Good Lord! The Geekosphere is like in this constant state of drama. As soon as one drama ebbs, another flows in. (I have a theory about why this is all especially happening now, which I will espouse in time).
I’ve been following the movie review show Nostalgia Critic—hosted by Doug Walker—since 2014 (it’s been around for about a decade now). It is the “anchor” series for a whole channel of related shows on YouTube, called Channel Awesome. Over the years, a number of really interesting pop-culture review shows have been hosted/featured on Channel Awesome—and the different reviewers formed a vibrant community. Everyone even collaborated in “all-star” movies celebrating the anniversary of the channel.
It was, as they say, one big happy family.
Only, according to this 69-page Google document written by 20 (twenty) ex-contributors & employees of Channel Awesome—called, “Not So Awesome”—it was not one big happy family.
This document, which is currently being passed around the entire Internet, is quite a remarkable creation. Super-organized and thorough, the first-hand accounts include accusations of workplace misconduct and sexual harassment. A reader who submitted the story to the website Flick Filosopher explains:
Many of the creators have been severing ties in recent weeks and telling all on Twitter. In addition to the financial issues, there was apparently a whole culture of exploitation, abuse, and (sometimes sexual) harassment. Creators were forced to produce faster than feasible. One woman describes working every day for years and then being fired when she missed a day while recovering from surgery. Michaud displayed contempt for female creators and allowed Mike Ellis, a man who appears to have had a history of sexual harassment and stalking, to hold a powerful position. Also they were encouraged to travel to Chicago to participate in Doug Walker’s vanity projects, which were managed with an almost Tommy Wiseau level of incompetence and hostility. People were forced to work 18 hour days in a hot attic with no water and several people were injured during stunts, after which they were forced to sign contracts promising not to sue for damages. This is all just allegations, but there are a ton of witnesses who all basically agree. Doug Walker presents himself as a lovable goofball, but there’s a dark side to the whole enterprise that is just now being revealed. I was a fan, but I don’t think I can ever watch it again knowing what I know.
As a person who was a BIG fan of Nostalgia Critic, I have to concur. I can never really look at any of this the same way again.
Beyond that—this document just really makes me fucking SAD because it illustrates, anecdote by anecdote, the dissolution of a whole web of friendships. The dissolution of an entire community of talented people. I’ve recently (over the last year or so) cut ties with a LOT of people I considered my peers in the comic book community, and it feels very much like this. The center cannot hold; things fall apart.
In response to the “Not So Awesome” document, Channel Awesome posted a tweet that is being criticized by many as a non-apology. The channel has apparently bled over 2K followers today alone in a mass exodus of fans.
I haven’t even begun to organize my feelings over all this. But it is clear to me that a number of these “geek communities” and concerns are imploding, one after the other. Last year alone saw a number of scandals plaguing other film-related geek hubs and reviewers—literally, Channel Awesome seemed like one of the few places left unscathed. And now we have this.
Folks, my peers are all getting old, and so am I. I watched that Supernatural episode yesterday with the Scooby-Doo crossover, and one of the biggest things that stuck out for me was that these dudes were like younger than me but they were still OLD and I was OLD. Not decrepit old, to be sure, but old enough where this level of irresponsibility and madcap geekery starts to look really crappy and sad.
In its prime, Channel Awesome was amazing. But they got too big, collected too much money through fundraising that they weren’t 100% sure what to do with, and fancied themselves to be legit moviemakers and mass-media content providers. But their actual business practices didn’t live up to how big they had gotten. They still wanted things to be the way they always were—a bunch of kids having “fun”. But they had to grow up; and it doesn’t seem like that really happened.
Further, Doug seems to have gotten an outside “business partner” to run Channel Awesome—and apparently gave the guy his own Nostalgia Critic IP in the bargain?
And then there is the whole issue of immature behavior, sexual harassment, etc. The whole issue of just treating people with professionalism and respect. This shit had been simmering for years, and now it just exploded with this document.
This, to me, is why we see so many scandals in the geek community at this time. The carriage has turned into a pumpkin. And not even a cool pumpkin like The Great Pumpkin, but like a late-November Halloween pumpkin left out on the porch.
I’ll still watch the very first Nostalgia Critic episodes, where it was just him at his desk doing straight-up reviews—before all the expansion and bells and whistles. Because I had unsubscribed to Channel Awesome months ago anyway, before any of this happened. Each new episode had become like these “mini movies,” with trailers and flub reels and etc.—and that’s not why I liked Nostalgia Critic. I liked NC for Doug and his opinions. That was really it.
Success ruins everything in fandom. And fandom ruins everything.