Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is Tyra A Workplace Tyrant?
September 12, 2006 9:07 AM   Subscribe

America's Next Top Picket Line Writers from America's Next Top Model have gone on strike after the Writers Guild of America West began a campaign to unionize reality TV. How many strikes do you know have their own MySpace page, Television without Pity interview, and a model "working it" on the picket line? Ironically, a previous 1988 writers' strike encouraged the current boom in reality TV, as this article argues.
posted by jonp72 (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Imagine contestants from The Apprentice standing up and unionizing in front of Trump, right at the start of its season. Man, I'd love to be at the taping of that revolution.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:20 AM on September 12, 2006


Here's hoping that this strike will get enough publicity to remind people that their "reality" TV is actually carefully scripted by professional writers who manufacture conflicts and feed the "characters" all their best lines.
posted by Amy Phillips at 9:22 AM on September 12, 2006


Writers from America's Next Top Model have gone on strike...

Not that I want these hacks to go back to their hackery, but dang, what I wouldn't give for some good ol' head smashing Pinkertons or North West Mounties right now.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:27 AM on September 12, 2006


Wait, isn't America's Next Top Model a reality show? With writers? I mean, I guess I always assumed reality shows had writers, but I would have thought they would try to hide it.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 9:38 AM on September 12, 2006


How many strikes do you know have their own MySpace page, Television without Pity interview, and a model "working it" on the picket line?

Hey, whatever works. You'd prefer they strummed folk songs or something?
posted by jonmc at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2006


The campaign has cost the guild several hundred thousand dollars, but also gotten more than 1,100 reality writers interested in joining the organization, Daily Variety reported

I love that. Gives me a sense of security knowing that free choice is an illusion and nothing is random.

Reality Writers. Aaahhh.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2006


They're not really writers they're "story editors." They look at the footage and make "paper cuts," which are general outlines of the way the plot of the episode will go.

With the strike on, their jobs are just being picked up by the editors of the show (a buddy of mine works on Top Model.)

They are no more or less writers than the editors are, and IATSE and the Editors guilds agree. There is currently a lawsuit pending between the Editors guild and the Writers guild over jurisdiction.

I'm busy at work so I don't have time to look up links.

Most likely their job title will just disappear on the show and the strikers will end up sh*t out of luck, IMO.
posted by MythMaker at 9:45 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


In other words, the whole thing is mostly a power grab by the WGA to reassert some authority over TV, since reality shows mostly *don't* have credited writers, and there are more reality and less scripted shows on TV than before. But to define these people as "writers" is maybe stretching it.
posted by MythMaker at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2006


So does that mean, if this strike succeeds, the networks will no longer have a strong incentive to keep pumping out reality shows?

If so, then stick it to the man, brother. Stick it hard.
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2006


If so, then stick it to the man, brother. Stick it hard.

And all you people, posting on Metafilter and thereby providing the public with free infotainment from a non-unionized source?

SCABS!

/breaks out guitar, starts strumming 'we shall overcome'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:12 AM on September 12, 2006


Wow, this is such old news.
posted by melixxa600 at 10:14 AM on September 12, 2006


Union? Yes!
posted by three blind mice at 10:25 AM on September 12, 2006


Union? Yes!

I believe that your dues for the Metafilter and Allied BlogPosters are currently in arrears, tbm.

Unless you get them paid up soon, there'll be no strike pay for you when we picket the blue.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:32 AM on September 12, 2006


Unless you get them paid up soon, there'll be no strike pay for you when we picket the blue.

And we'll march day and night, by the old server tower
They have the Blue, but we have the power
posted by hangashore at 11:04 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


I hope this strike lasts forever and kills the whole concept of so-called reality tv.
posted by caddis at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2006


I don't really understand the mass hatred for reality tv. There's something worthwhile in seeing what people really say to one another, without a script. I guess people feel that someone is pulling the puppet strings behind the scenes, but I've never read anything suggesting that producers tell people to act a certain way or say certain things. The worst I've seen along these lines is that on Survivor people are sometimes asked to repeat something that they've already said, in front of the cameras. Which isn't optimal, but whatever.

The thing is, most non-reality tv is total fiction, completely made up. So unless you're against television altogether, you don't really have a problem with House, or Grey's Anatomy, where made-up characters behave in ways that are total fiction, but nevertheless entertain us. With reality tv like the Amazing Race or ANTM, the people are not imagined characters, they are actual people experiencing real emotion and struggling with real decisions. Oh sure, they're put in weird predicaments so that there will be some sort of adversity or challenge to overcome. In reality tv, it's generally those "challenges" that are the fiction, whereas the responses to them are real responses. But in most of the rest of tv, everything is a fiction. I guess that's prettier to some people, but I think they are missing the point.

