Boycotting Georgia Film Leaves the State for Dead
Much like HB 481, a boycott will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable Georgia residents, on set and off.Photos by Dia Dipasupil/Getty, Jon Kopaloff/Getty, Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Movies Features Heartbeat Bill
I live in Atlanta, the culturally vibrant, liberal hub of a historically red state. Few may know us as the “Hollywood of the South” thanks to our booming film industry, but most know us for our illegitimate governor, Brian Kemp, who recently signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. Starting in 2020, this “heartbeat bill” would make abortion illegal after six weeks, before most women even know they’re pregnant, and prosecute women on charges of conspiracy for out-of-state abortions.
The righteous uproar this has caused has been deafening, with many in the entertainment industry advocating for a boycott on filming in Georgia. While I support boycotts by nature, I have a huge issue with what’s being proposed here and with who is sounding the alarms.
Twitter is teeming with wealthy LA- and NY-based industry professionals attempting to lead the charge, including such outspoken celebrities as Alyssa Milano, and her other wildly-missing-the-point call for a sex strike, and David Simon, who I assumed tweeted his support for women from the set of The Deuce starring James Franco. But Twitter’s full of mixed messages. The same week we’re ripping Kemp to shreds we’re also dragging Constance Wu for publicly lamenting the renewal of Fresh Off the Boat. So it’s a terrible thing for crew members on a single ABC sitcom to lose their jobs but it’s OK for every film worker in Georgia to lose theirs?
Hollywood, please don’t pretend you didn’t know you were entering a red state when you started filming here. You did not come for our beautiful politics, you came for our tax cuts. It’s no surprise some are so willing to leave. I’d imagine you’d prefer to stay in LA or NY and work in the same city you, your family, and your friends call home. It’s nice, isn’t it, getting to work and live the same city? It’s a benefit Georgians have also quite enjoyed these past few years.
Boycotting Georgia likely won’t stop anybody’s latest film project from moving forward, so I have to ask: What are you really giving up with this boycott? What are you doing for the women of Georgia? This law first and foremost affects our state’s female residents. The majority of jobs available are below-the-line positions stationed in Atlanta, a city comprised of a majority of African Americans. Much like HB 481, a boycott will disproportionately affect Black women on set and off.
The women of Georgia should be championing our next move because our home is the battlefield. The idea that the Georgian film industry should just pack up and leave is an egregious over-simplification. Moving is a privilege. Abandoning a state that has already abandoned it’s citizens will inflict no damage on these politicians. The elimination of a huge section of the economy, however, will devastate those who are forced to stay behind. And where would we even go? If this bill goes to the Supreme Court as intended and Roe vs Wade is overturned, then every state will join us in this hell. Telling us to pack our bags is on par with every prick who shouts “if you don’t like it here, you should just leave” whenever an athlete kneels.
There’s a difference between an industry withdrawing and an organization withdrawing a singular event, such as the NBA planning to pull their All-Star game from North Carolina due to that state’s transphobic bathroom laws. The entertainment industry is well-established in Georgia. People’s livelihoods depend on it, just as they depend on access to safe and legal abortion. Imagine the double sucker punch of losing your rights and your job. Healthcare? Gone too, most likely during the time you’ll need it most.
Again, I need to ask: What are you giving up with this boycott? It seems, Hollywood boycotters, you’re sacrificing us for the sake of… us. Stacey Abrams had her governorship stolen by Kemp despite record turnouts. The majority of the country is against an abortion ban, Georgia included. We voted; it does not matter. Kemp shouldn’t be able to remain Secretary of State and oversee an election in which he’s also a candidate. Didn’t matter. Trump shouldn’t be able to take office without divesting from his businesses. Didn’t matter. Between gerrymandering and voter suppression, Republicans threw out the rule book a long time ago. These bills are popping up in states that score in the gutter on education and healthcare, with Alabama the latest, asking Georgia to hold their beer as they ban nearly all abortions, no exception for rape.
With the 8th largest population in the U.S., Georgia will play an important part in a national blue wave, a position we cannot overlook. Film in Georgia is essential for our state’s progressive movement, contributing to the state’s turn toward purple. One of the few delightful surprises of the midterms was Karen Handel’s shocking upset by Dem Lucy McBath for Georgia’s congressional district six seat. According to OpenSecrets.org, McBath received over $80k in campaign contributions from the entertainment industry while Jon Ossoff’s received over $300k for his much, much more publicized (but ultimately doomed) special election campaign, making for his fifth largest donor source. Handel received none. This boycott will not be an attack on Republicans, it’ll be a blow to everyone responsible for the grassroots progressive movement here, making it harder than ever to get out from under the GOP’s grip. You’re not helping Georgia by boycotting, you’re leaving the state for dead.
I implore you to hear what the women in Georgia want. Stated in a change.org petition from the Women of Film in Georgia:
We are the backbone of this industry and we do not take what is happening here, or around the country, or around the world, lightly. It would be a great comfort to move to another place where the fights felt fair and the battles were easier to win. But that would be giving up and we are not quitters… Your condemnation is understandable, but what we really need most is allies.
In an interview with the LA Times, Stacey Abrams also urged people to donate to local advocacy groups, saying, “I think the superior opportunity for Georgia, in the specific, is to actually use the entertainment industry’s energy to support and fund the work that we need to do on the ground because Georgia is on the cusp of being able to transform our political system… We have to recognize that the men who are pushing this law—and it’s mostly men—they truly do not care about the lives of those they are affecting, and they are not to be persuaded by an economic boycott.”
Those heading Abram’s call include JJ Abrams and Jordan Peele. According to Variety, they will film their HBO series Lovecraft Country in Georgia and donate their episodic fees to the ACLU of Georgia and Fair Fight Action. “We encourage those who are able to funnel any and all resources to these organizations.”