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Amid backlash, Drew Barrymore caves under pressure

Actress and New York Times bestselling author Drew Barrymore. Barrymore recently faced backlash for her attempts to resume production of her talk show amidst the WGA and SAG-AFTRA union strikes. /EVA RINALDI VIA FLICKR UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0

While there is still uncertainty regarding how the writers’ strikes in Hollywood will end, one thing is clear: Drew Barrymore almost crossed more than just the picket line. 

If you have previously seen quintessential films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,”  “Charlie’s Angels,” “Ever After: A Cinderella Story,” “Scream” or “Never Been Kissed,” then you are familiar with American actress and New York Times bestselling author Drew Barrymore and her nearly life-long career in the entertainment industry. 

Commonly regarded by the general public as a candid, kind-hearted personality, Barrymore turned heads with her now-abandoned controversial decision to resume production of her daytime talk show, “The Drew Barrymore Show,” amidst the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union strikes. 

At the heart of the strikes are thousands of frustrated writers, performers and artists who have been struggling under the weight of being compensated with low wages and benefits from major production studios. While some may construe her efforts to resume filming as considerate to the show’s writers, I perceived Barrymore’s actions as rooted in self-interest; she overlooked the demands of those who are rightfully advocating for improved wages and working conditions. 

Created and hosted by Barrymore, the CBS talk show first premiered in Sept. 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly cultivated a devoted fan base. Episode content could range from feel-good celebrity interviews, cooking tips and fashion advice to lifestyle segments.

In a now-deleted statement posted to Instagram on Sept. 10, Barrymore uncharacteristically defended her reasons for strikebreaking, saying, “I own this choice. […] I want to be there to provide what writers do so well, which is a way to bring us together or help us make sense of the human experience.”

After commencing production of the new season’s first episode amidst what is colloquially referred to as the “Hollywood strike,” Barrymore has since been dropped from hosting the 74th National Book Awards Ceremony. 

Upon receiving fierce waves of backlash from celebrities and fans alike, Barrymore posted and then subsequently deleted a teary “apology” video dedicated to WGA members on her Instagram on Friday, Sept. 15. “I deeply apologize to writers. I deeply apologize to unions,” Barrymore said. 

To further fuel the flames, Cassidy Carter and Dominic Turiczek, who were ticket holders and fans of Barrymore, were swiftly kicked off the show’s set on Monday, Sept. 11 for wearing buttons they were given outside Barrymore’s set which showed support for the ongoing WGA strike. Despite initially being unaware of the ongoing protest outside CBS Broadcast Studios in New York City, Carter and Turiczek decided to join the protest after being forcibly removed by an “aggressive” security guard.

Barrymore skillfully managed to victimize herself in both scenarios, exclaiming in her video that “there’s nothing [she] could do or say” to alleviate the effects of a situation she was wholly responsible for. 

Frankly, as a long-time fan of Barrymore and her filmography, I found her lackluster justification for continuing to film her talk show to be appalling. In the midst of what could turn into a historical labor revolution, Barrymore selfishly chose to undermine the collective efforts of the talented writers who are actively advocating on behalf of the working class and rallying in favor of less exploitation in the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, only when massive groups of people began critiquing her tone-deaf decision did she resort to damage control, and ultimately flip the switch. 

On Sunday, Sept. 17, Barrymore uploaded yet another statement to Instagram, saying, “I have listened to everyone, and I am making the decision to pause the show’s premiere until the strike is over.” 

Despite eventually coming around to make the correct decision, one might wonder why Barrymore had to receive substantial amounts of criticism before she was able to formally announce production will halt until the strikes cease. One can assume her motives for pausing the premiere’s release don’t stem from a place of solidarity or empathy for the workers’ struggles, but rather from feeling the heat of the online pressure that Instagram users laid at her doorstep. 

Not only is her reputation tainted, but considering the negative circumstances surrounding the eventual premiere of the show’s fourth season, it wouldn’t be presumptuous to assume the show may be canceled in the near future.

Labor union members cannot pay for increased housing or grocery bills with the empty tears shed from A-list celebrities who possess cascades of wealth in comparison to the lesser wages lower-level writers typically earn. Instead, to increase the likelihood of success, the strikes need shows to halt production and adhere to strike rules, for prominent union members to advocate in favor of union solidarity and — most importantly — to continue negotiations for living wages. 

The social discourse surrounding the Barrymore controversy merely boils down to big name, multimillion dollar celebrities shamefully prioritizing what is convenient for themselves over the financial security and welfare of their employees. 

In other words, the times in which a so-called progressive public figure of means and status will petition against the financial or emotional struggles of the average worker are strictly conditional, and their support can just as easily be rescinded as was Barrymore’s invitation to host this year’s National Book Awards Ceremony. 

In order to be a supporter of someone’s work, you must also be able to critique and hold them accountable if they begin going down a path that will actively harm the prosperity of others. Barrymore — despite being a decades-long fan favorite — is no exception to this philosophy. If we were to blindly accept poor behavioral actions from artists, then we would not only be boasting hypocrisy of the highest order but hindering the betterment of our society. 

Only time will tell if Barrymore will show up on the picket lines to support the WGA writers.

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About the Contributor
Alyssa Pascocello, Assistant Copy Chief
Alyssa Pascocello is a junior English Teacher Preparation major and an Assistant Copy Chief at The Statesman. When she is not editing, you can find her watching Gilmore Girls with her cat and a brown sugar shaken espresso in hand.
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