Sunday, November 18, 2007

Writer's Strike

I'm not sure how I can relate this to Narrative and Technology, but the argument I just had with my friend Luke kind of reminded me of "Life in the Iron Mills" and... something else that would have to do with this class. Maybe.

I don't know anything about the writer's strike other than that there is one, and because of it they might be cutting the second season of "Heroes" in half. Unacceptable.

My friend Luke, a criminal justice major who is too late in his college career to change his major to what he really wants to do (which is write) asked me if they might hire "writing scabs" to fill in while the writers are on strike. I'm not sure how I feel about this concept.

Luke is from Kentucky. He explained that these writers are people who are getting paid to do what he only wishes he could do, and if they can't appreciate what they've got then of course he should be able to come in and take their places. He also emphasized that in Kentucky when the coal mining union went on strike and scabs were brought in, those scabs didn't have anything against the union. They were scabs because they needed to survive.

My argument is that writing is a lot different from coal mining. I'm not saying that just anyone can mine for coal. But in the case of being a writing scab, you're coming into an already established piece of work and riffing off of it for pay. That's someone else's intellectual property and you're coming in at the middle of the game and almost… stealing it. It's not for survival, it's not so you can feed your children who are starving. For Luke, at least, he feels like as a writing scab, (hypothetically) it might throw him into the writing career that he always dreamed of but could never have. But would you really want to make the start of your creative career using someone else's work?

This also kind of ties into a question that I had meant to raise with my mid-term project but never really got around to. The project involved online roleplaying forums that were based in an already established universe (X-men specifically). Is using already-created characters and concepts equivalent to plagiarism if you're only using them as a basis for your own creative outlet? I think in a forum-based roleplay community, no. If you're getting paid for it, though? It's still not plagiarism per say, but still not something I'd respect.

I dunno. It's almost like… as a writing scab, you'd be cheapening the profession as a whole. It'd be saying "writers come a dime a dozen and I'm going to prove it by replacing you for less pay and less appreciation," which I think is the real issue. It kind of reminds me, in a roundabout way, of that episode of Friends where Joey is on Days of Our Lives and says in an interview that he writes most of his lines (which was untrue). As payback for being underappreciated, the writers kill him off the show. Instead of just killing off a character, though, it looks like these writers are killing off the actual show with their strike. Which, again, is unacceptable to me, since I'm a creature of addiction and "Heroes" is on my (long, long) list of entertainment-related obsessions.

As someone who means to eventually make money off my writing (maybe), I think if I was writing for a television show, I'd be pissed at anyone who scabbed if I decided to strike because I was underappreciated.

Am I wrong? What do you think? And does this, in fact, have anything to do with narrative or technology?


Yomi said...

The topic of Heroes is completely relavent to the way i experience life so yes; indirectly this blog is related to Narrative and Technology. I wasn't aware of the Writer's Strike up until now so everything i know about it is from your blog. I know Luke said the writers should be happy writing such an awesome show but i think they're completely within the realm of reason for going on strike. Looking at this from an economic standpoint they are producing a product in high demand and for the most part is better than most other products on the market(Smallville > All). If they feel they should be paid more for their superb work its logical they should ask for more and hold out till they get it. Look at A-Rod; he is hustling the entire MLB of 275M for a 10 year contract because he himself is in demand. As a "Heroes" fan this pains me as much as the lack of new episodes of Smallville this month but I myself am a hustler. My motto is "get money" and apparently that is what these writers are doing. As far as placing other writers to fill in for the interim, forget that. I'll channel my obsession through something else while I wait for NBC to get their shit together.

Tim said...

Okay, first of all. I'm glad that I don't stand alone in knowing that there are only three episodes left in this season of Heroes (however afwul [compared to last season] it may be).

But what you were saying about scabs and writing and whatnot. I agree. I feel that fanfic and whatever else you want to lump together is a great way for people to express themselves or be able to turn their favorite story in whatever way they please. I'm not saying I am a fan of the many pornographic Harry Potter stories, but I think it allows the readers to get what they want out of the story. As for stepping in on a project that is already running, and starting where someone left off, I think that is an awful idea. That, and I don't think this Luke character could even minimally compare to the writers of Heroes. That's not to say he isn't a talented writer. In fact, I don't know that he isn't a talented writer. I'm just saying that it shouldn't be done. Ever.

Yeah. I'm listening to music as I write this so it could potentially be a complete mess. Sorry if it is. But... that's what I had to say. Yeah.

Yomi said...

LOL @ Harry Potter pornographic fanfic. Didn't even know it existed.

Mike K said...

Well it's not like these writers are rolling in cash. The average writer makes $200k a year...but that's because big writers are dragging up the average. The median writer makes less than $5000 a year. 95% are unemployed at any given time. Saying 'writers' and conjuring images of big Hollywood pretentious bastards is like saying 'actors' and getting the same image. That's only a small fraction of the people we're talking about. You'd like to write for a hugely popular prime-time television show? So would the writers.