Thursday, April 5, 2018

CHANNEL AWESOME-POCALYPSE! SOME THOUGHTS, (POSSIBLY FINAL THOUGHTS BASED ON HOW IT'S LOOKING), ON CHANNEL AWESOME AND THE LATEST NEWS AND UPDATES ON THE CONTINUING FIRESTORM SURROUNDING THEM!



Well, I wasn't planning on writing about this, at least, not right away, but Jesus; that escalated quickly.

So, as of the moment I'm starting to type this, it's Monday, the 26th of March, 2:00pm Pacific Time Zone, and in the last 48 hours or so, by my count, and I might be off here, but at least six and probably eight producers have resigned from Channel Awesome over the last 48 hours, and that number might be increasing, including but not limited to such names as Linkara, Todd In The Shadows, Diamanda Hagan, Rap Critic, Mike Jeavons, SF Debris and Suede, some of those names have been apart of the site for almost a decade and I'm personally a fan of a lot of them, as well as several of the numerous past contributors, who, for some reasons got into a Twitter discussions about their workings on/for the site and things, kinda escalated from there as one by one, almost in a-eh, what's-the-word...- almost like in a therapeutic therapy session, the horror stories of working for Doug Walker, Rob Walker and Mike Michaud, started coming out.

This was started, apparently by Allison Pregler, fka Obscurus Lupa tweeted about some of her experiences and other names from the past and some from the present started to chime in and pretty soon, this basically became a movement. There's currently a Twitter hashtag, #ChangeTheChannel, (There's also an alternative one #ChannelAwful) and Channel Awesome has not responded well to this mass exodus and the recent revelations. Anybody that's resigned, their names and records were deleted from the website almost immediately, which is somewhat surprising considering one of the major general complaints is the lack of keep-up with regard to the website.

Other complaints...- (Sigh) You know what, I'm not going through all of them. Here's Kaylyn Saucedo's (aka Marzgirl)'s Tumblr page, where she's diagrammed and linked to some of the major complaints, so far, and I say so far 'cause there's apparently going to be an official Google Docs compilation of the issues to be posted next week, as they're still coming in, and I suspect that there's going to be some, if not, several more resignations upcoming.

http://marzgurl.tumblr.com/post/172243441932/things-that-channel-awesomes-management-has

There's a couple other similar pages that are being passed around on Twitter as well....- you can go through it if you haven't already, and I'm sure there's gonna be hundreds of others up who are going to go line-by-line dissecting these accounts as they come in....

(Long deep sigh)

So, alright, so what-the-hell's happened/going on over there? I definitely want to record my observations at this time, but where to even begin to talk about this?

Okay, a brief history of Channel Awesome, partially from my perspective:

So, the first time I became aware of Doug Walker (Aka Nostalgia Critic) was through Roger Ebert who tweeted him after he posted a video that was a tribute to "Siskel & Ebert".  Now, after that, I saw him pop up semi-regularly on Youtube and eventually I started diving into his work. Now this was, much later than most had, because, well, I'm not cool and I'm never up-to-date on what's new and popular at the moment, as you've probably noticed since you're reading my blog, that's how behind the times I remain, I'm a blogger writing about video critics/essayists.

Anyway, after his videos kept getting taken down in the early days of Youtube, Walker founded a site that was originally called "That Guy With the Glasses", which would feature his videos and would eventually begin to feature other fellow critics. Eventually this site morphed into "Channel Awesome". Without diving into every piece of historical detail, they've had a few known incidents and "scandals" over the years, and there's been an occasional current or past content creator who's for one reason or another has complained and/or criticized Channel Awesome harshly, they've even had previous mass resignations before, that said I've mostly praised them, even when they've had their critics over the years, and they've had critics, and I'm gonna dive into some of those criticisms about them they've had, before I dive totally into these latest developments

For instance, one Youtuber actually posted a seven-part series dissecting his criticisms at Doug Walker and several of the other producers past and present; (Well, at the time he posted, present) I went and watched it, and I'm not gonna give you the guy's page, you can look it up yourself if you want, but I wanted to address some of his points 'cause originally he started out okay with a lot of actual interesting critiques and criticisms of Walker and Channel Awesome, but by the end of this thing, most of his critiques had devolved into basically shitposting about everybody's little skeletons in their closet, and while frankly some of those are worth bringing up,  a lot of it was just the guy being a dick and bringing up old shit, most of which was out-of-context that frankly just came off as petty arrogance and self-satisfying superiority and bullysing, so fuck this guy I'm talking about.

