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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

curated: the implosion of Channel Awesome

Reader Jurgan notified me about the scandal currently unfolding regarding Channel Awesome, an online media company that hosts video shows revolving around movies, TV, comic books, videogames, and other stuff of geek interest, the best known of which is probably The Nostalgia Critic. Jurgan writes [posted with his permission]:

I don’t think you’re aware of Channel Awesome, but there’s a lot of allegations coming out about their shady business practices. I was hoping you could help spread the story, as you’ve been fighting for a while against the trend of creative professionals being coerced into working for “exposure” rather than money (I stopped reading HuffPost because of you). In addition, I have a feeling there’s a decent overlap between your readership and theirs. If you’re willing, I’ve attached a brief summary which you can feel free to copy/paste on FF or elsewhere. I’m just mad about the betrayal of trust and exploitation, and I want to bring it to others’ attention.

I’m interrupting here to note that, as Jurgan suspects, I had never heard of Channel Awesome before, and also — as I said in an email reply to him — I’m pretty sure I’ve never said or implied that anyone has ever been “coerced” into working for free. I have no doubt that everyone who contributed to HuffPo did so willingly, and I’m pretty sure that’s the case with CA as well. I mean, there haven’t been any allegations of slavery, as far as I can tell.

But it’s never a good idea to work for free for someone else’s for-profit venture. The only person you should ever work free for is yourself… as this CA story is demonstrating (yet again).

More from Jurgan:

The Nostalgia Critic is a character that was created by Doug Walker, his brother Rob, and a behind-the-scenes executive named Mike Michaud. Doug has been portraying the character since 2007 in online videos where he humorously riffs on bad movies and TV shows, usually ones that were popular in the youth of Xers and Millennials. The Walkers and Michaud launched That Guy With the Glasses, now known as Channel Awesome, and attracted dozens of other people to create video reviews of other media. It turns out that none of the creators outside of the core group ever got paid for having their video listed, instead counting on the site to direct traffic to their personal websites and hopefully getting ad revenue or Patreon money. This was possibly understandable in the early days when the site was small, but it grew to a corporation with an operating budget around $1 million, and yet still none of that money went to most of the people on the site.

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.

CA contributors have been discussing these things on Twitter using the hashtag #ChangeTheChannel. There is also a long post and subsequent discussion on the board ResetEra, as well as a very long Google Doc (here’s a condensed version) with a lot more detail.

There’s a bit of a learning curve if you’re not already familiar with CA and its personalities and the shows. But it’s tough not to see this as part of the ongoing reckoning with toxic fandom and the rampant misogyny in media that started last autumn.

Are you a fan of CA’s projects? If so, what do you make of this unraveling?


posted in:
critic buzz | Net buzz
  • Jonathan Roth

    I’ve seen the edges of it for a while now. I’ve seen a few videos by the crew, although Lindsay Ellis is the one I’ve watched the most of, especially after she left CA and found a voice that’s more distinct from Doug Jones’ show.

    I wasn’t familiar with the depth of the accusations though. Yikes.

  • Doug Walker?

  • Engler Pascal

    I knew they were kind of incompetent and skewy. (I knew that Allison
    Pregler was fired for daring to forget to hang up a skype call), but this is
    worse than i imagined.

    I’m kind of glad that i lost
    interest in Doug’s staff quite some time ago: While other
    CA-Contributors (A lot of them I still watch) developed their style and evolved over
    time, he never really did.

  • Danielm80

    Everyone thought he was Doug Walker, but he was actually the actor Doug Jones wearing prosthetics and aided by CGI.

  • Strelnikov

    If you read the Encyclopedia Dramatica articles on everybody involved, many of these allegations seem plausible, if you read between the lines. (I’ve heard that the EDnik who wrote those entries was actually a former CA contributor.)

