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2023 Was the Year Companies Found Out

Corporations making themselves look stupid and outright evil was a running theme throughout the year, as was the public's visible anger at their antics.

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Striking members of the Writers Guild of America.
Image: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Even though every year has managed to feel more eventful than the last, 2023 especially was a roller coaster that went extremely off the rails. It feels like something eventful happened at least twice per week (if not considerably more), particularly in the entertainment space.

The pair of Hollywood strikes courtesy of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA hung over 2023 as nearly every production ground to a halt while the two unions demanded better pay, conditions, and AI protections. This was the WGA’s first strike in 15 years, and unlike back then, it was considerably easier to understand who the good and bad guys were here. It wasn’t just that studios were reportedly holding out until writers became desperate for any deal, though that also played a part in things. Everyone could feel something slipping in the way TV was being made these days, even if they couldn’t entirely articulate it: a rushed character turn here, a constricting episode count there.


On social media, writers and actors were always working overtime to ensure their shows didn’t get canceled by streamers that would throw series on the floor and let them get buried, unless they had the prestige to be kept around. (Assuming said show wasn’t going to have its future unceremoniously cut off.) And some creatives were more than willing to reveal how flawed the streaming system was in terms of residuals and what even gets a show renewed in the first place.

Bob Iger
Bob Iger
Photo: Rich Fury (Getty Images)

TV’s been broken in some ways for years—no doubt about that. What made this year feel like a turning point was watching companies like Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney remove whatever they could from their individual streaming services (usually by the dozens, if not more than that) to save money. While some media was later given a reprieve, most titles weren’t so lucky, and the heads of these studios made these cuts sound more necessary than they actually were.

As much as they publicly expressed hope the strikes would end, studio bosses couldn’t help but talk out of both sides of their mouths, trying to spin the money lost on the strikes as a good thing while simultaneously threatening both unions with their “last, best offers” they ultimately had to eat crow on. You couldn’t not feel satisfaction in watching executives like David Zaslav and Bob Iger come to regret being such public figures who weren’t ready to become objects of scorn across multiple arms of the industry. They did it to themselves and continue to do so.


During all this, creatives across the industry made it quite clear that enough was enough. In-house VFX workers at both Marvel Studios and Disney decided to unionize after reports in the past year of extensive crunch on various projects. Similar efforts took place at WB Animation/Cartoon Network, and in other industries such as tabletop and video games. In some way or another, all of these were born out of seeing other companies unionize and understanding that it should’ve happened some time ago. These haven’t all had happy endings, though—not every company has voluntarily recognized these unions or played fair after said unions were recognized, which only underlines the importance of pro-worker groups.

Image for article titled 2023 Was the Year Companies Found Out
Image: IATSE

On the other side of things, 2023 felt like a year where the larger public was just finally sick of the same old, same old. Big spectacle-driven movies hyped up as the next big thing ended up fizzling at the box office in favor of films that, if nothing else, feel like they were made by actual humans. Beyond the obvious shining examples of Barbie and Oppenheimer, you had flicks like Napoleon and The Blackening managing to carve out a space for themselves amid a pretty stacked year. Even if something like Killers of the Flower Moon or A Haunting in Venice didn’t light the world on fire financially, they offered a very real, different and tactile experience from whatever else was out alongside them at the time. There was some good franchise fun to be had, but more than ever, this was a year where audiences were a little more selective than normal about what series or studios they flocked to see in theaters.

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that audiences are openly sick of Hollywood’s shit in some form or fashion. Support for the strikes was incredibly loud, as it was for stars or filmmakers who were very clearly getting hung out to dry. Pretty much everyone with good sense knew the hyper-scrutiny of The Marvels director Nia DaCosta was unfair on some level and that Disney basically let her take the heat for its own longstanding problems. Creatives seeing WB Discovery junk Coyote vs. Acme for no discernible reason and not only point out how illogical it was, but to actively threaten to no longer work with the studio, resulted in the film possibly getting a second shot at life. All of this was emblematic of a growing frustration with the studio machine that made it so that people had no choice but to be openly hostile.


What happens from here? It’s hard to say; we won’t really know how 2024 shakes out until we’re well in it, and even then, probably not entirely. But for a year that’s had its fair share of downer notes, it’s been nice to see everyone collectively come together to bully companies and vent out their legitimate frustrations at the present state of media we’re currently in. I sincerely hope that 2024 is substantially easier on all of us.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.