The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) said in its guidelines that striking actors looking to dress up for Halloween should “choose costumes inspired by generalized characters and figures” like ghosts, zombies, spiders and more. And they should look to “dress up as characters from non-struck content, like an animated TV show,” according to the guidelines.
“Don’t post photos of costumes inspired by struck content to social media,” the guidelines warned.
Costumes based on popular Hollywood films and television shows might be considered promotion of those projects, which is forbidden under the strike rules.
This presumably means actors are discouraged from dressing up as Barbie, Wednesday Addams, Spider-Man or a swath of other pop culture figures that are among the most popular Halloween costumes this year.
“Let’s use our collective power to send a loud and clear message to our struck employers that we will not promote their content without a fair contract!” the union said in its guidelines.
One wonders if an actor could argue that their Barbie or Iron Man costume is actually based on the character that existed before the studios put it in films.
After online backlash, SAG-AFTRA clarified the reasoning for its Halloween guidelines in a statement Friday.
“SAG-AFTRA issued Halloween guidance in response to questions from content creators and members about how to support the strike during this festive season,” a union spokesperson said. “This was meant to help them avoid promoting struck work, and it is the latest in a series of guidelines we have issued. It does not apply to anyone’s kids. We are on strike for important reasons, and have been for nearly 100 days. Our number one priority remains getting the studios back to the negotiating table so we can get a fair deal for our members, and finally put our industry back to work.”
The new guidelines came as the Hollywood actors strike neared its 100th day. Talks between actors and Hollywood production studios broke down last week, with the two sides still far away from agreeing on issues central to the strike, including artificial intelligence concerns and viewership-based pay. The two sides haven’t made a deal despite the producers, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), settling with striking writers last month.
Actors haven’t exactly embraced the new costume rules with open candy baskets. Mandy Moore, for example, wondered in her Instagram story if the new guidelines were “a joke.”
“This is what’s important? We’re asking you to negotiate in good faith on our behalf. So many folks across every aspect of this industry have been sacrificing mightily for months. Get back to the table and get a fair deal so everyone can get back to work,” she wrote on her story late Thursday.
The guidelines also appear to be haunting Ryan Reynolds, who plays the snarky superhero Deadpool and teased the union Thursday on X, formerly Twitter: “I look forward to screaming ‘scab’ at my 8-year-old all night. She’s not in the union but she needs to learn.”
The new guidelines arrive as the Barbie costume craze has spread so far that social media influencers are labeling this fall as “Barbieween,” with outfits selling out in stores nationwide. One neighborhood in Utah even decided to give itself a pink makeover to honor Margot Robbie’s doll-with-an-existential-crisis.
“Barbie”-inspired customers are up 40 percent year-over-year at HalloweenCostumes.com, according to Allison Davis, the company’s public relations manager. And officially-licensed costumes have seen a ninefold increase this year, she said.
Mario, the superhero Blue Beetle, Wednesday Addams of Netflix’s “Wednesday” series and characters from “Stranger Things” are inspiring many costumes in 2023, according to Spirit Halloween, NRF and Google Frightgeist, which uses Google Trends data to discover the most in-demand costumes, and put Barbie at No. 1.
According to Google’s rankings, other in-demand costumes this year include the more generalized ones, such as princesses, witches and fairies. In fact, nine of the top 12 in-demand costumes for 2023 are not based on popular intellectual properties.
Characters from the strike-exempt animated shows, such as “Demon Slayer,” “My Hero Academia” and “One Piece,” are also making waves this year.
Another popular costume idea that could work: dressing like Taylor Swift or Beyoncé. Both have new concert films that reportedly bypassed the studios. Swift’s film, which was released last weekend, did not use a studio for its distribution.
The new strike rules underscore SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher’s hope that the actors don’t veer off course in their negotiations — even if it means they’ve got to put down the pink cowboy hat and sparkling vests.
“I think that they think that we’re going to cower,” Drescher told the Associated Press of the studios in a story published Thursday about what’s next for the strike. “But that’s never going to happen because this is a crossroads and we must stay on course.”
This story has been updated.