Home » Nepo Baby of the Week: Drew Barrymore, the Strike Scab?

Nepo Baby of the Week: Drew Barrymore, the Strike Scab?

It’s a popular warning on Twitter not to count on celebrities for anything aside from the jobs they’re handsomely paid to do. Yet nothing could prepare the internet for a certain scandal involving our typically beloved Nepo Baby of the Week.

As of last Sunday, Hollywood royalty and daytime-TV host extraordinaire Drew Barrymore has been declared a scab. And between this development and the recent news that Lizzo is possibly a tyrant and Guy Fieri is buddies with Donald Trump, no one knows what to do with themselves. Is there anyone left who’s safe to stan?? (The answer is obviously no.)

Let’s start from the beginning. Last weekend, the Emmy-nominated multihyphenate announced that she was resuming her syndicated talk show The Drew Barrymore Show on Sept. 18 amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes. In a poorly written Instagram statement that was seemingly not vetted by a publicist, she explained her “difficult” decision to go on with Season 4, stating that she should return to her post with “astute humility.”

“I own this choice,” the Scream actor wrote in part. “We are in compliance with not discussing or film and television that is struck of any kind. We launched live in a global pandemic. Our show was built for sensitive times and has only functioned through what the real world is going through in real time. I want to be there to provide what writers do well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience.”

Barrymore’s correct in that she is currently respecting the Screen Actors Guild’s strike rules. (We’ll have to wait to see about her guests.) Her show, like many daytime programs, operates under a different labor agreement called the Network Television Code, and the actors’ union confirmed that she was not crossing the picket line by doing camera work for this particular show. However, it’s the “there to provide what writers do well” part of the announcement that has the Writer Guild of America calling foul play, as The Drew Barrymore Show employs union writers. By presumably taking on the work of her writing staff, who prepare interviews and help her segue between segments, Barrymore is, by Merriam-Webster’s definition, “scabbing.”

“It has stayed off the air since the strike began on May 2nd but has now (unfortunately) decided to return without its writers,” the spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter after Barrymore’s announcement. “The Guild has, and will continue to, picket any struck show that continues production for the duration of the strike.”

Since then, WGA members, the co-head writer on her show, and Barrymore’s fan base online, have expressed their disappointment and frustration with the Charlie’s Angels star, who emerged as a seemingly pro-union voice when she dropped out of hosting the MTV Movie and Television Awards in July following the WGA’s walkout. Striking writers have since picketed her studio. Additionally, audience members wearing WGA shirts have reported being removed or having their strike pins confiscated. As of Tuesday,The National Book Foundation also dropped Barrymore as the host of their upcoming awards ceremony.

On Friday, Barrymore posted another poorly received statement (this time, a video) on Instagram, to “take responsibility” for her actions. However, the show will still go on.

“I know there is just nothing I can do that will make this OK to those that it is not OK with,” Barrymore said. “I fully accept that. I fully understand that. There are so many reasons why this is so complex, and I just want everyone to know my intentions have never been in a place to upset or hurt anymore. It’s not who I am. I’ve been through so many ups and downs in my life, and this is one of them.”

I’m not going to sit here pretend that I’m a Barrymore stan or that I’ve watched her talk show beyond the ridiculous clips that pop up on my Twitter feed. So I can’t convey much personal disappointment about this whole situation. When it comes to Twitter’s (formerly) favorite talk show host, I’m more like Lucille Bluth uttering “Good for her” with my cupcake everytime she scores another viral moment or books a new gig. I also think Music & Lyrics is an underrated masterpiece. However, I’m just as perplexed by her decision to cross the picket line as Barrymore’s die-hard fans, who assumed that her warmness and empathy extended to underpaid writers, especially her own.

There’s nothing that really excuses scabbing, especially from someone as influential and powerful as Barrymore. One can assume CBS, who sells Barrymore’s talk show to local stations, threatened to cancel the series, which would obviously put hundreds of people out of work. However, writers are clearly in a desperate moment, as their work has become increasingly undervalued in the streaming era. Times like these unfortunately require sacrifices—and namely, solidarity—for the greater good of the industry and lasting change. As The Drew Barrymore Show’s co-head writer Cristina Kinon told The Daily Beast, “Unions only work when you stick together with unions across the labor spectrum.”

Conan O’Brien faced the same moral conundrum during the ’07-’08 writers’ strike when he crossed the picket line to resume hosting Late Night with Conan O’Brien, citing the number of jobs on the line. To be clear, there’s no acceptable way to scab. But as Vulture editor Josef Adalian points out, the comedian at least sounded conflicted about the whole thing in his statement as opposed to Barrymore “owning” her terrible choice. O’Brien had also been financially supporting his staff up until that point. Drew Barrymore, unlike most late-night hosts, has not publicly announced whether she’s assisting her staff or not.

Still, there does seem to be more of a reaction to Barrymore’s crimes than to Kelly Ripa and Mark Consulelas. The married couple has continued hosting Live With Kelly and Mark without writers. (Although, strikers have picketed outside their studio.) Barrymore’s situation has also raised questions about The View, which is also covered under the so-called Netcode, but has not received a huge amount of online backlash until recently. After the SAG walkout, co-host Whoopi Goldberg clarified on-air that they were in compliance with the unions strike rules because they were under a different contract. However, Variety reported that the ABC show employed two WGA writers, who are obviously now striking.

Arguably though, when your whole brand is being kind and empathetic, people are naturally going to express more disappointment in you when you screw up than if you’re someone like Ripa, who has never really positioned herself as a voice of the people. It’s also why no one seems to be too shocked that evil gnome Bill Maher is going back on the air. It’ll be interesting, however, to see if equally beloved figure Jennifer Hudson will receive the same sort of (well-deserved) wrath when her talk show resumes this fall.

Regardless, Barrymore’s actions are inexcusable when she can most likely afford to subsidize whatever scraps her crew was being paid for the time being. She could have at least told us she was donating to the Entertainment Community Fund throughout this foolishness!

Whether she’ll be pardoned for her sins eventually, like most celebrities, is anyone’s guess. But right now, it’s hard to envision her ever reclaiming the title of the internet’s favorite chaotic woman. I also predict she’ll somehow give a worse statement during the Season 4 premiere than she did on Instagram. I’ve never seen a nepo baby fumble the bag quite so hard.

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September 2023