Barbie, Ken and Wednesday Addams costumes are out. Ghosts and zombies are in.
Halloween this year is tricky for actors on strike, under new union guidelines that tell them how to avoid crossing the virtual picket line: Don’t dress as characters from major studio productions or post photographs of the costumes online.
“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, SAG-AFTRA, said in the guidelines on Thursday.
The union urged its members to “celebrate Halloween this year while also staying in solidarity.”
SAG-AFTRA, representing more than 150,000 television and movie actors, has been on strike since July while it negotiates a contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major movie and streaming companies including Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros.
Generally, the union encourages striking members to share photographs of their union engagement and the picket line in order to amplify their demands, which include increased residual payments from streaming services, a wage boost and protections regarding the use of artificial intelligence. But SAG-AFTRA said its Halloween guidelines were intended “to make sure our members don’t inadvertently break strike rules.”
The guidelines urge members to choose generic costumes — of zombies, spiders or ghosts, say — or to base their costumes on characters from animated television shows.
In its coverage of the new guidelines on Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter highlighted some of the rules’ technicalities. For example, a costume based on Barbie, which is owned by Mattel, could suggest that the wearer was promoting the summer’s biggest movie from a major studio.
“Presumably, actors could dress up like struck characters if they weren’t seen publicly in their costumes, but it’s probably best not to risk it — after all, nothing is scarier than getting called out for scabbing,” the publication wrote, using the slang term for someone who disregards a strike.
Social media photos of costumes inspired by content covered by the strike could be considered publicity work, according to the union. It was not clear how actors would handle dressing up as Barbie or J. Robert Oppenheimer at events that would not be publicized or whether actors would influence the costume choices of their family members.
“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 actor Ryan Reynolds said in a joking post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
John Rocha, a union actor and the co-host of “The Hot Mic,” a film review podcast, called the decision “foolish” and said he hoped that SAG-AFTRA would reverse course.
“Partying at Halloween dressed as the characters their fellow SAG actors brought to life (while they blow off some steam) should be ENCOURAGED,” he said on X.
Negotiations between the entertainment studios and the union collapsed last week, with both sides saying they remained far apart on the most significant issues.