Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia Commons

The SAG-AFRTA Strike Comments That Landed Stephen Amell in Hot Water

As the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike wages on, there has been little movement on either side as the most recent negotiations broke down between the strikers and studios.

One actor who found themselves suddenly embroiled in the controversy is Toronto’s Stephen Amell, best known for his role as Oliver Queen, AKA the Green Arrow, appearing in his own show Arrow on The CW, as well as other shows set within its “Arrowverse”, such as The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

While appearing at GalaxyCon in North Carolina, a fan asked a question regarding the strike, to which Amell responded, “I support my union, I do, and I stand with them. I do not support striking. I don’t. I think that it is a reductive negotiating tactic. I find the entire thing incredibly frustrating.” Not great, right? Well, sadly, he elaborated even further by lamenting how “the thinking as it pertains to shows like the show that I’m on”, meaning the second season of the wrestling drama Heels, “I think it’s myopic.”

Stephen Amell’s extensive vocabulary aside, as one can imagine, at the height of tensions between the strikers and studios, these comments did not go down well. This is especially true of some of his fellow Arrowverse co-stars, with Kirk Acevedo, who played villain The Dragon in Arrow, tweeting, “This fucking guy”, while Reverse-Flash actor Matt Letscher took to Twitter to sardonically reflect on Amell’s comments, saying he is “Still waiting on that comprehensive list of totally non-reductive negotiating tactics we get to employ now. Thank god for superheroes!”

This last tweet points to the fact that Amell presented plenty of – for lack of a better term – myopic criticism without offering up any alternative solutions of his own, all the while eroding the sense of solidarity the unions and their members have strived to maintain in the face of these gargantuan studios. One studio executive even confirmed to Deadline that their “endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” while another insider disgustingly rationalizes this approach as a “cruel but necessary evil.”

Amell tried (and failed) to have it both ways, by offering support to his union all the while bashing their methods, but it is nonetheless a myopic (uh-oh, there’s that word again) and cynical argument for him to make given that about 86% of SAG-AFTRA members can’t even meet the $26,470 minimum annual salary to qualify for health insurance. He is of the immensely fortunate minority of actors who not only qualify for health insurance but get steady work and make a great deal of money doing what they love. He is in a position where he could make a real difference for a lot of people, yet here he is complaining because he can’t promote Heels the way he wants. Amell needs to take a moment to remind himself that he is not a monolith of the union, that they serve the ultimate best interests of all its members, and that his perceived problems pale in comparison to those who struggle to even pay their electricity and heating bills under the current system.

Of course, as is typical of most celebrities who speak their mind in staggeringly shortsighted, or, if you will, myopic fashion (the word is just infectious), Amell tried to walk back what were fairly unambiguous comments. 

The actor took to Instagram to first declare his support for the union, noting that “This doesn’t need much clarity”, which is convenient when you leave out the part about not actually supporting their methods only a few days prior. He then rationalized that his unbridled criticism of the strike stems from the fact that he doesn’t like striking, before elaborating that “Nobody does”, to which I say, no shit! Nobody wants to be in this situation. Not the actors, not the writers, not the studios. Yet here we are, largely because those studios refuse to fairly compensate them. Therefore, Mr. Amell, you don’t get to change your answer just because your actual opinion put you not just on the wrong side of this dispute, but also of your peers and the public.

The cherry on top of Stephen Amell’s newfound man-of-the-people persona was when he followed all this up by saying “we have to do what we have to do”, which of course is utterly insulting in its own right, but it is also quite similar to the underlying message he delivered in North Carolina, only if you replace the “we” with “I”.

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