    Now that we have this 60+ page document (which I read all the way through) and ED was proven more-or-less right – the Walker brothers see themselves as the real center of attention, and at the start the two egomaniacs hired a horrendous “CEO” in the form of Mike Michaud, together they tried to scoop up every pop-culture reviewer in Blogville and YouTube. They (Michaud, Mike Ellis, Bhargav Dronamraju, and the Walkers) either realized they can’t handle all this talent, so they are just riding the tiger of ad money for as long as it will last, or they are just that willfully incompetent. Their inability to communicate with their content producers kept their unpaid “employees” from realizing how bad it really was. What pushed things to a head is the “corporation’s” unwillingness to learn from past mistakes, and the double bind the Walkers’ are in with Michaud; he owns the intellectual property rights to the Nostalgia Critic character, so if they fire him, he takes the Critic away, and Rob no longer can play his dumb “Santa Christ” character. That counts more than all the people they conned into producing work for their rickety mess of a website, so losing Noah “Spoony” Antweiler, Lindsay “(no longer) the Nostalgia Chick” Ellis, Dan “Foldable Human/Folding Ideas” Olson, Lewis “Linkara” Lovhaug, Kaylyn “MarzGurl” Saucedo, (and many others) means very little to the leadership after getting anywhere from four to nine years of free work out of these people. The suicide of Justin “JewWario” Carmical only counted in Mike Michaud’s eyes as a way of wringing views (“Dr. Gonzo’s” claim within the document) out of fans. Mike Ellis is gone, Bhargav Dronamraju quit after the 2011 “film” Suburban Knights, it’s now the Walkers (with Rob handling most of the contact with producers because Michaud speaks to nobody below the Walkers’ level – at one point his brother Greg was talking for him to the content producers. If it was only bad management, that would be enough to sink a company, but the endless allegations of sexual harassment and other greasiness should drive the nails into the coffin lid.

  • Jurgan

    Or he was an Alabama senator.

  • A.K

    I don’t think he has to evolve since, IMO, the quality of his videos are consistently above all the other contributors on Channel Awesome or the former TGWTG.

  • John Smith

    What is even happening?

  • Jurgan

    Nah, Lindsay Ellis is way better.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    More fun: https://twitter.com/FoldableHuman/status/980961821740773378
    Dan Olson, aka Foldable Human, was briefly affiliated with CA, until he made a video criticizing GamerGate, which brought in the expected trolls, which pissed off CA management, who blamed Dan (and Lindsey Ellis, who brought Dan into CA), rather than the GGaters. Dan and Lindsey left within days of each other over this.

  • Barf Mahoney

    Big deal. Nothing to see here. Tired of hearing from losers in the work force these days. Nobody is freaking keeping you there!!! If you dont like something, get the hell out and shut up. “Ehh i worked somewhere, and they didnt fulfill my every dream, fantasy, and whim! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” typical millenial garbage.

  • Argol228

    Allison pregler is just whiny, over reactive and entitled. nothing she says has any weight except in the extreme SJW community.

  • wow…

    I doubt you actually read their allegations, unless you’re naturally incompetent at critical thinking? One of the employees who were fired because of taking rest ONE DAY after surgery was barred from working in the same industry for three years, resulting in her losing control of her life, her friends, family, and was basically unemployed.

    You also must not have experienced being dirt poor, and/or under the mercy of employers who tie tight ropes around their employees. You have any idea how difficult it is to get a job nowadays? Get back under the rock from which you live in, mate, we don’t need your useless input in today’s economy.

  • wow…

    Also, I don’t know if you have the heart to ignore something as serious as SEXUAL harassment, but judging from your comment up top — it’s highly possible.

  • windwake

    Perhaps if one person was claiming allegations against CA, your comment could be plausible. Unfortunately, if you’ve seen the document and if you’ve heard about why so many producers left the online site, it’s obvious that there was more than one person who suffered abuse, lack of compensation, etc. If you read further through the document, you’ll even see some people who suffered sexual harassment and even grooming?

    This is more than a one person kind of thing, I hope you realize?

  • Engler Pascal

    Eh, kind of disagree with that statement. But YMMV of course.