That said he points out some of the ways Walker's work has changed, in particular after the Third Anniversary movie he made...- (Yeah, at one point, the content creators for the site would get together once a year as well as with other occasional guest stars to make a special movie for the fans. Just-, it was one of their things.) when he temporarily abandoned the Nostalgia Critic character and attempted to create a different, more elaborate comedy-sketch-based series "Demo Reel", which flopped badly and soon later he returned to being the Nostalgia Critic. Apparently by the Google metric, that was the approximate moment that the site started losing hits and viewers and until recently has been relatively stagnant ever since, which to be fair, is not a new criticism I've heard levied against Walker.

Now, this is the least of his Doug Walker's worries, (At least I hope it is) at the moment, but honestly, I've never understood this criticism. Outside of everything else; I tend to like Nostalgia Critic's current work a lot more now than then. Maybe it's because I did come late, but I watched his early videos too, and I enjoyed most of those, fine, but, as someone who's written movie reviews and blogs now for seven plus years, not to mention several other writings outside of this blog, I can say for sure that people tend to evolve as writers and our work becomes elaborate. It just does, that's not just a "Doug wants to do comedy sketches" thing, it just does. You can read my earliest blogs and movie reviews and read what I write now and see that they're vastly different and more elaborate and complex; writers and creators across all art forms evolve! And sometimes they still make something that's not good or not as good as some of their past work, it- it happens. Apparently, people are upset at that about Nostalgia Critic, as a character, (Which is something else I'll get to in a bit) for this, but I don't really get why. I mean, I get why people are abandoning him now, but that criticism has always bugged me.

Also, in regards to those Anniversary movies, 'cause apparently a lot of the criticisms and complaints, not all, but quite a few regarded these films and the making of them, particularly his last one, a 3 1/2 hour monstrosity of a film called "To Boldly Flee", which, I also can't lie here, I thought was easily his best film, and was actually quite good on it's own... (Shrugs) I gave it 5 STARS, I thought it was really good; maybe I like that it's a look into his soul as an artist in more ways than one, maybe 'cause I thought a lot of it was funny and well-made, and I do think that, even with the obviously cheap budget and rushed production, maybe I like how he managed to get all these people into a film like this and somehow make it works within it's own rules of the universe.... I don't know, it worked for me for what it was; it might not have been what it was supposed to be or should've been however, as it apparently didn't work for everybody else and this represents the other really significant change that put off a lot of the fellow creators and producers and there are definitely some interesting horror stories from the sets of these Anniversary movies and from "To Boldy Flee" in particular that are out there. (Also in a meta way, I think it does sorta make sense that people being brought into the world of the Nostalgia Critic would hypothetically start acting more and more like him.)

Now, based on most of these accounts of Doug Walker, from what I can tell, and this purely from an outsider's perspective with little-to-no insider knowledge, he is ambitious and I don't think he's untalented, but he's maybe misguided in understanding hist strengths at best and incompetent at worst in his ambitions and yeah, a bit egotistical without having the necessary talent and skills to back it up. Maybe I'm being generous, but that seems about right, but at least according to these former contributors' complaints, most of whom are not thrilled with Walker and many find him responsible for a lot of the reprehensible actions that have occurred at Channel Awesome, but that said it seems more hate is driven towards a particular member of Channel Awesome's team, Mike Michaud, who is eh, well, basically the owner of Channel Awesome.

Okay, I've tried to look into this, with similar companies, which is kinda difficult 'cause I'm not sure what to compare Channel Awesome too off-hand, but, one of the strange intricacies of the inner workings of the Channel Awesome is that it's a corporation. Not as, some might've expect, a LLC, a Limited Liability Company. I'm speculating a bit here and I'm not entirely sure how this works, or why they chose to be a corporation, but apparently the company's ownership is partially control through stock options essentially. Mike Michaud was one of the founders and he apparently owns over 50% of the company, and apparently, he actually owns the intellectual property, the IP of the character, the Nostalgia Critic. (The fact that he owns the IP of Nostalgia Critic btw, is absolutely mind-blowing to me, btw.)

