Conservatives are calling for a Netflix boycott after it threatened to pull out of Georgia
A long-fought and divisive debate has seen video streaming platform Netflix make enemies of hardline conservatives. Whether someone is pro-life or pro-choice has, historically, been a marker of where they might stand on other social and political issues. Yet it is uncommon for a multinational to nail its colours to the mast in quite the way that Netflix has.
On 28 May, via a statement to Variety magazine, the company announced that it would move production out of Georgia if the “heartbeat bill” goes ahead. The controversial bill would ban abortions after a heartbeat has been detected (usually around six weeks into a pregnancy).
“We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, explained. “It’s why we will work with the ACLU and others to fight it in court. Given the legislation has not yet been implemented, we’ll continue to film there, while also supporting partners and artists who choose not to. Should it ever come into effect, we’d rethink our entire investment in Georgia.”
However, conservatives have fought back and are calling for a boycott. “I’m canceling my subscription because of your pro-death activism,” stated @ricodog99 on Twitter. “Georgia is a sovereign state and you are a corporation who should stick to entertainment. So sad, I really enjoyed your shows. I’ll purchase The Office from Amazon”.
“Just cancelled my Netflix membership,” stated @RichtonStokoe. He added: “Not a fan of them trying to push influence into Political issues. I'm Pro-life and will support the unborn over Netflix. Plus they just increased my bill!”
Others were quick to point out that the platform doesn’t have the monopoly on video streaming people think it does. “There are sooo many more streaming alternatives to #Netflix than I realized!” stated @kruszer “#BoycottNetflix won't hurt us at all! Personally, BritBox & the documentary streaming site have been ones I've wanted to try. It's going to cost Netflix to punish #georgia.”
Others pointed out that this certainly isn’t the first time conservatives have moved to boycott Netflix after the company made decisions which didn’t suit their sensibilities. Other mentions of boycotts followed both the announcement last year that Netflix would be making a range of different programmes with Barack and Michelle Obama and that former Obama and Clinton official Susan Rice was joining the company’s board of directors.
However, it’s not just Netflix and Ted Sarandos who have spoken out. “It’s hard to wake up every day feeling like I’m growing up in my mother’s generation,” stated producer Lori McCreary. Having presided over the Producers Guild of America and co-founded Revelations Entertainment with actor Morgan Freeman, McCreary is one of the most respected names in the industry. “I don’t have anything that’s shooting in those locations, but I would give it a second thought in those states because I think it’s important for us to support [women].”
However, it is a debate fraught with misinformation. “Hey .@netflix nearly half the country is pro-life,” stated Fox News contributor Marc Thiessen on Twitter. “Don't alienate your pro-life customers. We have lots of streaming options theses [sic] days.” But recent polls by Quinnipiac and CBS News have shown that support for the outcome of Roe v. Wade - the Supreme Court case which saw abortion legalised - stands at around two thirds.
Indeed, those in the film industry who are pro-choice are keen to have their voices heard. “A woman’s right to make choices about her own body is fundamental to her personal and professional well-being,” Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film, told Variety.
"We’ve compiled a list of pro-choice states that offer meaningful tax rebates and production incentives," Schaffer continues, "and encourage everyone to explore these alternatives: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington.”
However, not every pro-choicer is convinced Netflix's move will have the desired effect. “Saying, ‘We’re going to yank production out of your state if you don’t reverse,’ I’m not sure [Governor] Kemp cares about that," says Heidi Lindelof, who sits on the board of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "It feels as though he’s willing to risk jobs and millions of dollars to be the hero that gets his law to go to the Supreme Court."
Since 2008, Georgia has offered a 30 per cent tax break on film and TV production. As a result, the state is used extensively both for its studios and filming locations. Movies such as The Avengers and Black Panther as well as TV shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things were filmed here. In fact, last year alone, TV and film production in Georgia generated 92,000 jobs and around $9 billion.
However, as a show of solidarity for female cast and crew, certain production companies, it seems, may pull out of Georgia. Disney have also stated that they may move production out of the state if the "heartbeat bill" is passed.
This news comes at a time when the divide between liberals and conservatives could not be starker. In an age where women’s reproductive rights are being threatened by draconian laws, perhaps it is right for corporations to take a stand.