Folks…I’m not going to lie to you. This is some fucked up shit!
Even the title of this post sounds too “safe” to truly refer to what Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi is accused of doing. What it really sounds like is pedophilic grooming, is what he did, with a 13-year-old female fan. Per Buzzfeed:
Robyn Byrd thought her plan was working when the letter from her hero arrived in the mail. It was 1994, and the 13-year-old had sent the creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show a video of herself talking about her drawings and the animation career she envisioned; she thought if she got the attention of the studio behind the hit Nickelodeon show, she might get a job there someday. John Kricfalusi’s effusive letter, Byrd said, seemed like the first step toward her dream.
Soon, she said, she began receiving boxes of toys and art supplies from 39-year-old Kricfalusi, better known as John K. He helped her get her first AOL account, through which he convinced her he could help her become a great artist. He visited her at the trailer park where she lived in Tucson, Arizona. “I thought I was still his little cute friend,” she said. And then, when she was still in 11th grade, he flew her to Los Angeles to show her his studio and talk about her future. She said that on the same trip, in a room with a sliding glass door that led to his pool, he touched her genitals through her pajamas as she lay frozen on a blanket he’d placed on the floor. She was 16.
Now, Kricfalusi’s own lawyer admits in the article that the animator “dated” Byrd when she was 16 and Kricfalusi was REALLY FUCKING OLD!!! BUT…”mental illness” is used as the excuse for his behavior. I mean…the man is a “Brilliant Asshole,” after all. The Roman Polanski of the goddamn animation industry.
But Byrd was not the only young (young) teen Kricfalusi is accused of grooming. He met Katie Rice, another fan and aspiring young animator, when she was the ripe old age of 14:
They continued chatting online and on the phone into her sophomore year of high school, and Kricfalusi’s messages made her feel special. In an AOL conversation he told her not to copy and send to her friends, he said, “I wnat [sic] to squeeze you,” and “I’m crazy about you, Katie”; he asked her, “Do I ever make you tingle?” In an email she printed and saved from a few days after she turned 15, the 41-year-old man wrote, “I’m thinking about you very hard right now. And I have a little tickle in my chest.”
Rice—and another unidentified woman—also claims that Kricfalusi’s computer computer had child porn on it:
Rice said she found images of girls she didn’t recognize, naked; she remembered one photo in particular, with a naked girl who appeared to be around 10 years old, lying on her back with her legs spread and an expression on her face that Rice described as fearful. An ex-girlfriend of Kricfalusi’s, who asked not to be named in this story, said she, too, saw naked images of prepubescent girls who appeared to be between 12 and 14 on his personal computer around 2007.
Now let’s back up and consider the cultural significance—especially for the Geek community—of Ren & Stimpy.
And while we’re at it, let’s also consider the timing of these revelations—concerning Kricfalusi, a former (but still lauded) employee of Nickelodeon.
Ren & Stimpy was the SHIT when I was in my own teens. In a world mostly filled with syrupy-sweet “safe” animation, this relatively raunchy show was like cocaine to young minds hungry for something more.
I remember dubbing all the episodes on long-playing VHS tapes and playing them over and over again. When I got my first “real” job at a video store (because I’m apparently a walking, talking cliché of my generation), we played those very same tapes on the overhead monitors.
And Kricfalusi seemed to run into difficulty with censors and Nickelodeon over some of the content of those cartoons, he became a cause célèbre in my Geek circles—he became this huge symbol regarding “free speech” and creative integrity. And apparently, even after he left Ren & Stimpy, his career was running off of those “martyr” fumes for a long, long time.
Now: both the women in the Buzzfeed article and a number of Twitter users/blog commenters have noted that the Kricfalusi sexual misconduct stuff was an “open secret” within the animation community and Nickelodeon. In fact, people with connections with Nickelodeon say that there is a portrait of the animator still hanging in their offices (knowing a bit about the way entertainment corporations work, I can assure you that this portrait has most likely been quietly removed since these revelations hit).
Think about it: the misdeeds of a alleged pedophile (let’s just call it what it is, folks) was possibly an “open secret” for…what…over TWENTY YEARS?!
And that, my friends, brings us to the suspect (at least in my mind) timing of these revelations. Not “suspect” as in I don’t believe the revelations—because I tend to believe almost all of them—but suspect in terms of the news that had just broke a few days before them. Specifically, the parting of the ways between mega-producer Dan Schneider & Nickelodeon.
As you will remember from my original post on the subject (when my gifs weren’t busy getting blackout drunk), Nickelodeon cut Schneider loose while the producer’s TV shows were still #1 for the network. They cut Schneider while he was still in his prime—and reportedly gave him a $7 million dollar payout to get the fuck out of there.
Schneider had also been the subject of “open secret” rumors concerning possible sexual misconduct with minors. In fact, while no women have publicly come forward with such allegations, I feel it is safe to say that Schneider’s is one of the most persistent online rumors for at least the last 2-3 years.
Now: there is the possibility that the Schneider rumors are merely the work of an over-zealous “underground” online community, much as that one about the “pizza place” (where if I actually use the exact term, I get weird attention from Google so I’m not using it).
But the Kricfalusi stuff definitely does not seem that way. I see very few people, if any, online defending him and saying these allegations couldn’t possibly be true.
But think about how unthinkable this situation is: one of the most “beloved” animators of the 1990s—one of Nickelodeon’s “stars”—involved in such stomach-churning actions.
My question is…
…is it possible the Buzzfeed story about Kricfalusi was commissioned and published at this time because there are other allegations regarding Nickelodeon’s past and/or present creators coming down the pike?
Lastly, I want to give a small hat-tip to the YouTuber who wondered if Fairly Odd Parents creator Butch Hartman suddenly left Nickelodeon a month or so ago because he had been hearing about these “open secrets,” knew Nick was probably going to get slammed, and was so disgusted he wanted nothing more to do with them. That is PURE (pure) conjecture on her part, and my part. But from what I’ve seen of Hartman’s admittedly enjoyable YouTube channel, he seems like the type of person who would never be “cool” or OK about this shit & would have enough integrity to say “to hell with this” and just cut ties.
Anyway: John Kricfalusi. One of my idols growing up. I’m sure if I sent him a pic of myself at 13 and a gushing fan letter about how I wanted to be an animator, I’d probably be “groomed” too. That’s the sad fucking fact of it. Hey, I “get” people have mental illness, but it’s not an excuse for this shit!
And here’s the “secret” I’ve learned, having been in the outer-boonies of the entertainment industry, as well as having, at one point, worked for the same larger corporation as both Kricfalusi and Schneider:
“Brilliant Assholes” could get away with anything! They were white, they were male, they hit all the “cool” pop-cultural buttons, and they could get away with anything.
I used to suspect there were a few people in my own industry who were into child exploitation; but people told me that I was fucking crazy, that it simply wasn’t possible. But if Kricfalusi did this shit…and nobody properly investigated him for over twenty years…it feels like, to me, that all bets are off. And that I would absolutely be Jack’s Complete Lack Of Surprise if more nasty shit comes up about key icons in the Geek world in the near future.