This is weird, for a few reasons, one being, I'm not sure why or how, Channel Awesome would be a Corporation instead of an LLC. At least, as early as it was, the paperwork for Incorporation was filed in 2008; this was something they chose from the beginning which-, looking into the benefits of the two, I guess it makes sense in case something happened and they were to get sued over liability...? Keep in mind Nostalgia Critic became famous for having many of his reviews taken down because of copyright claims, so he probably was at some point expecting to be sued, so in that sense, a Corporation which would shield him from personal liability, I guess that makes sense, on that level, however on the other level and ownership and property, somehow this led to the Walkers essentially working for Michaud.  So, here's the thing, Michaud is apparently an asshole who's terrible at running a company, (In my best Kathy Griffin voice) "allegedly". It sounds like he is, at best incredibly two-faced and incompetent and,- let's very generously say it sounds like he has rarely been at his best in the position of Channel Awesome CEO. Anyway, he was around at the beginning and apparently has bought up the most shares of the company, so even if, big if by the way, Doug and Rob Walker wanted to get rid of him, they apparently can't. He's got the most shares of the company and somehow Doug and Rob would have to buy him out entirely. Now, they have money, some they've spent in better ways than others it seems..., but it also seems like Michaud is powerhungry tool who prefers to have the power and influence over any offer of money that the Walkers could offer. He is by far, by far, the biggest change that past content creators insist needs to be changed. That and some kind of legitimate apology.

See, this is the first part that's confusing me, after all these years of disruptive practices and behavior how did the Walkers somehow let him be the one who owned the majority shares? And why? Not only shares, but ownership of Doug Walker's creation of the Nostalgia Critic? I mean, they've gotten rid of some of their original behind-the-scenes people before, including Mike Ellis who was known for some behaviors that even Michaud at some point was offended by, but it still sounds odd and weird that Doug Walker wouldn't have a majority share of the company. This is a guy who's won awards for Entrepreneurship before, but I am confused at how not right this arrangement sounds.

Except...- well, what is he an entrepreneur of? You see, this is where I think Channel Awesome has failed the most. It's-, it's hard to explain everything, but there's always been this aspect of Channel Awesome that's character-based, plot-based even, even though they're reviewers and critics, it's always tried to portray itself as it's own little world and/or universe. (The aforementioned Anniversary movies that Doug Walker would make are probably the best examples of this) To varying extents I didn't mind that, and like I mentioned, I'm somebody who doesn't hate Nostalgia Critic's later more elaborate reviews and in many cases prefer them to the majority of his earlier stuff, and from a creative perspective, even as a critic, I can appreciate the ambition in that objective. That said, there's never how I approached Channel Awesome. To me, what those at the top never fully did understand is that, they're essentially, a magazine. It takes the form of video, but that's the big advantage of Channel Awesome, not that we come for Nostalgia Critic and he's funny, it's a collection of reviews on entertainment, film, TV, video games, music, comics, etc. It's not a TV channel, it's not a world or a universe, it's not the dawning of the new age of internet comedy...- it's the Cahiers du Cinema.

Now some of this idea is admittedly outdated since this was much more beneficial back in the days before a content creator could make a more-than-reasonable living on Youtube if they found an audience before the days of Patreon, and whatnot, but if go back to the beginning of this new trend, the idea of getting a bunch of creative people to make critical video reviews in one place on the internet, that's actually a good idea. Hell, I still think it's a good idea, and hell, I've been apart of or considering being apart a few attempted upstarts websites and alternative magazines that were trying to do just that, not in video form, but the bringing together of a pop culture collective of young critics with different focuses and specialties and ideas about entertainment and culture, that's a good idea. (Hell, that's why I'm a contributor to Age of the Nerd now; I'm still pursuing being apart of something like that) As somebody who loves criticism and analysis, that's something I would look for actively. A place where a bunch of these critics are situated together. Now, over time and over the advancements of Youtube and social media outlets, it's easier than ever to bypass this step and seek out and gain a more specialized audience than ever before, and to some extent, you don't even have to create your own website to do this, 'cause Youtube hypothetically has the ability to group together content creators under their own label separately. And hell, sometimes with Youtube, creators can manage to get together on their own. For example, I've been following some sports Youtubers for a little while now like UrinatingTree, (I know stupid name, but he's actually got pretty good with his sports videos) and Five Points Vids  and KTO for awhile and they've started working together on a semi-regular podcast now and them and a few other sports-based Youtubers have come together to form a collective of sorts, in very much the same way that Channel Awesome critics would also do that.

