer’s being mistreated.
They tried to negotiate. But ultimately were forced to strike.
A LACK OF VALUE
The studios consider anything that’s done for a digital platform unworthy of a higher rate. Which, not coincidentally, is where the majority of women and people of color get their initial break. We know from the UCLA diversity report that streaming is where the budgets are lower and the representation is better. Beyond the outliers like a Ryan Coogler or a Jordan Peele. It’s how most people of color get their break into the industry. And much to no one’s surprise, studios don’t see it as being of equal value.
During the streaming boom, companies ran up large amounts of debt to get their foot in the streaming door. They wanted to get the attention that was diverting to online platforms. But now that they no longer want to be in the red. They want to cut costs where they don’t see any value. Which is ultimately anything that doesn’t have “broad appeal”, aka plays to an older, Whiter audience.
When HBO was bought, several sources remarked how the owner wants to highlight shows by Chip and Joanna Gaines. HBO has been stripped from the name of the company with a coming emphasis on cheaper, broader stories. This means less money spent on anything “risker”, i.e. diverse. Which makes one wonder – would creators like Issa Rae ever gotten a chance?
And without them, would streamers even having the profits they’re bringing in?
A FIGHT FOR OUR STORIES
When HBO was bought, several sources remarked how the owner wants to highlight shows by Chip and Joanna Gaines. HBO has been stripped from the name of the company with a coming emphasis on cheaper, broader stories. This means less money spent on anything “risker”, i.e. diverse. Which makes one wonder – would creators like Issa Rae ever gotten a chance? And without them, would streamers even having the profits they’re bringing in?
The demographics of America are changing at a rapid pace. The people of this country will look increasingly different. And we want the stories we see to reflect that. Stories are a reflection of our values. This strike is an indicator that the people bringing us those stories don’t see the value in who we are. Their decisions ultimately discourage people from entering the industry and letting their voices be heard. Which ultimately effects how we are able to see ourselves.
Of course there are social media platforms and YouTube to get the type of content and community we want. But there is still something special and unifying about narrative stories that the world see. It’s what kept us going during the pandemic. It still keeps us talking and connecting across cultural lines. And those stories are brought to us by writers. Who need the security to keep thinking about stories. And not having to worry so much about their own survival.
This will most likely not be the first upheaval in a creative industry. Along with AI, a time of big questions is coming. But all comes back to 2 things:
How do we value creativity? And what kind of world do we want to live in?