Those of us who follow pop culture but don’t work in The Industry only ever really hear about SAG-AFTRA once or twice a year when they decide to hand out awards (and nominations for awards), but SAG-AFTRA does a lot more than decide who gets to take home a little bronze person at the SAG Awards. Every other day of the year, it’s a labor union that works to protect actors, TV personalities, voice actors, and other people who do things that are reasonably similar to acting. SAG-AFTRA has an election going on right now, with outgoing president Gabrielle Carteris (from Beverly Hills, 90210!) endorsing Fran Drescher (from The Nanny!) in her election for national president against Matthew Modine (most recently from Stranger Things!).
This sort of thing is not usually super relevant to us regular people, since we are not actors and we don’t employ actors, but there is something interesting about this election: everybody involved is out for blood. Seriously, if the last two presidential elections were brutal, this seems makes them seem almost pleasant (almost). Here’s a primer, courtesy of Deadline: Drescher is working with Anthony Rapp as part of the “ruling party,” Unite For Strength, with their platform apparently being, essentially, “we’re doing alright, let’s just keep trying to do better.” Modine, meanwhile, is heading up the opposing party, MembershipFirst, with Joely Fisher. Their platform seems to be “this shit sucks, everything we’re doing is bad and we need to tear it down.”
That’s a pretty standard split for any election (“things are okay” vs “things are actually bad”), but apparently some members of the MembershipFirst party are… oh, let’s say problematic. So problematic, in fact, that Unite For Strength released a statement calling on its opposition to “publicly renounce and discontinue harboring” members who “denied George Floyd’s murder, amplified death threats, joined up with the NXIVM cult, threatened to shoot supporters of vaccination requirements, called the January 6 insurrection a ‘set up’ by ‘paid operators,’ falsely spread that Black Lives Matter is a hate group funded by George Soros, and voted against a task force to increase diversity in the stunt community.”
It’s basically a primer on all the ways someone could fuck up over the course of the last two years or so, and the Drescher’s faction is accusing Modine’s faction of all of it. MembershipFirst’s response to Deadline about the statement was literally “we have no response to this bullshit,” adding that “lawyers are involved” and they can “name names” if they want but they “better start putting all their properties in trust.”
Deadline says the thing about shooting people over vaccines came from a tweet someone posted about “unapproved experimental gene therapy” and included the hashtag “#SecondAmendmentIsForThis.” The NXIVM thing is a reference to a photo of a MembershipFirst supporting who was “photographed seated next to alleged NXIVM cult members,” with a lawyer saying that the photo is “completely out of context” and that it’s just an unfair example of “guilt by association.”
Deadline also notes that Unite For Strength doesn’t have its hands totally clean either, with members of both saids having “said, tweeted, and retweeted questionable comments during the pandemic.” Drescher herself, for example, tweeted last year that 5G cell signals are causing cancer, hurting animals, and helping to spread viruses like COVID-19 (Drescher is a cancer survivor who runs the organization Cancer Schmancer). Deadline says that tweet got flagged with one of those “this isn’t true” messages. Everybody’s just calling out everyone else for any potentially questionable thing they’ve ever done.
Weirdly, though, things seem much less contentious when the two sides actually talk. Modine and Rapp have agreed to do a public town hall of some sort, and the leaders on both sides say they support mandatory COVID vaccines and continued mask-wearing. The votes will be tallied in early September, and then… odds are, your life won’t be impacted at all. At the very least, some other famous person will be introduced as the SAG-AFTRA president at the next SAG Awards, and we’ll know that they fought a vicious battle to get there.