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Thought for the moment
November 17, 2007
Update on the Writers' strike
The people behind United Hollywood.com got together with some Hollywood showrunners (including Joss) this week to discuss how to get their fans involved in this strike. (Read Joss' account.) They devised the Pencils2MediaMoguls campaign. Fans can buy boxes of pencils in their favorite show's name that will be sent, en masse, to the six media moguls. This is a way that we fans can show our support for the writers in a very tangible, public way. They are hoping that this campaign will spread to all fandoms and that so many pencils will be shipped to the media companies that it will rival the "Nuts for Jericho" campaign that influenced CBS' decision to belatedly renew Jericho last spring.
November 11, 2007
The Writers' strike
People who know me know that I watch a lot of TV. Always have and always will. I've derived a great deal of pleasure and solace from some of my favorite TV shows throughout the years. The last few years I've enjoyed (OK, been obsessed with) the shows created by Joss Whedon: Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. The Whedon fandom is a little unique, in my experience, in that it has revered the writers of the shows just as much as the actors who portray the characters. I could probably name 20 former Mutant Enemy writers off the top of my head right now, many of whom have gone on to create their own shows or become showrunners and executive producers of some of the top-rated shows today. This has made the writers' strike, for some reason, very personal to me this time around. I really don't remember being affected by any of the other Hollywood strikes in the past. Of course, this Internet thingy makes everything seem more personal — all the blogs I've been reading this past week have made me feel that a relative or friend was on the picket line instead of some anonymous, supposedly highly-paid writers of some show I watch sometimes.
I fully support the writers in this strike. There are much better sites out there that can explain the situation better than I can. Here are some of my favorites:
- WGA's "Why We Fight" strike primer video
- United Hollywood
- Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily Blog
For me, it comes down to creative people being compensated for the reuse of their creations. If a book author has an audio CD or an ebook of his book made, he/she gets royalties from the sale of those. Every time a song is played on the radio or downloaded from iTunes, the artist and songwriter gets a piece. Writers of TV shows and movies (and soon, the actors and directors) want the same thing — just a small piece of the huge pie that is the Internet.
Joss Whedon talked about the importance of TV and movie writers on Whedonesque.com this week:
"We’re talking about story-telling, the most basic human need. Food? That’s an animal need. Shelter? That’s a luxury item that leads to social grouping, which leads directly to fancy scarves. But human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us from the other, cooler beasts. And now we’re talking about the stories that define our nation’s popular culture – a huge part of its identity. These are the people that think those up. Working writers."
When narrative TV is done right, it truly is magical. I think back to when Hill Street Blues first came onto the scene. Its gritty realism made the viewer think they really knew those characters intimately and really lived in that never-named (but clearly based on Chicago <G>) city. And when I started watching Wiseguy, its long story arcs and morally ambiguous main characters were so fascinatingly written and portrayed, that you couldn't help but be drawn into their lives (and deaths). And don't tell me that anyone who sits down and watches the Buffy episode "The Body" isn't moved to tears by the raw reality and emotion laid out in front of the viewer as it depicts the aftermath of a loved-one's death. Storytelling touches people in a deeply personal, primal way; and well-crafted narrative TV shows and movies are our modern-day stories. Told to us by the storytellers: the writers.
After thinking and reading about this topic all week, I've decided that, as a TV viewer, it's my duty to support the writers' strike by boycotting the producers of TV in the following ways:
My TV boycott:
- I will not watch or record any new (with no writers or guests hosts) or repeats of late night talk shows during the writers' strike, including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report.
- I will not watch or record any network primetime series when they start to go into repeats for lack of new material, during the writers' strike. (That means I have one more week to enjoy The Office.)
- I will not watch any non-scripted primetime shows the networks put on to fill their schedules, including the likely 5-time-a-week Primetime Live or 20/20-type shows that the networks will no doubt start airing, and any ridiculous reality and game shows. (I can't give up my Project Runway, though -- hopefully it was completed before the writers' strike.)
- I will not download from or watch streaming video on the Internet of any TV shows or movies during the writers' strike, including iTunes and Amazon Unbox.
Some people have suggested that we also should stop buying DVDs. I'm not sure if that is necessary or useful, since the writers are currently getting a residual off of DVD sales, albeit a very small percentage (4 cents per $20 DVD). I'm not adding that prohibition to my boycott.
If total viewership goes significantly down during the next few months, the advertisers, who aren't getting the amount of eyeballs looking at their ads as promised, may put some pressure on the networks to get back to the table to negotiate an end to the strike. Only when the companies are affected financially will they begin to want to settle this and hopefully both sides will realize that compromise is the best way to settle any dispute. (UPDATE: Nov. 16th, the two parties agreed to come back to the negotiation table on Nov. 26th.)
Copyright © 2007 by Judy K. Spreng, all rights reserved.