Battlestar Galactica is a damn fine show, probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. Even if you’re not much of a fan of science fiction, I still recommend it as strongly as possible. I could go into all the details of why I feel this way, but they’re actually pretty irrelevant to this post, since it’s really just a jumping-off point for talking about the Writer’s Guild strikes.
Of twenty episodes slated for the fourth and final season, it’s unsure whether they’ll be able to finish the final seven due to the strikes. It would be a tragedy for a work of art of this magnitude to go unfinished, considering the work and effort of countless people that has gone into it so far. And it’s certainly not alone. Throughout Hollywood, production is shutting down. In solidarity with the writers, countless others like performers, directors and producers are refusing to resume working until the strike is resolved.
So what’s the problem? Obviously the writers must be demanding gold-plated boats filled to capacity with saffron or something for studios to refuse to negotiate for so long that things have gotten this bad. Right? I mean, it’s not like they’re simply demanding a fairer contract that’s better suited to changes in technology that have affected the market or anything. Right?
Well, no, actually, their demands are extraordinarily reasonable, and they do, in fact, want a fairer contract that’s better suited to changes in technology that have affected the market. Then why is this such a big deal?
Part of the reason is empowerment. If you give in to strikers’ demands, it concedes that striking is an effective method for workers to use to achieve the outcome they desire, or, in most cases, a compromise in the direction of that outcome. But isn’t that kind of the point? What other recourse do workers have? I guess they could file a class action lawsuit, but if their contract doesn’t grant them something, it’s hard to argue they’re legally entitled to it. Anything they could possibly do while continuing to work doesn’t really give the executives much of a reason to negotiate or even consider demands for fairer contracts and conditions, let alone give in to them. Reversing this “giving in” argument, continuing to work despite the fact that you’re being treated unfairly concedes that it’s okay for the people screwing you over to continue doing so.
In a more general philosophical sense, if employers are unwilling to meet reasonable demands of their workers, it’s good to have a strike once in a while as a reminder that there is a means of forcing a balance of power, as businesses inherently, under normal operations, have a power that vastly dwarfs that of the worker and the consumer. But that’s sort of beside the point.
I really don’t understand what the problem is, because the solution seems so incredibly clear-cut you could use it to slice diamonds. Writers want their contract to adapt to the technology and market trends that have taken place over the last, oh, two fucking decades. Studios are and have been making money from a booming home video and online marketplace, but writers aren’t seeing any of that because they’re still operating using contracts that were made back when VHS tapes sold for sixty dollars a pop and computers were bulky boxes with 128k of RAM and monochrome screens with pixels the size of pencil erasers that could no more play a full-motion video than they could perform a complete classical symphony using only lemon peels and pygmies. Considering that everything today is being released on DVD — and studios are profiting from it tremendously — shouldn’t the writers be able to see some of those profits as well? Especially when studios have been making such an enormous deal over piracy.
So, to sum up the positions of the two sides of this debate, which, discounting abject morons, frothy-mouthed corporatist jerkoffs, and the profoundly mentally challenged, are basically “Studio Executives” and “Rest of the World”:
Writers want to be paid fairly, and to receive a fair portion of the profits from DVD sales — which are astronomical compared to when the contracts were drawn up, considering DVDs did not at the time exist — and online media distribution, which certainly wouldn’t even have been mentioned or accounted for as a possibility in a contract so dated.
Studio executives are assholes of unprecedentedly unpleasant size and odor.
Yes, I know ad hominem doesn’t help my argument, but I’ve tried and there’s really no other way to put it. The position on the matter held by studio executives is entirely baseless other than “we are making money from your work; no, you can’t have any”. Only the hugest of assholes would behave like that.