By Jonathon Van Maren
If the content by itself isn’t enough to make you want to cancel your Netflix subscription, consider this: The streaming site is at the forefront of the corporate battle to stop pro-life laws from passing across the United States. Earlier this month, CNN released an interesting report detailing how Netflix led the charge against states like Georgia when protections for pre-born children began passing into law. According to the CNN report:
Georgia has become one of the top locations for film and TV productions over the past decade. Bolstered by hefty tax credits and a diverse topography that can stand in for a variety of settings, the state has provided the backdrop for shows like “The Walking Dead,” “Atlanta” and “Stranger Things,” as well as films like “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “The Hunger Games.”
So in May, when Netflix said it would “rethink” its investment in Georgia if a new restrictive abortion law went into effect, it was putting its business interests on the line. That statement, attributed to Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, was the first by a major company to oppose the law. It opened the floodgates, spurring other large studios to follow suit.
For Netflix, it marked a major moment of leadership in the industry — but a potentially risky one, too. In coming out against Georgia’s ban, Sarandos raised the bar for where Netflix would do business, essentially putting all jurisdictions (not just Georgia) on notice: The company wouldn’t film in places with laws that didn’t match up with its values. But that positioning could one day put Netflix in a bind.
The company has been expanding its global footprint to places like the Middle East, where abortion access is restricted. Eventually, it will have a choice to make: does it apply those values consistently, or risk looking hypocritical? Netflix declined to make Sarandos available for an interview with CNN Business. But some think a strong stance in Georgia could put pressure on the company to apply the same standards globally. In May, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said the company would “rethink our entire investment in Georgia,” if the state followed through with a controversial abortion law. Disney, NBCUniversal, CBS, Viacom and Sony all followed with similar statements.
The Georgia law bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, often as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — before many women know they’re pregnant. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued to block the law from going into effect on January 1, 2020…In the meantime, the largest players in Hollywood, including Netflix, are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Back in May, Sarandos said that Netflix would work with the ACLU to fight the heartbeat law in court. “We have many women working on productions in Georgia, whose rights, along with millions of others, will be severely restricted by this law,” he said in a statement to Variety. “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.”
Disney followed the next day, with CEO Bob Iger saying that if the legislation was enacted, “I don’t see how it’s practical to continue to shoot there.” The day after that, AMC, NBCUniversal, Sony, CBS, Viacom and WarnerMedia all issued similar statements. (AT&T’s WarnerMedia is the parent company of CNN, as well as Warner Bros., HBO, TNT and TBS.)
“Ted Sarandos has done a great job of seeing things before they happen,” Paul Hardart, director of NYU’s Entertainment, Media and Technology Program and a former film industry executive, said in an interview with CNN Business. “He made a strong statement, and a lot of other studios followed,” Hardart added. “It shows the power of Netflix to set the agenda for Hollywood in a way that other studios didn’t in the past. I give him a lot of credit for having conviction.”
A few things to note there. First off, Netflix didn’t just join the mob—it led the charge. The business of providing films and TV shows to a large audience, it seems, also includes ensuring that those audiences continue to have access to feticide should they desire it. In fact, Netflix has gone so far as to say that it will fight laws that protect pre-born children in the womb in court, which seems like an extraordinary commitment from a corporation that, on the surface of it, would seem to have nothing to do with abortion. Netflix isn’t NARAL or Planned Parenthood or Emily’s List, it is an entertainment company.
We’ve known for a long time that the entertainment industry is the progressive Left’s most powerful tool, allowing them to influence the culture through television, the music industry, and Hollywood. Even many Christian homes have TVs, providing the progressives who despise America’s Judeo-Christian foundations a portal into the inner sanctum of families who claim to despise everything that the entertainment industry stands for, but allows them in nonetheless. We are essentially allowing people who hate Christianity to tell their stories to our children:
Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women in Film, Los Angeles, called Netflix’s move “both a courageous statement and a safe statement,” but one that was ultimately in line with the company’s “overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.” Netflix recently started publishing the racial and gender makeup of its employees, she noted, adding that the company was early to partner with her own group Women in Film through its ReFrame initiative, which advocates for gender parity in the industry…But it’s also a smart business move to keep creatives happy. Netflix has a unique relationship with stars and creators, many of whom spoke out strongly against Georgia’s bill, a fact that likely influenced the company’s stance.
“It is essential that Netflix treat creatives with respect, and many of them have trouble with abortion restrictions and any laws that impact women’s rights,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter in an email. “Creative talent cares a lot about things like this, and pulling production from Georgia is sending a signal to the state legislature that it faces economic backlash if it tramples women’s rights.”
Two stars of Netflix shows that film in Georgia, Jason Bateman of “Ozark” and Alyssa Milano of “Insatiable,” said early on that they wouldn’t continue working in the state if the “heartbeat bill” goes into effect…But taking a strong stance isn’t just about the people already attached to Netflix programming — it’s an attempt to appeal to the entire creative community, said Russell Williams, a professor of film and media arts at American University….Sarandos is also an active player in Democratic politics. He and his wife Nicole Avant (an ambassador to the Bahamas under President Barack Obama) bundled more than half a million dollars in one night for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, and the couple has donated to numerous Democratic candidates over the years.
Still, Netflix’s statement against the Georgia law was read as a political move by anti-abortion groups, who encouraged followers to boycott the company. In July’s second-quarter earnings report, Netflix reported that new subscribers were only about half of what it had expected (2.7 million compared to 5 million) and that U.S. subscribers had slightly declined.
I recognize how unpopular this idea is, but perhaps we should consider pulling our support from companies who actively seek to destroy everything that was once good and beautiful about our society—and send a powerful message in the process.