Now that's a specialized example, but as a whole, this isn't a bad idea and that's what Channel Awesome, could've and should've been for pop culture and entertainment, a collection of reviewers and critics under a singular roof, who periodically produce new critical essays and reviews; that's a magazine. On this page, see what are the music people talking about, on another, here's what are the book people writing on, let's go here to see what are the culture critics commenting on today...? Honestly, it's only now with a bunch of these revelations and resignations happening at once, really having it come to life, and realizing just how they've so amazingly messed this up so badly, way worst than I suspected even it's most vicious detractors of the site could believe.... I mean, they had the content, they've had the reviewers, and hell, twice-over, they had the branding. Okay, some of the main editors want to get into filmmaking themselves to some extent, or some other outside projects but again, the Cahier du Cinema example.... and sure every group like this is gonna have a couple occasional problems and even a few bad apples they have to get rid of, and not everybody's gonna have a positive experience; I totally get that, but imagine if ten years after it's creation all the French New Wave directors had just left the "Cahiers..." over time, and a new crop came in, and now they're all going and suddenly there's dozens and dozens of horror stories of how shitty Truffaut and Godard were. Okay, with Godard, it probably wouldn't be that surprising, but with Truffaut? And Bazin, and Chabrol and what an asshole piece of shit pervert Eric Rohmer was.... And no, that's not a one-to-one comparison, I'm not comparing Walker to Truffaut or anybody to Godard, but that is a weird and damning picture nonetheless that's going on here. And, the nearest I can tell, now that more and more information is coming out and being confirmed, almost as I'm currently typing this, what it reveals is that it never really transitioned well into this ideal place for creative pop culture critics and reviewers, because that was never the real intention of the site to begin with

See, to me, comedy is best used with these video reviews when it's a format a format to tell and/or shape and structure a critical review with, and it's now become clear, at least at the top, that they use the format and structure of a review in order to showcase comedy. There's good-and-bad to that, sure, and I'm sure I could point to some specific examples of this in Walker's work that I could dissect, but the backlash and antagonism from the reviewers themselves, seems like evidence enough of this for me to prove this point. This was a site for reviews, critiques, criticisms, analysis, etc., done in a different video style than beforehand, but...- if this was how they were consistently treating the people who produced this content for which they built the Channel Awesome Empire on, then, I-, I don't see what other conclusion there is to come to.

Now, obviously, the numbers show that there was still an audience that was lost, mainly because of some of the original core critics that originated the group not being there anymore, some of the rumors and scandals involving their departure and for that matter, some of the shady and conflicting practices of the leadership of the site, and that include Doug Walker and his creation of Nostalgia Critic, and how much that's his fault, it's still being measured.... That said, I wasn't apart of that fandom, if anything I was apart of this other one, that wasn't as concerned that some critics I liked would leave; I'd still follow them, sure,  but I was just as excited to see other new ones come in, because it was always the fact that this could happen,- it was essentially having a staff turnover on some level I trusted that new talent would come in, replace and rebuild the site to this ideal magazine-like format that, frankly it should've been already. I'm still holding out to some extent. I haven't tweeted #ChangeTheChannel yet, (Although I've retweeted some who have) I'm watching closely sure, but the potential is for the moment, still there if they can figure out how to get their shit together, although it doesn't seem like they're in a hurry to do that. (Sigh) Maybe I should avoid Channel Awesome for awhile until they do change things, but there are talented people still there, last I checked anyway, some were still there, and this is about the leadership not the individual creators/reviewers, and you know what, sometimes the best way to inevitably create change is to destroy and rebuild, or-eh, maybe I'm just a sucker for a lost cause today. (Or maybe I just want to see something burn out instead of fade away. [Shrugs])

Either way, it's worth keeping an eye on, if for nothing else, to see how this will play out
.

