Can the Writers’ Strike Create Change for Muslim Writers in TV and Film?

The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May 2nd, 2023 and it is the second longest strike the media company has performed in 16 years. This stoppage has been the largest interruption to American film and TV production since the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and it is not looking like it will be coming to a conclusion any time soon. 

Why are writers striking?

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) negotiates new contracts with major film and TV studios every few years, and this impacts the thousands of writers that are represented by the WGA. This particular strike occurred due to disputes over residuals as cuts took place and negatively influenced writers’ average incomes. Streaming media has ultimately changed the game since the last lengthy strike which lasted from November 2007 to February 2008. There are additional stakeholders such as Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, this time around when it comes to negotiations which complicates matters even more. Along with this, writers of American television have spoken up about stagnant compensation and feeling undervalued in the profession. Negotiations are still at bay but it seems that the two sides are not ready to enact a truce regarding what they both want. 

How does this affect TV shows? 

Due to the writers’ strike, many late-night shows such as NBC’s Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon have gone dark. If the WGA strike continues, many TV shows set for production may fall behind and new TV series may not hit the screen soon. If the WGA and the major Hollywood studios do not agree by the end of the year, we may be faced with seeing reruns on various networks.

change for for Muslim writers

Given that writers are on strike in hopes of getting a better deal, one that provides adequate compensation for their efforts in the profession, this writers’ strike may open doors for more inclusivity in the industry overall. If Hollywood begins to see the value in their writers and turn, creates more space for diverse voices to hit the screen, Muslim writers wanting to break through in the industry may have a better shot at doing so. 

When we look at current American television, Muslim representation is still very rare and if we do happen to be represented on screen, we are almost always shown in a negative light. The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Stacy L. Smith confirm this through a new study that reveals that Muslims are nearly absent from episodic content and stereotyped consistently. We see the lack of Muslim representation in TV shows often and the times we do get represented, it is blatantly obvious that Muslim writers were not involved in the process. 

When we look at current American television, Muslim representation is still very rare…

In 2019, the Writers Guild of America held a panel in New York City in collaboration with the Hollywood Bureau at the Muslim Public Affairs Council to discuss Muslim representation in film, TV, and digital media. Panelists emphasized that though there is Muslim representation in media now more than ever, it is not enough. The panel stressed the importance of improving the representation of Muslims in TV, film, and media as well as encouraging the audience of aspiring writers and industry peers to contribute to taking the next steps necessary to achieve that vision.

This writers’ strike was a long time coming and it can bring about significant changes to the industry if writers’ needs and grievances are met with sincerity and care. These changes can lead to opportunities for diverse and inclusive voices to soar in storytelling on the screen. Muslim writers should continue to advocate for that and put themselves out there.

Maisha is a writer and educator based in New York City.