Arts and Entertainment Editor
Disney threatened to stop shooting all of their films in Georgia last week unless Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoes the Free Exercise Protection Act (i.e: House Bill 757).
The bill in question would allow religious officials to opt out of performing marriage ceremonies if it impedes on their religious beliefs, like if the couple getting married were gay. The bill has been heavily criticized because it legalizes discrimination by religious officials, allowing them to refuse to marry anyone they want.
The bill, if passed, would essentially add a loophole to the Supreme Court decision that proclaimed gay marriage as legal.
More production companies have spoken out against the Georgia bill since Disney’s original announcement. AMC, 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, Viacom and other media giants have all joined Disney in opposing the proposed bill.
Georgia is a hotspot for film production because of the state’s tax incentives, so this is no empty threat. Disney/Marvel alone have shot in Georgia to produce the 2015 film Ant-Man as well as the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, and they are currently shooting Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 there as well. If Disney and these other studios all decide to stop production in Georgia, it could cost the state billions of dollars.
Although Hollywood may be using its power for a noble cause now, it’s disconcerting that an industry can use its tremendous influence to sway politics in such an open, drastic way. Georgia could lose a lot of money if they end up signing the bill. Of course, the general consensus is that the bill infringes on basic civil liberties and promotes discrimination, so these companies have every reason to openly oppose such a bill. However from Georgia’s perspective, Disney’s threat to cease production in the state can be seen as blackmailing for political gain.
That’s not to say that what Disney and the rest of Hollywood is doing here is wrong, nor is it to say that the bill should be passed. The proposed bill works directly against all of the social progress that has been made in this country in the past decade.
However, we should be aware of what is actually happening: Disney and much of Hollywood are threatening to take away their billion dollar source of income to Georgia citizens unless the state makes a specific political action on a specific piece of legislation.
While I applaud Disney in their bold and defiant act in support of equal rights for all, I can’t help but feel mildly uncomfortable about their strong-arming tactic. Sure, they’re using it for good now, but what if another company decides to use this same tactic to sway a vote for more nefarious purposes? What if Warner Bros. threatened to stop production in California if the state were to pass a bill that affected their bottom line?
Of course, we won’t even know if Disney’s or Hollywood’s threats affected anything until the governor decides, which he has until May 3 to do so. However, Disney’s aggressive strategy could lead to a slippery slope of corporate bullying, for lack of a better term, of the political system.
Government is no stranger to corporate influence, however, this takes it to a whole new level—one that is much more straightforward and dangerous. While I support Disney’s intentions, their actions leave me hoping this is the last time they threaten to do something like this again.