LIKE A YELLOW DOG: Harlan Ellison is a renowned loose cannon and science fiction writer who has been selling scripts in Hollywood since 1962. He has worked for shows like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Route 66, The Outer Limits and Babylon 6, and was fired after his first day working for Disney when Walt’s brother Roy overheard him in the studio commissary (hey – I’ve actually used the bathroom there!) talking about a pornographic film he’d make with Disney animated characters. He writes on a manual typewriter, he’s won practically every major award in his field, including the Writer’s Guild of America award – four times. He’s sat on the union’s board, and worked on negotiating committees.
And as he said this week in an open letter posted on the bulletin board of his own online committee: “THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG. IT IS A SHIT DEAL.” He’s talking about the recent deal negotiated between the WGA and the networks and studios, which ended a 100-day strike last week, and I’d like to quote his words to you, not only because they correspond so closely to my own outsider’s observations on the strike, but because they’re so hilariously mean-spirited.
Just as it did at the end of the last strike in 1988, Ellison says, the WGA “trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGA folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day.”
Ellison is talking about the Screen Actors Guild deal, which served as a model – a poor one, some have said – for the WGA deal, the retreat (the second since ’88) from getting writers on cartoons and reality shows in the WGA, not to mention the paltry payout garnered for download residuals, all acceded to thanks to, as Ellison puts it, “the usual cowardly spineless babbling horse's asses who kept mumbling ‘lessgo bac'ta work’ over and over, as if it would make them one iota a better writer.”
But wait – it gets better: “While this nutty festschrift of demented pleasure at being allowed to go back to work in the rice paddy is filling your cowardly hearts with joy and relief that the grips and the staff at the Ivy and street sweepers won't be saying nasty shit behind your back, remember this:”
“You are their bitches. They outslugged you, outthought you, outmaneuvered you; and in the end you ripped off your pants, painted yer asses blue, and said yes sir, may I have another.”
And that, children, is how a pro does it.