THE 2023 WGA STRIKE: Why It Happened, What It Meant
A very funny graphic began circulating among hedge fund investors during the pandemic lockdown and streaming boom, which might well have predicted the 2023 Writers Guild Strike, ended by a deal struck this weekend. Using only two purple bars, it spoke to the difference between what Silicon Valley had promised, and delivered: Capitalism, or at least ours, really loves Slightly Faster Grocery Delivery. Which means that Silicon Valley money had stopped chasing a vision of tomorrow (safe, clean fuel) and started chasing, well, easy, fast returns.
But the failure of the tech sector to deliver a brighter tomorrow, and the extent to which it was in fact dealing us into a dystopia, didn’t command national attention until the WGA strike. We all watched Amazon workers strike starting in 2021. We knew that algorithms were keeping people in warehouses without bathroom breaks, pushing drivers on inhuman delivery schedules; and during Covid the empathic sensed something hostage-like, in the Slightly Faster Grocery Delivery people’s eyes, after long days braving plague for strangers. But only after the content bubble burst, and Wall Street began looking to streamers for the long-awaited profit that the algorithms, somehow, couldn’t deliver, only then did the limits of the Valley worldview take center stage.
Which is how change happens, and part of why the WGA strike won broad support like none before it. Why regulation of tech, for everyone, is so important for the health of our culture, a fact even Netflix seemed to acknowledge during the strike, when, suddenly content-hungry, they began licensing foreign and classic films; the very opposite of automated curation, a reminder of the essentially human nature of creation. Just as Blockbusters returned this summer, so did the human voice in Hollywood, which is why everyone who loves stories, from studio chiefs to strike captains, should feel good about the deal struck in principle this week.
THE MORE YOU KNOW
One reason that WGA strikes matter is that they have so much literal power to change the stories that define us to ourselves. The longest WGA strike ever was in 1988 – and it murdered (or re-murdered) Batman’s parents.
Because of that strike, still the longest in history at 153 days, the script for Tim Burton’s Batman changed hands, and across revisions his new writers, fresh off Beetlejuice, decided that Bruce Wayne’s parents, millionaires of Gotham City, had been murdered by The Joker. This very Beetlejuice-ian decision drew the villain to the fore as counterpoint to the Caped Crusader, with dialogue hinting at origin stories to come:
Five lines of dialogue changed a whole relationship which developed, across twenty-years and many gifted visions, into the Joker as a fully realized American madman; and an Oscar for Joaquin Phoenix.
WANT IS THE SOUND THE SOUL MAKES
These are the things we want, and think that you’ll want, too. Every product is independently selected by editors. Items you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
What We’re Reading
A sweeping, transcendent and inspired story and a portrait of the spirit of a place across centuries. This is Daniel Mason’s beautiful new novel, North Woods, which captures the grandeur of time, of the fragile beauty of human lives; and the lives of trees, and even the sex lives of beetles. And of ghosts. It’s brilliant and deftly subversive as a tribute to the wonder of being that ultimately binds us all together.
What We’re Loving
This is the very rare recommendation that not all of you can have. So click fast, because this is a gem: vintage Smythson stationery from the Concorde, up for sale on eBay. The royal blue. The sleek, silver embossed supersonic jet. The very chicness of the set. You can save these for writing people who share your exquisite taste. For moments (they occur in all lives) you commit some social crime requiring advanced apology. But click fast because, like the plane itself, this treasure won’t be around forever.
What We’re Grilling
Are you a Hollywood writer looking to celebrate the return of work? To manifest abundance, as they say in Joshua Tree? Or maybe you’re a senior streaming studio executive, feeling culturally diminished after widespread public condemnation, seeking proof of money’s enduring power? All parties can agree that these A5 Japanese olive wagyu filet mignons, made from cows who eat, yes, only olives, and are massaged to sleep at night by hand models, are a truly delicious indulgence.
What You Need
Most of these recommendations are fun. Stationery from the Concorde. Steaks from trust-funded cows. This one is serious, okay? You need to use a daily SPF. Even though summer is over, because New York is now officially a subtropical climate, and those UV-Bs don’t stop. We recommend this daily SPF 35 from Oars and Alps, unscented, packed with vitamins. It’s so good that the wagyu cows use it.
What We’re Sending Our Agents
Los Angeles is one of the most exciting cities in the world. Culture, coastline, incredible beauty. But no seasons. The people there? They live seasonless, the days like beautiful professional children wandering around some food court casting call; all named Aiden. Thank God for these autumn-scented candles from Diptyque Paris. It’s miraculous, how nature dies and renews. What better way to celebrate?
Some Gospel for the Road
“You know, I've been around a long time. I've seen the suits run the asylum. I think I can do it as good or even better. Let me try it. That's why I have Tribeca.”
- Robert De Niro