As a baby of the late 1990s, I first met Drew Barrymore as a fairy princess in “Ever After.” She was my grungey teenage fashion mentor. And as a fellow little girl frightened and delighted by extraterrestrials, I loved her in “E.T.” My parasocial relationship with Barrymore has been one of my last remaining tethers to the celebrity icons of my childhood. Now, I, unfortunately, must say, rest in peace.
To many creators’ disappointments, “The Drew Barrymore Show” announced it will resume filming for its fourth season this week—disobeying the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike rules. To be clear, most daytime talk shows like Barrymore’s are currently unaffected by the ongoing strike. Unlike late-night shows, most of these shows don’t employ union writers. However, “The Drew Barrymore Show” does employ a handful of WGA staffers, thus qualifying it as a struck project.
Barrymore herself seemed a bit confused on Instagram about whether the move to continue her show disobeyed the strike’s rules, though it’s now clear she is in violation. On Sunday, the WGA announced plans to picket the show’s taping this week. In a shocking update today, two Barrymore fans attending the show’s recording also came forward and said they were kicked out of the studio for wearing WGA pins handed to them by picketers outside.
It’s hard to believe Barrymore is a scab. The child star, propelled to fame through Spielberg’s “E.T.” at age 7, survived an abusive alcoholic home life and traumatic upbringing in the industry. She is a fortified legend for any child of an alcoholic parent, an abusive home, or of Hollywood’s toxic culture. “The Drew Barrymore Show” is her magnum opus, a pinnacle of truth-telling and vulnerability seldom seen in the rolling hills of Los Angeles.
Famously, in an episode with child star Jennette McCurdy, Barrymore unpacked the complicated stage mom abuse dynamics both of them experienced. And in an episode with fellow survivor Brooke Sheilds, Barrymore vulnerably reflected on her experience with Hollywood’s pedophilia problem.
In doing so, Barrymore has spoken out for every abused person, both in and out of the limelight. As Barrymore and Shields remarked in their episode, in some ways, their stories are “all of our stories,” just “played out differently.”
Still, Barrymore is both like all of us and definitely not like all of us at the same time. She has an understanding that her experience of pain is not unique, yet her position as a multi-millionaire product of nepotism (with a family genealogy of actors stretching back to her great-great-great-great-grandparents) is far from normal.
As news of Barrymore’s scabbing emerged over the weekend, some users slammed Barrymore for the end of her “sweet and innocent branding.” Others suggested that it “was always sus.” I don’t know if I think that’s true—I think Barrymore has been a rare and genuine voice in this space, something that makes many people uncomfortable.
This latest scabbing behavior is just a letdown for those of us who wrongly built a celebrity we don’t know to be something of a hero.
Barrymore’s framing on Instagram suggested she is making her choice to restart her show out of empathy for her many employees, saying the show “may have her name on it but is bigger than just her.” Which is why her decision is so perplexing. Barrymore could, after all, pay for her staff’s salaries throughout the strike out of her own pocket, as late-night hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Stephen Colbert have done.
That said, Barrymore will no doubt survive this blip. She is, after all, a cultural titan. And a large percentage of her audience will more than likely remain unaware of this news.
Still, it’s not too late for her to stand in support of the writers who make her show possible—it’s just a question of whether she will hear and listen to disappointed fans like me.
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