This week, former producers of Channel Awesome/That Guy With the Glasses compiled a list of grievances and complaints about their treatment, including sexual harassment and neglect. Others are seeing this and jumping ship (although I think that’s a poor metaphor–it’s more like a Klingon discommendation where everyone makes the Wakanda salute and turns their backs.)
I knew about issues behind the scenes with poor management and scheduling, but I thought those were part-and-parcel of amateur film making. I’ve heard many DVD commentaries that basically consisted of “this space was available so we took it”, like Basket Case converting a hotel elevator into a lobby or Monty Python & the Holy Grail using coconuts or The Room being… the room.
And there were problems with… conflicting personalities? Well, that’s the nice way of putting it. The NC is basically a basement-dwelling, ungrateful, insufferable bastard. Everyone who came after copied that acerbic MST3K style, because that was what worked. NC is the vent for our frustrations at greedy producers, apathetic directors, badly chosen actors, studio interference, writing to the merchandise/market/instead of the story.
When your job to portray yourself as Comic Book Guy turned up to 11, there are bound to be residual effects. But when you fight the monster, you must make sure not to become one. When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.
Yes, I’m talking about Spoony, and no, there’s no excuse for what he did. But I don’t really know what transpired–I didn’t follow that thread. I know it had to do with mental health, the “shieldy” nature of the Internet, and follower wars/information bubble. It made me sad, because I loved his work. I sat back impassively and watched, having no dog in the fight. Besides, here we are, years later. Noah Antwiler hasn’t made a video in six months and Lindsay Ellis is getting retweets from Mikey Neumann, Hank Green, and John Scalzi.
But when you put it all together, there was more going on here that I should have been paying attention to. These things have poked their heads up from time to time. Like Allison Pregler’s poor HR handling, on-set accidents (like everyone getting sunburned and dehydrated on Kickassia). Whoever leaves Channel Awesome leaves it in infamy. But I let it go, because these people are basically giving us good content, spending their time and money with no promise of reward, for free. ‘
Now you should never work for exposure. Money should flow toward the artist. If the client is important enough that exposure means something, they can afford to pay you. If not, then it’s not worth it. But just co-hosting/posting material on the site shouldn’t require payment. TGWTG is a popular site, and letting others partake of that traffic, it’s like advertising.
But that’s as far as the exposure should go. Once CA starts pulling in producers for crossovers, movies, etc. they become employees. They are helping you make a product that you own, and they should be compensated for that labor. [Case in point: the “To Boldly Flee” sexual assault scene that no one wanted to do].
But all the sexual harassment? The lack of care for those under their wing (like not bringing their website out of the 1999 style). The bullying. The neglect. I cannot turn a blind eye to that.
When I read this manifesto, I was appalled. So appalled I actually tweeted at the conversation “what can we fans do to help”? (I think MarzGurl, Holly, and Lindsay Ellis were in that thread) And you know me–I never make contact with the outside world. Holly responded “don’t watch CA content on the site or YouTube”. I don’t feel this is enough — these people need to be accountable for their misconduct. A single removed subscriber isn’t going to make an impact. We’ve got to stop accepting what we cannot change, we have to change what we cannot accept.
Bottom Line: I can no longer support or patronize Channel Awesome until they remediate these grievances.
Let me make this clear. I love the Nostalgia Critic. I wanted so much to be part of them because they looked like my people. People I wanted to be with, be friends with. Others had Friends, I had TGWTG. I’ve written many articles about their producers, how they’ve influenced me. I’ve watched all the NC videos. Sometimes I just binge-watched because I wanted to be part of that group. They looked so happy in those crossovers, working together, being creative, nerding out over stuff. Those were my people. But now I do not want to be associated with them.
It seems the biggest problem is their off-screen CEO. Basically, they’ve got a Charlie Rose junior in the driver’s seat and he’s got a choke chain around the Nostalgia Critic IP. That’s a problem, because to call it the primary money-maker is disingenuous. Nostalgia Critic is basically the site. And if you need any bigger indicator of a douchebag, just look at that poor apology. The only good thing about it is that it exists. It means the backlash is loud enough that now they have to pay attention.
But it’s also that Doug and Rob Walker stay silent. They either just don’t care or aren’t allowed to. I see Doug Walker as just a guy who wants to make videos. He wants to be on screen and that’s fine. And Rob is Rob. Like Bob Zmuda to Doug’s Andy Kaufman. But their inaction makes them complicit. I’m waiting for some kind of statement. I’m waiting for them to be more than some goofballs watching TV.’
If I could do more, I would. I’m writing this article, so that’s something. But I can’t let this one go. This is the age of #MeToo and #TimesUp. We’ve got to do better. They’ve got to do better. We’ve got to realize that sexual harassment and bullying can’t be written off. No more eye-rolling. No more “boys will be boys” bullshit. No more excuses.’
That means calling people out. That means consequences for actions. And I refuse to support, even with my ad-blocker in place, a smaller-scale version of the Weinstein company.