Since launching the historic double strike on July 14, members of the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild are no longer writing for or appearing in the binge-friendly movies and TV shows that are the lifeblood for global streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video.
But does that mean that you should also give up your Netflix password as a show of solidarity? That’s what a number of strike supporters are suggesting on social media.
Some WGA members are openly encouraging the grassroots boycott as well. Warren Leight — whose list of TV credits include In Treatment and two Law & Order series, Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit — took to Twitter to suggest that his followers cancel their Netflix accounts. His message was received loud and clear by his former Criminal Intent colleague — and SAG-AFTRA member — Kathryn Erbe, who promptly dropped Netflix from her streaming library.
Hitting that “Cancel” button on Netflix or Disney+ might feel like it directly benefits the causes that SAG and WGA are striking over, including the diminished residuals that have accompanied the industry shift to streaming, as well as what they claim is a lack of transparency over viewership data and other information. And Netflix certainly has been at the forefront of those complaints; in fact, the current strike has been openly referred to within Hollywood as “the Netflix strike,” and the company’s L.A. headquarters have served as the site of some of the biggest WGA rallies.
That notoriety is why Netflix features prominently in many of the social media posts advocating streaming service cancellations. Silence of the Lambs star and SAG-AFTRA member Brooke Smith even cited the company’s low pay as the reason why she’s canceling Netflix.
But, as always, the truth of the situation is a little more nuanced. To begin with, neither the WGA nor SAG-AFTRA has issued an official call to boycott Netflix or any other streaming service — at least not yet. (Yahoo Entertainment reached out to the WGA for comment, but none was received at press time.) That’s why you aren’t hearing more writers and actors joining the “Cancel Netflix” crowd on the picket line.
Responding to a fan on Tumblr, author Neil Gaiman — who adapted his seminal comic book series The Sandman for Netflix — indicated that he wouldn’t support a boycott without the WGA’s endorsement. “The WGA has not called for anyone to boycott any of the streamers or to stop their streaming services yet,” Gaiman wrote. “I’ve seen it being discussed, but until the WGA calls for it, I don’t suggest doing it.”
Meanwhile, actor John Carroll Lynch posted a video on Twitter reversing his own streaming boycott call. “I still think it’s a good idea, but I’ve been informed by the union that they do not require that and they don’t want that,” said the Zodiac scene-stealer. “I don’t know why — something to do with the negotiations that I don’t agree with, but I do follow the union recommendations, because that’s what this is all about.”
Writing in the Los Angeles Times ahead of the SAG-AFTRA strike, culture columnist Mary McNamara, opined that a “streaming boycott is probably not the answer,” observing that it would be hard to encourage enough cancellations to impact the bottom line of companies like Netflix. “Failing platforms help no one,” McNamara added, pointing out that the crew members that aren’t on strike — from directors to production assistants — are still facing the economic burdens that come with the current work stoppage.
Some SAG-AFTRA and WGA members are using social media to suggest alternatives to boycotting Netflix. Writer Caroline Renard posted a link to an entertainment fund that supplies water and food to those union members walking the picket line in the summer heat. And actor Kylie Sparks noted that continuing to stream shows actually helps the cause since it shows Netflix and other services that there’s a large consumer demand for fresh content. And that, in turn, might encourage them to bring the unions back to the bargaining table sooner.
Because, believe it or not, there will come a time when you run out of new things to binge on Netflix. After all, you can only guess whether or not something is actually cake so many times.