The Water in Which We Swim

corposCynthia Littleton’s book TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War Over the Internet contextualized the concepts and ideas we’ve been discussing in class over the last few weeks through providing a real life example of the ways in which the creative class is being exploited by capitalism. Through personal accounts of writers in the strike itself, Littleton examines the way in which the creative industry is really just the Fordist model of production reimagined under the guise of work you enjoy doing, or, as an interviewee from Andrew Ross’s book No-Collar puts it, “how the counterculture was duped into thinking they are not working for corporate America” (83). She discusses the dangers of allowing the majority of media ownership to lay in the clutches of a handful of megaconglomerates and how this constricted concentration lead to the unfair pay and exploitation of thousands of television, film, and radio writers across the United States.

I found Littleton’s account of Patric Verrone and his leadership role in the Writers Guild of America West to be particularly interesting because I felt that it amply dealt with many of the vulnerabilities we’ve discussed in class that come with working in and for the creative industries—and through extension, corporate America. Verrone’s career trajectory truly embodies the concept of portfolio work and the reality of job instability in the creative industries as he moved from one TV show to another. Littleton describes the precarity of Verrone’s job as a writer through the way in which he depended on the reparation from large producers and higher ups for his success in the industry, stating, “Verrone was the definition of the ‘middle-class writer,’ the members who most relied on the gains the guild achieved in contract negotiations…residual income was an important source of support for their [Verrone and his wife’s] three children. As such, Verrone had a visceral understanding of how the prospect of seeing those residual fees dwindle in the digital era would threaten the well-being of most WGA members” (40). Like any corporation, the handful of megaconglomerates that controlled the majority of media ownership reaped the most rewards, using their employee’s passion for art and job instability as a means of justifying their exploitation.

Writers-strikeAs I read TV on Strike, I couldn’t help but think about Franz Fanon’s theory of political consciousness and the importance of questioning the water in which we all swim. Once the writers in the WGA gained political consciousness and became aware of their place in the creative industry’s reimagined Fordist model, they were able to challenge the tyrannical systems put in place through an organized strike. This strike allowed them to address the problems of funding and unfair pay within the industry and demand that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers pay them their dues. The Writer’s Strike is a prime example of people recognizing that the creative industry is just corporate America in disguise and using this realization to demand better treatment.

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