film politics voting

Hollywood vs. The State of Georgia

The Hollywood Reporter has been following the entertainment industry’s response to the recent voting laws passed in Georgia. They’ve reported that Hollywood heavyweights like ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia, and even Amazon’s entertainment division have criticized the Georgia state-government for passing strict voting laws which strongly disenfranchise Black voters. On April 7th 2021, The Hollywood Reporter followed up with news that the Directors Guild of America is also denouncing the Georgia voting laws. The DGA’s President and National Executive Director, Thomas Schlamme and Russell Hollander respectively, have written a letter directly to Georgia governor Brian Kemp. The letter goes into detail about how the entertainment industry was able to bring billions of dollars of wages into Georgians’ pockets, but those wages require long working hours and frequent weekend work. The letter states, “Because of our arduous work schedules, our members have a particular need to avail themselves of early and absentee voting. And they will be particularly at risk of the new law’s limitations on ballot drop boxes, early voting in run-offs, and absentee voting.”

Hollywood isn’t the only industry taking on Georgia’s state government. Georgia based companies such as Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, powerful companies within their respective industries, have openly denounced the state laws. Their statements have even brought the attention of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatens the corporations to “stay out of politics.” Even Major League Baseball has moved its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado in response to the voting laws. But companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and MLB don’t have a huge stake in Georgia. Delta and Coca-Cola are companies that go beyond the borders of the United States, and the MLB’s All-Star Game chooses a different host city every season. But Hollywood and the entertainment industry is in a very different situation. Yes, American films and television shows are shot all over the world; they’re just as global as Delta and Coca-Cola. However, the American film industry concentrates a lot of its big hitters in the state of Georgia. Marvel blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame, a film that grossed a worldwide total of over $3 billion at the box office, was shot there alongside other major Marvel blockbusters and popular TV shows like Stranger Things and The Walking Dead. So the question arises of why Hollywood doesn’t take a stronger stance on the voting issue as the MLB did with their All-Star Game? What does that mean for Hollywood’s relationship with Georgia?

Hollywood is arguably as two-faced as the Georgia state government. Despite the state government rejecting the Trump administration’s constant lies of voter fraud in Georgia, they passed restrictive voting laws in response to voter fraud. While Hollywood appears to be one of the leading industries with liberal influence, they benefit from the GOP as much as any industry. The entertainment industry has a lot of individuals working as artists first and employees second, but it’s still a business nonetheless. Despite all the media attention regarding the GOP’s effort to employ Jim Crow tactics in voter suppression, Georgia seems to be the only state that everybody’s paying attention to. There are 24 other states that are employing restrictive voting laws, but not a lot of attention seems to be given to them.

If Hollywood is as liberal as they claim to be, why haven’t they brought attention to the other states, including those that helped Joe Biden win the 2020 Election, as much as they did Georgia? Well like how Delta, Coca-Cola, and MLB responded, it appears strictly reactionary. Hollywood’s huge presence in Georgia is strictly due to the states’ tax incentives. You can argue that their only stake in Georgia is purely money based, and the recent press releases by organizations like the DGA and ViacomCBS are just to save face. With that being said, this could still be a turning point. As much as Hollywood profits off Georgia, the relationship is very much mutual. As mentioned from the DGA’s letter, the entertainment industry contributes so much to Georgia’s economy that them leaving can make a huge impact. There’s a strong chance that Hollywood can threaten Georgia with a “we’ll take out business elsewhere” strategy.

In the same article, The Hollywood Reporter mentions that Ford v. Ferrari and Logan director James Mangold will never film another movie in Georgia. Even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, is using his influence to pull business out of Georgia. A small portion of Hollywood seems to fight the GOP with money instead of satire or artistic criticism, but the fight appears only popular with the artists of the industry, not the business moguls. Even though WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS criticized the voting laws, they never implied any financial threat to Georgia’s state government. That being said, if Hollywood’s participation in the battle against Georgia’s voting laws escalates in the upcoming future, this could be a new chapter in Hollywood’s history with politics. For years, big industries and corporations have always sided with Republicans, but a big industry like Hollywood could possibly change that. They could potentially be the first industry to seriously influence Washington to the left, and this Georgia voting law event could be the turning point. If CEOs of the major Hollywood Studios were to threaten Georgia financially over their right-wing policies, like the restrictive voting laws, then the GOP would really be in trouble. I wouldn’t say that Hollywood pulling its presence out of Georgia is going to be the death of the Republican party, but if it were to happen, I would argue it would be the first domino to fall among many others.