THE BLOG

Striking Writers: Solidarity On the Streets, Not On the Screen

05/25/2011 12:15 pm ET
  • Sally Kohn Writer, progressive activist, Fox News contributor

I wish that film and TV writers could care as much about solidarity and justice on screen as they care on the picket lines.

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By going on strike, the stage and screen writers are participating in an American tradition of people joining together, recognizing their shared fate and taking action. On the streets of the picket lines, it's evident to the writers and to those of us watching that the policies and practices that affect one writer affect all writers, and the fate of our nation's creative writers affects all of us from our living room couches to the theaters.

But if you turn on your TV today or sit for a matinee at your local cineplex, you'd wonder whether it's an entirely different crop of folks holding the pens behind the scenes. After all, much of the shows and movies they write promote extreme greed, competition and the notion that we have to pull ourselves up from our individual bootstraps --- NOT that we're all in it together, in solidarity. While most of us in real life, like the striking writers, have learned that we can't succeed without the help of others around us, most reality TV shows from American Idol to Survivor tell us that the only way to the top is fierce competition against one another. Meanwhile shows like Desperate Housewives tell us that selfishness is good and there's no such thing as too much greed and status --- mind you, the same greed that is keeping the Hollywood execs from sharing the wealth with writers. And in countless movies, writers resort to racist and homophobic "humor" that helps further divide our country rather than unite us together.

Unions are a powerful force for shared action in our country, when moneyed and elite interests trampling on the many below. But the size and power of unions has been declining in our go-it-alone, hyper-individualistic culture. Remember Norma Rae? When's the last time you saw a character from a TV show who was part of a union, linking arms with others across race and ethnicity for the shared cause of justice and fairness?

There are exceptions --- films that show how we're connected to each other across race and nationality, that show how the gap between the rich and the rest of us is ruining our nation, that show how we all do better when we all do better. But sadly, these shows are far and few between, swallowed up in our hyper-individualistic, greed-is-good, consumer culture --- the very culture the writers, together, are now fighting.

When the strike ends and they pick back up their pens, I hope Hollywood's writers will tell more stories of connectedness, equality, community and solidarity that will help create a better future for all of us --- including the writers themselves.

Sally Kohn is the Director of the Movement Vision Lab