A common social criticism from the American right is that Hollywood is “going too far.” It has become too “woke” and is trying to indoctrinate our children into left-wing beliefs. I am willing to concede that a majority of directors and actors in Hollywood could be described as left-leaning individuals.
However, this is not about the actors, writers and directors who create the content in this $91 billion dollar industry. The creators of the television and movies we watch are merely one brick in the wall that is Hollywood. This is about the studios who distribute these movies — studios like Amazon, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery.
Over the past few years, “woke” has sort of become a boogeyman to represent conservative outrage. Slogans like “go woke go broke” have become a rallying cry whenever a movie with a diverse cast does poorly at the box office.
For the purpose of this article I will take the definition of the legal counsel of Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis, Ryan Newman. Newman has described “wokeness” as “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.”
So, using this definition, let’s take a look at how these Hollywood studios treat their current employees who are currently striking to address some of the injustices in their industry and see if Hollywood really is woke.
For the first time since 1960, the Writers Guild Association and the Screen Actors Guild are on strike. These are the labor unions that represent working actors and writers in Hollywood. They are currently trying to reach a negotiating deal with the union who represents the major studios in Hollywood, The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
Some of the core issues pertaining to the strike include “writers’ demands for stricter protections against artificial intelligence and larger royalties for their work, known in the industry as residuals. The writers are also rallying for raised base compensation and improved working conditions.”
It sounds like the employees of the studios are raising concerns about certain injustices within their own institution and the need to correct them. Surely these “woke” film studios have been compassionate, responsive and have quickly reacted to their employees’ concerns, correct?
Well, no; not at all. The CEOs of these studios are some of the wealthiest men in the world. Yet despite their enormous personal and corporate wealth, they have refused to even meet with these labor unions.
One of the strategies has been to simply wait the writers out. This is a strategy that the studios can afford, but not the average writer. David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. was paid $498,915,318 between 2018 and 2022. That equates to roughly $99.6 million a year. Meanwhile, pay for writers has continually declined according to statistics from the Writers Guild of America.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, said what writers are demanding “Is just not realistic. They are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.” As of returning to his position as CEO, Iger is poised to make $25 million a year starting this year. Over the past five years, he’s earned over $195 million. The studios have the money to pay the writers, they just simply won’t.
One of my favorite movies of the year was Spiderman: Across The Spider-Verse. I watched it three times during its theatrical release. One of the most popular characters in the movie was Hobie Brown. Hobie was a hardcore leftist, however the creation of Hobie Brown as well as Across the Spider Verse would make any leftist nauseous.
It was alleged that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller created the movie through unsustainable working conditions, forcing VFX artists to work 11 hours a day, seven days a week for up to a year. The studio responsible for the movie, Sony, defended Lord’s style with a spokesperson saying that, “If the story isn’t right, you have to keep going until it is. I guess, welcome to making a movie.”
As I mentioned before, I agree that most actors and writers in Hollywood probably have a left-wing bias; however, that same left-wing bias does not extend to Hollywood studios. These studios may cosplay their properties with left-wing aesthetics, but at the end of the day, Hollywood studios are anything but woke. They are profit-driven corporations whose actions have shown a blatant disregard for the artists who create their properties and no interest in addressing injustices within their industry.