Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Stand with WGA and SAG-AFTRA this Labor Day
In 1956, a horrifying science-fiction film appeared, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” in which an unknown force sucked the vital energy out of human beings whose physical traits were copied; humans were turned into emotionless, soulless automatons who shrieked madly at an increasingly smaller number of born humans who were unaware that they, too, were about have their bodies snatched, copied and shelled.
The Body Snatchers have arrived in time for Labor Day, 2023. They move anonymously above us, among us, insinuating embodiment as Hollywood studio executives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) trying to break the 20,000 member Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the 160,000 member Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG) (AFTRA) by freely appropriating (stealing) professional writers’ past ideas and words, training machines to imitate them, replicating background actors’ and actress’ very own physical images, substituting all with synthetic products and images created not by human intelligence, but by computers and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The WGA may yet protect newer creative products from AI, but what’s a contract to a corporate cyborg?
Body Snatchers, artifice imitating art, snuffing out the lights, with poisonous gas emitted from one anonymous studio executive said to have arrogantly declared to Deadline: “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”
That should tell you the mentality of those whom the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are up against. It also instructs why all Americans must defeat this tyranny which conjoins high technology and corporate cupidity to crush the aspirations of working people.
Are these the kind of people you want to be in charge of making decisions over your own wages, your own benefits? Can any worker expect better treatment if the other side wants to take away not only fair wages but the roof over people’s heads? Unless ranks are closed behind the WGA and SAG-AFTRA we may be witnessing the pulverization of an entire class of workers.
When you think of your favorite movie or TV show, then think about this: It was someone’s idea, someone wrote it, someone edited it, someone crafted the dialogue into shape, someone approved the final script, someone supervised the script’s enactment, someone embodied its spirit, brought it to life in character.
Those “someones” are members of the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA now on strike because they know that once they agree to scripts and images mostly produced by AI, they have agreed to the annihilation of their rights as workers, the total destruction of their union and the end of their careers.
Unlike Chauncey Gardner, in Jerzy Kosinski’s “Being There,” this is when we must not reach for the channel changer to try to erase the obvious reality, we must not look away, but understand that all workers face an unreality if we don’t take a stand for real people dealing with real challenges to their way of life. The struggles facing writers, actors and actresses are, inevitably those affecting Autoworkers, Teamsters, Steelworkers, and all tradespeople, all who toil with their hands, their heads, their hearts.
The studio Body Snatchers are intent on maximizing their already prodigious profits by cutting wages, health benefits and pensions of everyday writers and actors, swapping out writers with programmed machines which pick through computerized word salads to whip up artificial scripts projected through diaphanous bodies overlaid with the purloined images of professional actors and actresses.
Body Snatchers as union busters in a post-human society, streaming human-veneered spectral shrouds into our living rooms to enlist clueless audiences’ enthusiastic compliance into accepting robotic vomit, instead of the actual work of creative human beings. No need to roll the credits when nothing is real.
This Labor Day 2023, it is urgent to support the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA, not just to show appreciation for the many years we have all enjoyed and benefited emotionally and spiritually from their craft, but to take a stand for valuing men and women who chose the creative arts of writing and acting as their contributions to society, as a means of supporting their families, to putting food on the table, having decent health care, and reliable pensions.
Most Hollywood and New York writers, actors and actresses, are work-a-day Americans, living precariously paycheck to paycheck, without much of a cushion, worried about paying the rent or the mortgage. Like all workers they want to benefit from the fruits of their labor. When a movie goes to a streaming service and becomes popular and brings in substantial revenue for the company, they rightly expect to benefit from the success they created.
The most prominent members of the trade, the so-called stars, the “A-Listers” are on the picket lines with their brothers and sisters, because this is a fight for human values over corporate values, for human intelligence over artificial intelligence, for what is real over what is unreal.
It is about taking a stand for the human values of rewarding work, celebrating intellectual ability,
Our lives have often been enriched from the creative content of movies and TV shows and the extraordinary work of actors and actresses portraying the breadth and depth of human experience.
Today corporations and the hedge funds which own some of them want to take artifice and sell it as the real deal. It is time to push back.
This Labor Day let us take a stand for the rights of all workers, and, in particular, members of the WGA and the SAG by insisting upon human dignity and
The Right to Organize.
The Right to Collective Bargaining.
The Right to Strike.
The Right to Decent Wages and Benefits.
The Right to a Safe Work Place.
The Right to Sue if Injured on the Job.
The Right to a Secure Retirement.
The Right to Participate in the Political Process.
These are Workers’ Rights. These are Human Economic Rights. These represent the triumph of human dignity and true freedom. But only if we are willing to take a stand.
Dennis J. Kucinich is a retired member of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE). He has been a member of the American Newspaper Guild, (ANG), and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA).
He has honorary membership in two locals of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. His father, Frank J. Kucinich, Sr., was a lifetime member of Teamsters Local 407 in Cleveland, Ohio. Dennis Kucinich served 16 years in the United State House of Representatives and was twice a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He is an author of three books, including the critically-acclaimed “Division of Light and Power,” and “The Courage to Survive.” He is the campaign manager of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for President.