May 31, 2019
It wouldn't be Hollywood if there weren't drama. And in this game of chicken between Georgia and the titans of Tinsel Town, there's more of it every day.
It was all very theatrical when Netflix, Disney, WarnerMedia, and Sony Pictures started shaking their fists at pro-life states and made hollow threats about canceling productions. For most conservatives, it was a familiar scene. The entertainment industry has been using the same script since North Carolina's HB 2, when celebrities climbed on their moral high horses to brow beat voters who believe in privacy. Now their empty bluster is directed at the South, where governors are signing abortion bans into law faster than liberals can yell, "Cut!"
This week, Disney CEO Bob Iger trotted out the same old non-committal soundbites. They would be reevaluating their projects, he promised. "We are watching it very carefully," he reassured his allies. But as well as Iger and others are delivering their lines, their performance isn't getting rave reviews from an important corner -- their actual film crews.
"None of us voted for this," said one key grip in Georgia, "and we shouldn't have to suffer because of what the politicians decided." A fight is brewing, others agreed, if their companies pull up stakes and move out.
BuzzFeed interviewed scores of frustrated people on location in the South -- some of whom are starting campaigns of their own. Callie Moore, a camera assistant who works for Starz, is launching a "Stay and Fight in Georgia" initiative. "I generally don't agree that boycotting is the right call to make a real difference here," Moore argued. "I think the film industry brings so much to the state of Georgia, economically and diversity-wise, and I think it does so much good for the state. The least we can do is fight back and try to keep it here."
"It's ultimately hurting more people than it is going to do any justice," one person fumed. "It's not going to affect the politicians and the actors. They're still going to keep going to work in other places like they always have. But... it's going to destroy us." Even liberals like former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams are using the hashtag #Consequences to remind the industry that its bravado would mean "lost jobs for carpenters, hair dressers, food workers & 100s of small businesses grown right here."
Georgia legislators, on the other hand, are probably tired of rolling out the red carpet to people who use them for their tax climate, only to turn around and shame them for the values that make it possible. "Disney is free to do what they please, but their stated intent is highly hypocritical," Stephen Kent points out in the Washington Examiner. "When Hollywood's moral values collide with dollars it's usually no contest." After all, he argues, there didn't seem to be even a whiff of this outrage when Iger shook on his sweet deals overseas.
"There's a deep display of insincerity going on anytime Hollywood studios begin boycotts of conservative states for abortion restrictions. Disney just completed production of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, and before that was The Last Jedi, which featured memorable scenes shot in Croatia and Bolivia. In Croatia, abortion is restricted after 10 weeks. In Bolivia, it is entirely illegal. And yet, no Disney boycott."
Not to mention, the Wall Street Journal points out, Iger's obvious double standard in Asia. "More than a few Americans may also notice the contradiction that Disney is more worried about filming in a U.S. state that has passed a law democratically than it is operating its theme park and hawking its films in China, which uses facial-recognition software to monitor its population and has a million Uighurs in re-education camps..."
There will be more legislators like the one in California, trying to push more studios over the hump by dangling tax breaks in front of anyone with the hutzpah to leave pro-life states. Move to a place like ours that has a better appreciation for killing babies, the bill seems to say! It's a nice try, but whatever modest incentives California can offer will still be offset by the state's suffocating regulations and higher costs.
In the meantime, if Iger is so disgusted by unborn children, maybe Georgians shouldn't wait for him to leave. Maybe they should force him out altogether. Obviously, Disney's brand of "making dreams come true" is a bygone era. "Making the Left's agenda a reality" is more like it. Threatening the people of Georgia because they simply want to allow children to be born speaks volumes of Iger's new Disney.
In the end, though, these executives still see the world through dollars. That's why these CEOs' posturing never amounts to anything. It's all an act. And by Hollywood standards, not a very good one.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.