Ben Whitehair, Frances Fisher, SAG President Fran Drescher, Joely Fisher, National Executive Director, and SAG-AFTRA members are seen as SAG-AFTRA National Board holds a press conference for vote on recommendation to call a strike regarding the TV/Theatrical contract at SAG-AFTRA on July 13, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. source: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Voice Actors Offer Cosplayers a Fun Way to Support the SAG-AFTRA Strike

At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, a panel of voice actors gathered to talk about the threat that AI poses to their livelihoods. During a press conference on Friday, the actors offered fans three ways to push back against exploitative AI—including a fun suggestion for cosplayers.

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With both Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild members striking, Comic-Con 2023 has been quiet, as members are prohibited from promoting work that they’ve done for struck studios. However, the press conference, as part of the AI in Entertainment panel presented by the National Association of Voice Actors, included several actors and SAG personnel, including Linsay Rousseau (Transformers: War for Cybertron), Ashly Burch (Mythic Quest), Cissy Jones (The Owl House), Zeke Alton (The Calisto Protocol), Tim Friedlander (Record of Ragnarok) and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland (SAG/AFTRA National Executive Director & Chief Negotiator).

First, explained voice actor Cissy Jones (The Owl House), fans who support voice actors can call out inappropriate fan mods.

“Let me say that we love our fans,” Jones said. “We would not be here if it weren’t for the fandoms … But there is a community where people will take the voices that are publicly available, rip them, and create their own AI versions of them, and have them say whatever they choose. In some instances it can be cheeky. In some instances, it can be very hurtful. There are a lot of things that are defamatory, NSFW. As someone who makes my living with this little 2-inch spot on my face, it’s incredibly harmful. If I don’t have the ability to control what my voice says, and especially if people can’t tell whether it’s fake or not, it has the potential to do massive harm to me financially and personally. I have children, and there are things that I don’t want my voice to say, and have my children hear it.”

All the voice actors on the panel agreed that people within fan communities can be proactive in helping to shut down harmful fan mods, by publicly calling out the creators and telling them to take those mods down. “If you see someone’s voice being used, and you know they don’t consent, call [the modder] out,” Jones said.

Secondly, the panelists said, cosplayers at SDCC and other events can weave SAG support into their costumes. AI is a central issue in the WGA and SAG strikes, with studios pushing to replace much of actors’ work with AI.

Crabtree-Ireland clarified that, while SAG members and influencers are barred from cosplaying under the terms of the strike, it’s okay for hobbyists to cosplay. “My suggestion [to cosplayers] would be that if you are supportive of the strike, figure out a way to combine your support for the strike with your favorite characters. Then you’re actually helping us send the message we’re trying to send, which is that the community at large is united in supporting us in the demands that we’re making, which are reasonable demands.”

The panelists even suggested that cosplayers dress up as SAG president Fran Drescher, who made waves with her impassioned speech announcing the strike. “I have a pitch, and you can take it or leave it,” Burch said. “I would love to see some Fran Drescher cosplay. Do your magic. I’d love to see it.”

“The Nanny has some of the best outfits I’ve ever seen,” added Rousseau.

Finally, the panelist urged fans to speak out in support of the strike and push back against misinformation. They stressed the role that fan communities can play in fighting the smear campaigns that studios may launch against striking actors.

“There’s going to be rhetoric from the people who are across the table from us that’s going to try paint striking union members as asking for too much,” Burch said. “It’s already happened. A big thing for fans of the work that we do is to believe us that we’re not asking for the moon. We’re asking for protections and compensation that our members need. If you hear something salacious, look into it. Talk to each other.”

“We’re going to be painted as the people who are to blame for [the hardships caused by the strikes],” Alton said. “[They’ll say] it’s the labor force’s fault that everyone’s out of work. But if that was the case, then in order for us to fix this, we would have to face an existential threat to our careers. For them to fix this, they just have to pay some money.”

(featured image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)


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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>