UPDATE: Okay, everything above, that's what I wrote, last week, essentially, knowing that, this document of all the complaints and grievances was gonna get out this week, and-eh, it was released on April 2nd, the link is below:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WZFkR__B3Mk9EYQglvislMUx9HWvWhOaBP820UBa4dA/preview

It's 69 pages, so far; and I stress "so far," 'cause from what I gather this can be updated in the future if for some reason there ends up being more contributors, and still there's some stories coming out. Mathew Buck aka Film Brain announced his departure from the site, by my count that's the tenth, name to resign from the site in the last, like 12 days or so, (I could be wrong on the exact number, but I think it's around ten). Um, this document, has twenty accounts from former and maybe even current producers and other content creators 'cause there's some Anonymous credits here, there's also a fan Google doc that's being spread around, to list some negative interactions people have had with Channel Awesome, in particular the Walkers and Michaud. I should point out here that, there are believe it or not, are some conspicuous names missing from this list of contributors, I can think of a few anyway, including Todd in the Shadows, who was the first of this group to suddenly leave Channel Awesome. Um, Dan Olson's name is missing interestingly enough despite being fired for doing a "Folding Ideas" episode on GamerGate. Kyle Kallgren of "Brows Held High" has expressed his desire to still remain silent regarding his experiences and departure from the site at the moment. There's a few others I could name, but..... (Shrugs)

Channel Awesome, finally after the Google Document was released, responded with, well, what some are calling an apology, although most aren't; it was pinned on their Twitter and Facebook pages, from what I gather it isn't now; I'm posting the link to that below:

https://www.facebook.com/channelawesome/photos/a.1502870036640466.1073741828.1410796249181179/2003765549884243/?type=3&theater

To be fair, one person currently apart of Channel Awesome, Malcolm Ray, who's does have his own Youtube page, but is mainly an actor on "Nostalgia Critic" also posted a response on Twitter, that explains his mostly positive perspective and experience working with Channel Awesome, the twitter thread to that is below:

https://twitter.com/MalcolmtheRay/status/981625399368142848

That response is mostly received positively, even by those who are leading the #ChangeTheChannel movement, even with a few inaccuracies regarding the timeline that he's listed. He does mention that most of the shoots and sets are better and well-equipped than what's being reported for the Anniversaries movies, which, I can believe, 'cause is lots of pieces of behind-the-scenes footage out there for most of Nostalgia Critic's more recent work. I will note, within the list of fellow current co-workers who he positively praises, including both Doug and Rob Walker, the one name that's noticeably not listed in his response, is Mike Michaud. Also, other current contributor, Walter Banasiak, and a fellow actor on "Nostalgia Critic", Tamara Lynn Chambers went on Twitter and confirmed that Malcolm's account of the current situation there is very accurate to the POV of others currently on the website. They're not the only current contributors talking, and some of those, like Tony Goldmark (aka Some Jerk With a Camera) have been much more conflicted in their regard to their employer. (Sigh)

Other than that though..., (Sigh), you know, there's not much more to say, here. It doesn't seem like Channel Awesome, they're ever really gonna fully recover from this. How could they, why would they...? I certainly would be impressed if they do begin taking some of the steps that, that obvious that they need to take but..., I mean, look, you can take, in a vacuum, most of these criticisms, grievances, and reports of behaviors and incidents, in a vacuum, and most of them you, in some possible-if-not-probable scenario, could dismiss for one reason or another as an anomaly, a mistake, a bad choice of who to trust or hire, etc., and that even goes for some of these scenarios that are quite horrific and in some cases, including some cases that skirt the line on legality..., but this isn't a vacuum. This is a constant pattern of behavior that's dismissive, abhorrent, neglectful, incompetent, and as Eddie Izzard would say, other adjectives as well, and there doesn't seem to be an awareness or desire from the higher-ups and Channel Awesome, to either explain, apologize or even an attempt to improve their practices, and in most cases learn from their behavior, at least none that's apparent to me and most others. I think mostly I'm just in awe of the fact that, so many of Channel Awesome's ex-, well they weren't all employees technically, so, contributors/reviewers/content creators/producers/others..., years afterwards still felt such,- I don't even know what the term is, annoyance, anger..., contempt, disdain perhaps, at just how egregious they were treated that years later for most of this, they come together to create such a document of grievances as this, and they feel like had to.... And to read this document, for the most part, you completely understand why. That speaks louder than most of the stuff Michaud and the Walkers are accused of, and that's where I think I'm gonna leave this for now.

I semi-joked on Twitter , that the Ghosts of Channel Awesome, had deciding to burn the place to the ground. I don't know if that was an apt metaphor or not, but if it is, then-eh, keep an eye out as the wildfire as it-eh, apparently continues to spread at this moment.....


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