For the first time since 1960, both the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) are on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). Screenwriters and actors alike are withholding their labor from Hollywood studios, picketing for fair contracts. This means that not only are productions halted, but promotional events like interviews and red carpets are also off the table.
With movies and TV shows getting delayed, and the general state of the entertainment industry temporarily up in the air, many people are wondering about the best way to support the actors and writers — especially when it comes to consuming the content made by the very studios those workers are striking against. There is some confusion about what is considered “scabbing” (joining the side of the producers instead of the workers) for those who aren’t affiliated with the unions in question.
But luckily, it boils down to one simple answer: If you are not an actor in SAG-AFTRA or a screenwriter in the WGA — or an aspiring member of either union — then cosplaying, fanfiction, or participating in other fandom activities is not scabbing.
There are still some murky areas, especially in this age of social media and easily accessible fan-generated content, so we’ve broken down exactly what a good fan can do to show solidarity with striking actors and writers.
Should I cancel my streaming service/not watch any movies or TV shows?
Neither SAG-AFTRA nor WGA has called for any consumer boycotts at this time. This means that you don’t need to cancel any streaming service subscriptions, or stop watching any shows or going to movies, to demonstrate your support for the striking workers. Without a systematic consumer boycott, individual action on this front doesn’t really amount to much. In fact, many union members have urged consumers to keep on watching, because it helps prove the value of the shows and movies they’ve worked on.
But what about unofficial content, like fan art, fanfiction, and cosplay? Can I still make that stuff?
Fan-generated content does create some confusion, but the same simple rule applies: If you are not in SAG-AFTRA or the WGA (and don’t aspire to be someday), then you are not scabbing! That “aspire to be” part is important — both unions will bar any current nonmember from future membership if they determine that a person has scabbed.
Additionally: If you are not being paid by one of the struck studios to do the work of a union member, you are also not scabbing. Your Avengers fanfic is not going to replace the next MCU movie, and your Ahsoka Tano cosplay is not going to replace Rosario Dawson answering questions on Hot Ones.
Take an actual real-life example: The Disney Parks employees who were paid by Disney to show up as characters for the Haunted Mansion premiere last week were not scabbing, because 1) even though they were being paid by Disney, it was for the job that they normally do on a day-to-day basis; 2) they are not members of SAG-AFTRA; and 3) they are not replacing any union jobs.
Now, whether you feel morally OK with creating fan content during these strikes is a personal decision that no one can make for you. But just know that you aren’t being a scab if you do it.
What if I am in one of those unions, though?
The rules do get a little murky if you are in SAG-AFTRA or the WGA (or if you are an aspiring member of either union). As a general rule of thumb, if you are not getting paid by a struck studio, you are not scabbing. Influencers in SAG-AFTRA, for instance, have been asked not to take any paid promotions during the strike, though they are encouraged to finish out any existing contracts.
But there are some caveats that come with the gray area of organic promotional material, such as influencers making hype posts of their own accord. SAG-AFTRA specifically urges influencers who are members (or aspiring members) to not promote “organically” — i.e., they shouldn’t post about struck work at all, even just as a fan. This could encompass cosplay and fanfic (and if this applies to you, now is a great time to get into fan content for books, comics, or video games).
The WGA guidelines are a little different. The writers’ union asks that members (and aspiring members) refuse to promote projects if a struck company asks them, but it’s OK with writers posting about their own projects as long as that promotion is organic. The WGA does, however, urge members (and aspiring members) not to participate in events sponsored by struck companies, such as San Diego Comic-Con, even as fans. A full list of struck studios can be found on the WGA website and searched on the SAG website.
Basically, if you’re an actor or if you want to be one someday, you shouldn’t post about new movies or TV shows. But if you’re just a person posting your Barbie premiere fit to Instagram, or making a TikTok about watching Oppenheimer in IMAX 70mm film, you’re totally in the clear — and more importantly, you’re still helping to prove that actors’ work is valuable!
At the end of the day…
Remember: The studios benefit from confusion about these rules. When in doubt, listen to what the official union channels are saying. Some individual members may say stuff that contradicts the guidance, but you can check out the official SAG-AFTRA and WGA websites to verify any information. Right now, the best way to support the striking workers is to donate to strike funds and show solidarity on social media.