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'"Succession" without writers is just "The Apprentice,"' and other clever signs from the writers strike

Who said fighting for fair wages had to be a total drag?

Writers Guild of America protest signs offered a bit of a humorous balm. (Photos: Getty Images)
Writers Guild of America protest signs offered a bit of a humorous balm. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, which kicked off this week in Los Angeles and New York City, is evidence of a pretty grim situation: Over 11,000 unionized screenwriters are not being paid a living wage, and are currently out of work (and may be risking future work by picketing).

But looking closely at some of the clever signs being carried by those on the picket lines may be just the thing for a little bit of comic relief (not to mention reminders of why writers are paid to write).

A person holds a sign that reads 'I told chat gpt to make a sign and it sucked' at a protest held by members of the Writers Guild of America union outside the Netflix headquarters near Union Square, Manhattan on Wednesday May 3, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)
A clever sign held outside the Netflix headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday, May 3. (Photo: AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)
Writer Olivia Dom pickets with fellow members of The Writers Guild of America outside of Universal Studios Thursday, May 4, 2023, in Universal City, Calif. The first Hollywood strike in 15 years commenced Tuesday as the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America stopped working when their contract expired. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Writer Olivia Dom pickets with fellow members in Universal City, Calif. (Photo: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Members of the The Writers Guild of America picket outside Paramount Pictures on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Los Angeles. Television and movie writers declared late Monday, May 1, that they will launch an industrywide strike for the first time in 15 years, as Hollywood girded for a walkout with potentially widespread ramifications in a fight over fair pay in the streaming era.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The industrywide strike is the first writers strike in 15 years. (Photo: AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Entertainment industry writers demonstrate in Hollywood, Los Angeles, the United States, on May 2, 2023. Television and movie writers with the Writers Guild of America began their strike on Tuesday for the first time in 15 years, bringing Hollywood production to a halt. The Writers Guild of America said in a statement Monday night that the labor union's negotiation with Hollywood studios and streamers had failed to reach an agreement after spending the last six weeks negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. (Photo by Xinhua via Getty Images)
On strike in Hollywood. (Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images)
Members of the The Writers Guild of America picket outside of the Amazon Studios lot, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Culver City, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Culver City, Calif. (Photo: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Members of the The Writers Guild of America picket outside Paramount Pictures on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Los Angeles. Television and movie writers declared late Monday, May 1, that they will launch an industrywide strike for the first time in 15 years, as Hollywood girded for a walkout with potentially widespread ramifications in a fight over fair pay in the streaming era.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
In Hollywood. (Photo: AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
(Credit: Instagram/DominicColon)
(Credit: Instagram/DominicColon)

But what's it all about, exactly?

Every three years, the WGA and the AMPTP negotiate for the major Hollywood studios — including Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, Paramount and Universal, as well as streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV+ and Prime Video, and broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

Simply put, neither party can come up with terms on a new contract, after its latest negotiation in 2020 during the pandemic. The repercussions impact more than just favorite shows. In fact, the 2007 writers strike cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.1 billion, per the Milken Institute. Before that, a 1988 strike that lasted 22 weeks reportedly cost the industry an estimated $500 million.

As Robert Thompson, the founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, told Yahoo Entertainment earlier this week, streaming and AI — above all else — are the real issues.

"Any viewer that says, 'Why are they striking? I don't get it.' My first question would be: Do you watch television the same way today as you watched television 20 years ago?'" he says. "And the answer is going to be, for the vast majority of those people, 'No, we watch it totally differently.'"

He continued: "The fact that you watch it totally differently has upset the economic models in which all this stuff was based on. And your change from watching a TV set in a living room when the shows were on to watching whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it, wherever you want — on your phone, laptop, Smart TV, or whatever — all of the changes that you have made in the industry by how you watch television has changed the whole economic basis on which that industry works."

While streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have dominated television in the last decade, writers' compensation simply hasn't caught up. Many of them feel they're not being paid properly for their work, with lower paychecks and less in terms of residuals.

That's largely due to the fact that writers' compensation was largely established when streaming first began. However, things have changed drastically since then.

"If you are a writer, if you're a producer, if you work in Hollywood in the industry, these kinds of strikes are really bad," Thompson noted. "Obviously you don't want long shutdowns of entire industries. And they not only are bad for the immediate shutdowns, but they're bad because they tend to reorient the way people view."

Needless to say, much of that fervor was well-represented by the thousands of picketers demanding change. Will the AMPTP meet their demands? Only time will tell. Until then, writers hope their clever turns-of-phrase can help.

— Additional reporting by Suzy Byrne