To me, reality tv has a better chance of addressing real cultural issues that divide people than most other media formats. How about the show on race that followed two families to show what it was like to be members of another race? Or stories like 7up and its follow-ups (14up, 21up, 28up, 35up, 42up) that followed children from different classes in Britain and checked in with them every 7 years to see where they were at in their lives and how they were affected by social and class structures? Or SuperNanny, which gives real advice to real families about how to deal with child insubordination issues in ways other than corporal punishment? Used well, I think reality tv is a great way to educate the masses about lives other than theirs, or different ways to solve problems that most folks wouldn't come up with on their own. But hey, fiction is fun too, I guess.
posted by onlyconnect at 2:51 PM on September 12, 2006


Wait, so reality TV now gets to wear the cloak of documentary film? I missed when that happened.

That shit rots your brain. Just say no.
posted by intermod at 10:16 PM on September 12, 2006


Oh, and

And we'll march day and night, by the old server tower
They have the Blue, but we have the power


Now play Alice's Restaurant!

[snaps fingers, nods head]
posted by intermod at 10:18 PM on September 12, 2006


I don't really understand the mass hatred for reality tv. There's something worthwhile in seeing what people really say to one another, without a script. [...] Or stories like 7up and its follow-ups (14up, 21up, 28up, 35up, 42up) that followed children from different classes in Britain and checked in with them every 7 years to see where they were at in their lives and how they were affected by social and class structures?
Uhm. Wow. You really do not understand why people hate reality TV. We hate it because it's astroturf. This is exasperated because TV is a passive medium, so most people watch TV uncritically. I watch TV critically, so it is actually frustrating to me to be actively lied to, no matter how benign the lie may seem to be to you. I will watch good reality TV, but most of it is populist, lowest common denomonator dreck. And prejudiced reality TV is actively harmful in a way that's a little different than prejudiced fiction. When you write biased fiction, you can be called out on it, because it's a world you created with total control. When you script racist, sexist, ageist or classist reality TV, you can always pass the buck: "That's just how it turned out!" Lowest common denomonator writers always play on prejudice for entertainment. There's a big difference in subtlety and insidiousness between putting an actor in blackface and creating a sitcom farce and biasedly selecting a stereotypical real person to be your reality TV caricature. One is a lot easier to get away with than the other.

Also, there's something enchanting about entertainment with a clear vision and clear leadership. All of the most entertaining shows, to me, are ones where there is a clear leader with a vision (Think: Joss Whedon), but his/her leadership is confident enough to allow actors and co-writers to improvise the details. Reality TV, to me, watches like leadership by committee. There's no vision. No individuality. In fact, this is the whole reason why networks fell in love with reality TV and why this strike will fail. The "creative team" in reality TV are just cogs in the machine. The real star in reality TV is the concept and networks can own the concept 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The concept can't strike. The concept won't decide to move to another network or decide to become a full-time stay at home parent. The concept is wholly owned and totally controlled by the corporation. If they could own people like that, they would.

Furthermore, I have a strong ethical aversion to manipulation. Ethical documentarians and sociologists account for the ethical necesities to "do no harm," "do not interfere," and "do not judge." Reality TV's bizzaro world ethics are almost entirely reversed from my own because they are trying to fulfill, what is to them a higher goal, the goal of creating entertaining conflict. For that reason, I don't think most Reality TV is an avenue for positive social change. Without visionaries to lead the fight, the goal will always be profit and social change is not profitable to the people in power.

Also, just because people were stupid enough to volunteer to be on reality TV doesn't mean that they deserve to be exploited. Remember bum fights? Ethically, exploiting people who are hungry for fame or prizes is not, in kind, different than paying bums to fight each other, the only difference is the degree of the harm. The pinch may be a small pinch, but it is still an intent to do harm. This comment from a similar ethical problem comes to mind.

On the other hand, I really enjoy well-made Discovery Channel-type reality TV, but it's often full of unentertaining moments. Guess what, real life is boring sometimes. You can't have it both ways.
posted by Skwirl at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2006


« Older Logically, the last thing you would think would he...  |  GAO: Anti-Drug Ads Still Don't... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments