You might have thought that one of the few benefits of the ongoing strikes by Hollywood writers and actors was not having periodic viral clips of Bill Maher saying something bigoted on his HBO talk show. Maher feels differently. He’s bringing back his show despite the strike, and offering a typically self-righteous defense of his decision to undermine some of his workers. Elon Musk, determined to insert himself into every possible storyline, is very excited.
“It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work,” Maher tweeted. “The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems, and concerns.”
It’s time, he says. Not time for the big studios of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to give their two striking unions an adequate deal that would make the movie and TV industry pay fairly. Just … time to stop supporting the writers who are at issue in his own show.
”We all were hopeful this would come to an end after Labor Day, but that day has come and gone, and there still seems to be nothing happening,” Maher continued, without mentioning that studio executives were quoted months ago saying that the plan “is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” Right on cue, Maher is like, “Oh, no, this is really dragging on. Guess we’d better stop supporting the writers!”
Maher went on to claim he would “honor the spirit of the strike by not doing a monologue, desk piece, New Rules or editorial, the written pieces that I am so proud of on Real Time.” The Writers Guild of America disagrees that this is honoring anything meaningful.
“Bill Maher’s decision to go back on the air while his Guild is on strike is disappointing. If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than ‘the spirit of the strike’. Bill Maher is obligated as a WGA member to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services. It is difficult to imagine how Real Time with Bill Maher can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. WGA will be picketing this show,” the union said in a statement.
Musk, on the other hand, jumped in with what was intended to sound like an offer but came off as more of a plea for relevance. “Maybe worth posting some material on this platform,” he tweeted. “The reach is enormous.” Enormous, honest. Things are going great, I am not captaining a sinking ship.
The good news is that Bill Maher being a dishonest right-wing jerk is not some new disappointment. As The Volatile Mermaid tweeted, “Bill Maher is a scab? Wow this totally changes my previously high opinion of that smug Islamophobic racist transphobic misogynistic attention-whore.”
Drew Barrymore’s decision—announced a week ahead of Maher’s—to bring her show back despite the strike did come as something of a disappointment, by contrast. Back in May, Barrymore pulled out of hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards in solidarity with the striking writers. Now, as a result of her decision to resume filming despite the strike, Barrymore has lost some potential high-profile guests and has been dropped as the host of the National Book Awards, after prominent writers like Colson Whitehead pointed out the inherent problem in having an event celebrating writers be hosted by someone who was violating a strike by writers. So Barrymore has given up two hosting gigs: one for an honorable reason, and one as a rebuke for her dishonorable behavior.
Taylor Swift, on the other hand, is taking the high road. Swift is releasing a concert film from her Eras Tour—and she’s doing it after making a deal with SAG-AFTRA, the actors union that she is a member of. She additionally went directly to AMC Theatres to distribute the film, rather than going through the studios that SAG-AFTRA is striking against.
“That concert movie is covered by a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement. She came to us and said she wanted to do this, but only if she could do it the right way under a union contract, and we said that’s great, and so she fulfilled all the same criteria as anybody else” SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland told IndieWire at the Toronto International Film Festival.
There is a right way to do things. Taylor Swift found it, as did the late-night talk show hosts who started a podcast to benefit their workers. Drew Barrymore and Bill Maher didn’t—and then tried to justify their actions.
Anyone who suggests that this strike has dragged on too long without pointing a finger directly at the studio executives who planned for that all along, seeking to drive writers into homelessness rather than pay them fairly, is doing the work of those studio executives. Hollywood writers and actors are fighting for the middle-class workers of their entire industry. They deserve the support of the people who’ve gotten rich and famous doing those same jobs.