Entertainers and Political (Re)Action

There is a lot of film production in Georgia, so much, in fact, that it is sometimes called “The Hollywood of the South.” During 2018 455 productions were filmed there, resulting in 92,000 jobs and “$2.7 billion in direct spending.” One of the reasons for this is the state’s generous tax incentives for film production companies. I personally know actors who have moved to Georgia because of the availability of work there.

But this past week, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed HB 481: Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act into law. Also known as the “heartbeat bill,” the law bans abortion “at any stage of pregnancy after the detection of ‘embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,’” and “effectively criminalizes…any woman who seeks an abortion or even one who miscarries in the state.” Opponents of the law have been quick to point out what they consider its flaws. Reaction from at least part of the film community has been swift, with five production companies announcing that they won’t film in Georgia until the law is overturned. Actress Alyssa Milano has said that if the law stands, she will not return to Netflix’s Insatiable for a third season unless the filming moves to a different state. Milano was among those who opposed the bill early, joining 49 other actors saying they would boycott the state if the bill became law.

Others have taken a different tactics. Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams have agreed to shoot an HBO horror drama in Georgia, but plan to donate their fees to help fight the law. Larger studios seem to be waiting for the law to be challenged in court.

Although those same large studios threatened to boycott Georgia over anti-LGBTQ legislation three years ago and essentially forced then-Governor Nathan Deal to veto the legislation, such political, economic action is a bit unusual for entertainment artists. The number of publically-involved celebrities is low, thus articles entitled “16 Celebs Who Make Their Political Leanings Crystal Clear,” “11 Most Politically Active Celebs,” “22 Celebrities Who have Become Political Activists,” “20 actors who weren’t afraid to get political in 2018” and “Seven of the most politically active celebrities in Trump era.” Most people in the entertainment industry seem to keep their politics private.

The question is should they? Some think that voicing political beliefs will impact their careers; indeed, actor James Woods claims to have been blacklisted for his conservative politics. Or should those in entertainment weigh in publically on political, social, and economic issues? In these days when many professionals in the entertainment world have huge Twitter and Instagram followings, and are thus obvious influencers, are they obligated to use that celebrity to influence the political thinking of their followers? Or should they wade into politics, economics, and social issues only when it’s very important to them? (And this law certainly qualifies as important, at least to any woman working in the state of Georgia, since she will be subject to it.) Or should they leave the public politics alone and just concentrate on their art and their image?

Only the entertainers themselves can answer these questions. At the end of the day, those in the entertainment industry are in the same position as anyone else. They can let the world know what they think or not, knowing that if they do voice their opinions, there may be reaction or even backlash. But like anyone else, they are impacted by laws that govern the places where they work, which, in turn, gives them the right to speak out if they feel such laws are wrong.

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Date: Monday, 13. May 2019 0:52
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