The recent love affair between Hollywood producers and the U.S. state of Georgia, with its low taxes and affordable lifestyle, is suddenly in jeopardy.
Strict new abortion laws passed in the southern state have prompted calls not only for a boycott of filming there – but for a sex strike.
A coterie of film stars led by actress-activist Alyssa Milano, including Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle, Ben Stiller, Mia Farrow and Amy Schumer, had threatened in March to refuse to work in Georgia if it adopted the new abortion restrictions.
But the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, signed the bill into law last week.
Several independent film and television production companies have since pledged to boycott the state unless the legislation – which bans abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, generally in the sixth week of pregnancy – is rescinded.
“Killer Films will no longer consider Georgia as a viable shooting location until this ridiculous law is overturned,” the company’s CEO Christine Vachon wrote on Twitter.
Milano – the onetime star of “Charmed” and “Who’s the Boss?” – had said she would fight “tooth and nail” for her Netflix series “Insatiable” to stop filming in Georgia
But then she took it one step farther, urging women to join her in a sex boycott until the law was repealed.
“JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back,” she wrote on Twitter. “Protect your vaginas, ladies. Men in positions of power are trying to legislate them. #SexStrike”
Somewhat inevitably, the call by Milano – whose profile has risen as the #MeToo movement has taken hold – has sparked controversy.
Though her idea earned praise on social media, including from actress Bette Midler, and #Sexstrike trended on Twitter for a while, the idea also earned scorn – from both sides of the political spectrum.
Liberals accused the actress of pushing the idea that women have sex to make men happy, which she denied, while conservatives mercilessly trolled her.
Milano did not waver, even noting: “History shows that a #sexstrike is surprisingly effective.”
Sex strikes – usually in the cause of peace or an end to sexual mistreatment – have been carried out in countries from Colombia to Kenya to the Philippines, with varying success.
Perhaps the earliest reference came from “Lysistrata,” Aristophanes’ comedy about women in ancient Greece withholding sex to pressure their men to end the Peloponnesian War.
Georgia offers filmmakers a number of enticements: a far lower cost of living than in Los Angeles, a variety of landscapes and tax credits of up to 30 percent.
Blockbuster movies like Marvel’s “Black Panther” and “Avengers: Infinity War” were filmed in the state; television series including “Stranger Things” and “The Walking Dead” have been shot there.
Last year, more than 450 productions were set in Georgia, where they spent the non-negligible sum of US$2.7 billion.
Kemp has stood firm, saying before he signed the legislation into law: “We protect the innocent, we champion the vulnerable, we stand up and speak for those unable to speak for themselves.”
The new restrictions could mark a tipping point.
The Writers Guild of America, representing screenwriters, said the law would make Georgia “an inhospitable place” for industry people to work.
But the major studios – with huge financial stakes at issue – have remained largely quiet.
Chris Ortman, a spokesman for the Motion Picture Association of America – which represents Hollywood heavyweights including Paramount, Sony, Universal, Disney, Warner Bros. and Netflix – said the group would “monitor developments” and wait for the courts to decide.
The film industry, he added, supports 92,000 jobs in Georgia – a fact that did not go unnoticed by some lawmakers who are worried about employment.
“I appreciate the calls to action… but please do not #boycottgeorgia,” tweeted Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who nearly defeated Kemp in November’s election.
“The hard-working Georgians who serve on crews & make a living here are not to blame. I promise: We will fight – and we will win.”
With a nod to Abrams’ plea, directors Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams told The Hollywood Reporter that they will proceed with filming their new show “Lovecraft Country” in the state – but they will donate their “episodic fees” to groups fighting the abortion law.