Has Stephen Amell failed the SAG-AFTRA Union?

“You have failed this city!”

5 mins read

The iconic line uttered by Green Arrow, the alter ego of billionaire turned superhero Oliver Queen who is portrayed by Stephen Amell, echos differently now.

The Canadian actor who donned the green hood for eight seasons of The CW Network series “Arrow,” and in other TV shows which became part of the Arrowverse, has come under fire for comments that would probably have Green Arrow uttering a similar line to him. 

“You have failed the SAG-AFTRA Union!” 

Amell’s fellow Canuck and actress, Julie Benson, beat me to it when she posted the following tweet: “You have failed this union.”

The portrayer behind Star City’s Emerald Archer made the controversial comment about the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artist) strike at a panel during this past weekend at Galaxy Con in Raleigh. 

Stephen Amell speaking at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California. Photo by Gage Skidmore

“I do not support striking. I don’t. I think that it’s a reductive negotiating tactic, and I find the entire thing incredibly frustrating,” Amell told several attendees. 

When I watched the soundbite, I could not help but wonder why Amell, who portrayed a hero who has been a progressive and a staunch crusader for social issues, would say such things. I wondered if Stephen Amell ever read a Green Arrow comic book and learned what the vigilante superhero stood for. 

As I watched that soundbite, I almost thought he was Disney CEO Bob Iger, who made the comment that writers and actors were not “realistic with strikes.” 

Again, I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their opinion but my opinion is that this was not a good look. And it is my opinion that what Amell said was in very stark contrast to the character of Oliver Queen / Green Arrow.

Created by Mart Weisinger and George Papp, Green Arrow was originally another Batman analogue, a brooding and dark vigilante. However, the other things that contrasted him from the Dark Knight were his bow and arrow and that he wore a costume similar to Robin Hood and a domino mask. 

However, during the 1970’s or the Bronze Age of comics, Oliver Queen was redefined by the late comic creators Dick Dillin, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. 

Stephan Amell as Green Arrow / Arrow on “Arrow.” Photo courtesy of The CW

The revamping began in Dillin’s  “Justice League of America No. 75,” which saw Oliver spark a romance with Black Canary, lose his fortune, and defend a small business owner from an evil doppelgänger of himself. After those events Green Arrow would star with fellow Justice League member Green Lantern in the O’Neil and Adams series “Green Lantern/Green Arrow.”

One can argue that “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” was a possible precursor to CNN’s “Crossfire,” Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes,” or Sagar Enjent’si and Krystal Ball’s “Breaking Points.” This is  because like those shows,  it would have the liberal and idealistic Oliver Queen arguing with the seemingly staunch conservative and pragmatic Hal Jordan while exposing readers to the social issues including  racism, the environment, and drugs. Oliver would often use his newfound liberalism to try to educate Hal and the readers on the social ills that Americans face every day. 

I have no doubt in my mind that the Green Arrow from the comics would support the strikers of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA (Writers Guild of America)  unions. He would agree that for all the hard work they do, the actors and writers do deserve “increased minimum pay rates, increased streaming residuals (neither or which have kept up with inflation), and improved working conditions.” And he would most definitely agree with that “royalty payments, which are contingent on reruns of a show, are no longer reliable.” 

I also have no doubt in my mind that Amell’s Arrow would very likely have reruns for which he would get royalties from.

Stephan Amell as Oliver Queen / Green Arrow / Arrow on “Arrow.” Photo courtesy of The CW

The comic version of Green Arrow would definitely argue that strikes are not a “reductive negotiating tactic.” They are a part of our First Amendment and they are a non-violent way to make change. Without strikes, how are people able to address their grievances with the companies they work for? How can we spread the news of those grievances and educate the people about what is going on behind closed doors? 

There are actors, like Amell, who have themselves, families or loved ones to take care of. Some of these actors, unlike Amell, are working actors who sometimes work regular 9-to-5 jobs to survive and fund their endeavor. 

Actress Renee Felice Smith, who played Nell Jones on NCIS Los Angeles for 11 seasons was interviewed on “More Perfect Union” and explained that in December of last year, she received a letter from SAG-AFTRA stating that she was no longer eligible to get health insurance. 

“What was the work for?” said Smith. “My labor lines, the pockets of these executives and to what benefit in return? Right? Okay, they’re still profiting off of my performance and I can’t even go to a GP if I have a sore throat. That’s not okay.” 

Does Amell understand that there are some actors who are not as fortunate as he is? Does he understand that some actors may face the possibility of not having health insurance, like Renee Felice Smith? This is one of the reasons  why the actors are striking. They are human beings who deserve to be treated fairly for doing what they enjoy: acting.  

As I write this, I also begin to wonder what Dick Dillin, Neal Adams, and Denny O’Neil would say, or would be thinking, if they were still alive and heard what Amell said about the strikes. I’m very sure that their mouths would drop and they would even wonder if he was portraying Hal Jordan from the “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” comic series rather than the Emerald Archer. 

In closing, as an aspiring writer, I do stand with SAG-AFTRA and the WAG. The writers and actors are behind one of our beloved past times that have become almost a modern mythology told through visual and audio form. 

Stephan Amell as Green Arrow / Arrow on “Arrow.” Photo courtesy of The CW

Since July 14, the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strike has been making headlines and fighting for future generations of performers and creators. 

As one of my childhood crushes, the Nanny, Fran Drescher said, “this is a moment of history that is a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble.” 

She also said that failure to stand up would mean that actors and other performers would be replaced by AI and “big business who care more about Wall Street than you and your family.” 

In closing, I am in no way condemning or judging Stephen Amell. A lot of times, we all have a moment where we put our foot in our mouth but at the end of the day, we are human. I have enjoyed watching “Arrow” since it came out in 2012. 

However, Amell is famous and if he makes any opinion, that holds a lot of weight. As someone who is famous, his opinion is likely to receive either praise or backlash and whatever that direction goes, it would be tenfold. 

Amell had made a statement to clarify his comments but one can argue that no matter how you slice it, your comment about the strikes being a “reductive negotiating tactic” is a bell that you cannot unring. 

The best thing he can do is apologize and like all of us, think before you say something. 

I believe that is what Oliver Queen would do. 

Brian Adigwu

Brian of Earth-16 is a podcaster for the Geek Talk with Brian of Earth-16 and a contributing writer/journalist for the Daily Planet. You can also hear Brian on the DC Comics Geeks Nation podcast. When not writing, Brian enjoys going to the world of comic books, TV shows, video games, and pro-wrestling. He also loves listening to other podcasts and having a philosophical conversation.

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