Halloween buzzkill, but enough other horrors to stir the pot
Hollywood is rife with controversies, some about movies but also about sex and politics
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) may still be on strike but there are plenty of things to keep the denizens of Hollywood angry with the world while they wait for a resolution.
The first distraction was offered by SAG itself, which last week issued a set of new regulations to govern how members dress up for Halloween. The guild announced that they would not be permitted to don costumes that promoted content created by studios it is striking against.
This means that while popular get-ups for this year, like Barbie or characters from the Netflix hit show Wednesday, may be seen at parties across the US, on the West Coast, you’ll be able to tell who’s a SAG member by virtue of their sad faces as they rock up in a dull generic zombie, witch or ghost outfit.
The guild’s intervention into a beloved holiday was met with incredulity and outrage by some members who pointed out that right now there are bigger issues for it to be dealing with.
Actor Mandy Moore took to Instagram to ask if the guidelines were a joke, writing: “Come on @sagaftra. This is what’s important? We’re asking you to negotiate in good faith on our behalf. So many folks across every aspect of this industry have been sacrificing mightily for months. Get back to the table and get a fair deal so everyone can get back to work.”
Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds took the opportunity to quip: “I look forward to screaming ‘scab’ at my eight-year-old all night. She’s not in the union but she needs to learn.”
SAG issued a clarification, pointing out that the rules don’t apply “to anyone’s kids” and reminding its members: “We are on strike for important reasons, and have been for nearly 100 days. Our number one priority remains getting the studios back to the negotiating table so we can get a fair deal for our members, and finally put our industry back to work.”
Hopefully that has placated everyone and won’t lead to a mass protest by members on October 31, signalled by a proliferation of neon pink pants and blonde wigs.
Meanwhile, things at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are boiling over for more serious reasons. Though the guild managed to negotiate an acceptable settlement for its members that brought its strike action to a close, geopolitical events have predictably caused tensions within its ranks.
While SAG and the Directors Guild of America have both released statements condemning Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, the WGA has yet to make a public pronouncement and many of its members are furious about its silence on an issue that is polarising Hollywood.
On October 15, 300 writers wrote an open letter to the WGA leadership, reminding them that on previous issues such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, the WGA had been quick to issue public statements of support, but on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the decision to keep shtum seems perplexing.
“The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people is complex and full of nuance, but the crimes committed on October 7 were simple and cruel ... If we cannot stand up and call it what is — a monstrous act of barbarity — then we have lost the plot,” read the letter.
Some members have said they will withhold their dues in protest against the WGA’s silence and this week screenwriter Dan Gordon, who served in the Israeli army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, made a public and angry show of resigning his membership and voting rights in the guild in protest against the WGA leadership’s “failure to issue even the mildest condemnation of the worst massacre of a religious minority in the Middle East since Isis carried out similar atrocities against the Yezidis”.
Gordon stuck the boot in by declaring in his letter of resignation that he no longer wished to be “a fellow traveller with those who hide behind the fetid veil of morally bankrupt wokeism and stand silent in the face of unadulterated evil”.
At least you can count on WGA members to express themselves in elegant, sparky prose even if the issue that’s dividing them may be a lot greyer than Hollywood’s reduction of the world to black and white.
Finally it’s the turn of the young people of the US to confound expectations, and prove once again that nobody really knows what they want and that maybe the kids are really not alright.
According to the latest “Teens and Screens” report conducted by the Centre for Scholars and Storytellers at UCLA, young people aged 13–24 want to see less sex on their screens — 51.5% of the 1,500 participants in the survey, would prefer to see content “depicting friendships and platonic relationships”. Goodbye to Twilight and hello to endless reruns of My Girl.
It’s not clear what’s going on in the lives of the youth today that’s making them so hopelessly unromantic but 44.3% of them believe that “romance in media is overused”, a statistic that’s sure to be sending Hollywood execs scurrying back to the whiteboard and digging deep into their uncomfortable “friend zone” memories for suitable new, not very dramatic story ideas to appease Gen Z. Some 39% of the surveyed kids have also said that they want to see more depictions of “aromantic and/or asexual characters” on screen and 47.5% don’t believe that sex is necessary to the majority of movie and TV plots.
While it’s easy to argue that the depiction of sex and romance on screen has resulted in a familiar set of tired tropes and unrealistic portrayals and expectations of relationships, it’s hard not to feel a little saddened by Gen Z’s aversion to any kind of sex or attraction at all.
As co-author of the study, Yalda T Uhls pointed out to the Hollywood Reporter, it may just be “that young people are suffering an epidemic of loneliness and they’re seeking modelling in the art they consume”, and that the larger lesson isn’t about the kids but rather about content creators who often “use sex and romance as a shortcut to character connection, [but] it’s important for Hollywood to recognise that adolescents want stories that reflect the full spectrum of relationships”.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.