Hollywood’s actors have joined its writers on strike.
It’s the first time both have walked out at once since 1960.
Maybe they’ll learn something in their time off — and maybe the country could use a break from them.
The movie business has been disrupted in recent years from all sides.
More competition has driven changes to what we watch and how we watch it.
With streaming services, bigger flatscreens and faster broadband, there were fewer reasons to leave the couch.
Streamers now offer a broad menu of foreign-made content.
Gen Z viewers spend more time with immersive video games and personalities on YouTube and Tik Tok, and less watching TV and movies.
All of this was accelerated by the pandemic decimating the reeling movie-theater business.
Through it all, Hollywood has been its own worst enemy.
Moviegoers like superhero movies, name-brand franchises and Pixar cartoons?
Inundate them with so many sequels, of such declining quality, that viewers tune out.
#MeToo scandals reveal the industry is overrun with sexual predators protected by an insular liberal elite?
Overcompensate by turning casting and programming decisions into a festival of “representation”-focused identity politics and ham-fisted leftist agitprop.
If your creative class is churning out content this devoid of creativity and alienating half the audience in the process, you may as well replace them with machines.
At least, that seems to be the thinking of Hollywood bigwigs, who have pushed the writers and actors to accept a greater role for artificial intelligence.
Say what you will about AI: It doesn’t grope its co-stars, vanish on coke binges, send ill-advised tweets or promote polarizing political causes.
Machines work cheap, they’re always in shape, they don’t care about race or gender, they never ask to renegotiate and they don’t have a union.
Of course, the actors and writers may not be especially sympathetic, but neither are the studio bosses, who made a lot of this mess.
They’re the ones who produced all those dreadful films, and they’re no less politically wacky than the “talent.”
It’s not the actors and writers who’ve been selling Hollywood out to China.
If there’s a long work stoppage, the suits should take the opportunity to cancel some of their worst ideas and remember why Americans used to love the movies.
Some role for AI can’t be stopped, but it’s the right time for the industry to hash this out.
The writers are complaining about competing with AI and sharing screen credits.
For them, AI presents a simple challenge: Do better.
Stop churning out content so generic that a bot could write it.
Stop trying to sell us your pet politics.
Learn some words with more than four letters.
Write as if you’ve met some normal people.
Get a sense of humor.
For the actors, AI is a creepier threat: loss of artistic and financial control over their own images and creative futures.
Film studios want to scan images of actors and re-use them later — without asking for their consent to later projects, and without giving actors the leverage to demand more money when it happens.
The strikes are largely about how creators get paid in the future for things they do today.
The writers and actors are mad that they don’t get the same residual payments when films and TV shows are streamed as when they are re-aired on TV.
If the unions want a role model, they should look to a leader from their past: Ronald Reagan.
Reagan was in his sixth term as president of the actors’ union when they walked out with the writers in 1960.
It was also a time of disruption: TV took away a lot of the movie audience in the 1950s and was beginning to re-show films.
Reagan negotiated the original residuals deal.
He took heat from veteran stars angry that he didn’t deliver residuals for older movies (including his own biggest hits), but in exchange he got a lump-sum payment to launch the union’s health-insurance plan and pension fund.
That mattered more to workaday actors, who outnumbered the stars and voted overwhelmingly for the deal.
Reagan won in part by dividing his adversaries, cutting a deal first with Universal.
But he also understood both sides.
He represented the union while working for the management of General Electric, which was in the midst of negotiating with its own union.
He was also a former New Deal Democrat who was about to become a Republican.
Today’s Hollywood could use more like him.
But it will need human intelligence, not the artificial kind, to learn that.
𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆: nypost.com
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