Georgia’s most recent ban on abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy comes as part of a wave of regulatory rollbacks on female reproductive rights in America. The Georgian governor, Brian Kemp, mandated a bill in May which would prohibit virtually all abortions after a detectable fetal heartbeat. The policy has been met with severe backlash from protestors, who are taking their indignant outcries to streets and social media. However, they have just acquired solidarity from Disney and Netflix, amongst other giants in the film and entertainment industry, who are demonstrating that corporations, too, can partake in political activism.
Compared to other states, Georgia is considered a hotspot for the film industry. In the 2018 fiscal year, the state hosted a record number of 455 projects, which in aggregate produced a $9.5 billion economic impact. Blockbusters and fan-favourites such as “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”, “The Walking Dead”, and “Stranger Things” have all been cinematically conceived in this state, which also grants hefty tax credits to these projects.
The booming industry in Georgia may have proven to be an economic advantage in the past, but its reliance on its lucrativeness has been weaponized recently, with numerous Hollywood filmmakers and television networks taking a stand against its controversial fetal heartbeat bill. Netflix was the first major Hollywood studio to take a vocal approach in this deeply sociopolitical matter– its chief content creator Ted Sarandos released a statement vowing that they would collaborate with the ACLU in a legal battle against the bill, and stated that “should [the abortion ban] ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
Netflix threatens to pull out of Georgia if abortion law stands https://t.co/xbzbcBRngn
— Bloomberg (@business) May 28, 2019
The threat was followed by a myriad of solidarity: according to The Atlantic, production companies and networks including NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, AMC, CBS, Showtime, Sony Pictures, and Disney have all since promised a revaluation of their contracts with the state of Georgia if no legal action is taken against the restrictive legislation. It appears that they are carrying out a combination of both catering to their eagerly progressive audience using a relatively new PR strategy while levying an intimidation tactic against Georgia where it hurts most.
Such a proactive approach is not unprecedented. Media companies and entertainment giants, namely 21st Century Fox and Time Warner have in the past called out Georgia for its regressive policymaking, condemning a religious liberty bill that would bolster legal protections for homophobic individuals. Netflix even went as far as to say that it would stop filming in the state entirely. However, despite such a hardline stance, the efficacy of it has yet been proven, since the bill is currently in a state of political purgatory.
For many Georgian citizens, film production in the region is also an economic lifeline, because it provides some 92,000 jobs for many industries ranging from acting to janitorial work, and makes notable contributions to state tax revenue even after deductions. Although state lawmakers are still weighing their options, the likelihood of the bill passing remains high, given Kemp’s overtly conservative leadership and the state’s polarized stance on abortion. If the pressure applied does not yield accordingly and film production ceases or is at the very least hampered, locals will certainly take a substantial hit if they are not faced with outright catastrophic consequences.
Celebrities and activists alike have echoed support for firms like Netflix and Disney’s latest foray into the largely unexplored territory of corporate activism. However, it’s important to recognize that paying lip service is far from progress and that thus far, no tangible commitments have been made. Moving forward, it would be best for production companies to avoid the obvious occupational hazard and ensure that unlike the very entertaining TV shows they provide, their CEOs are not simply putting on an act.
Photo: Steve Eberhardt/Facebook