    BTW: I kind of like here reviews (Especially the collabs with Brad andor Phelous) and TV recaps.

  • extreme SJW community.

    LOL.

  • Yeah! We don’t need any standards or decency or humanity in the workplace! If you don’t like the way your wealthy overlord treats you, just find another wealthy overlord who’ll treat you better. What’s that? They’re all awful and the few who maybe are slightly less horrible can only employ so many people, and there’s no room left for you? Loser! Just start being your own wealthy overlord. Easy!

  • Jurgan

    To be clear, Argol is referring to someone who received death threats for criticizing a rape joke as “whiny and entitled.”

  • jen

    Well, this stinks. I watched that channel all the time, I had no idea they were like greedy corporate jerks.

  • pulse

    You need to come up with something better than screaming the SJW buzzword if you want to support your point.

  • pulse

    You act like bosses doing bad things is acceptable and you can just walk out of jobs whenever you feel like it.

    Pathetic attempt at reasoning, that. You sound like a million rotting Baby Boomers, so generic and unintelligible that I can’t help but feel sorry for you… or I would, if you deserved pity.

  • nelsonsmith

    Lindsey is probably doing some of the best film critique on the web today.

  • Jurgan

    It’s telling that their “apology” was so generic. The person who wrote it may not have even read the complaints.

  • Jurgan
  • Bestler

    Fuck. You. All.

  • Jurgan

    Aww, I love you, too.

  • Jonathan Roth

    I goofed. Not sure where that came from.

  • Bestler

    Not that kind of fucking.

  • windwake

    I don’t think they really have any other argument other than screaming ‘SJW’, to be honest…

  • Brie Russell

    “If you read the Encyclopedia Dramatica articles…”

    I’m gonna stop you right there.

  • Retnan

    I hope this crap that’s irrelevant to me doesn’t effect the output of Nostalgia Critic episodes, which I enjoy watching.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It’s worse than that. It’s like the Platonic ideal of the non-apology: “I’m sorry you didn’t like what I did” rather than “I’m sorry for what I did”.

  • Strelnikov

    You think you are being cute, but the horrible truth was that for years the only place to find things about what was allegedly going on at TGWTG/CA was Encyclopedia Dramatica, which meant you had to take everything with a massive grain of salt. I’m glad the actual victims and witnesses came forward with the truth.

    By the way, this was her original response:

    Brie Russell

    “If you read the Encyclopedia Dramatica articles…”

    I’m gonna stop you right there.

    Are you fucking kidding me? No seriously are you for real?

  • Jurgan

    Someone else made the same mistake on Twitter. It happens.

  • Jurgan

    I mean, that’s your choice to make. But it’s pretty callous to brag about how you don’t care about people being mistreated.

  • Jean Morel

    How do you see these figures about a channel?

  • Jurgan
  • Jean Morel

    Thanks!

  • Jurgan

    He meant it as a compliment! If a woman felt so threatened that she had to hide out in a safe house for days, that’s on her, isn’t it?

  • Oh, I know. My LOL was sarcastic and bitter, a response to the idea that it requires extreme SJWness to think those things are uncool.

  • Still really tiny numbers next to more than a million subscribers.

  • To whom is this addressed, and why?

  • What would make it relevant to you?

  • Jurgan

    Small, but accelerating. A ten year old site losing one percent of its members in three days is significant, especially if it keeps up. And their non-apology “we’re sorry you’re upset” statement just pissed off even more people.

  • Engler Pascal

    Speaking of Allison, she made a short summary of the whole affair:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CY7cutLmyA

  • NevahLose

    what makes you think it won’t be affected?

  • Retnan

    So the people who run the channel are mean and money grubbing? Welcome to the human race, no one got raped so big deal. I like Alison Pregler’s stuff but honestly all I feel is resentment that something I like could be negatively effected or God forbid cease to exist cause of some workplace BS from years ago. Call me callous if you want but someone has to speak for the fans who just want to enjoy content without the cold universe snatching it away.

  • Bluejay

    Here’s the irony you may not have appreciated: All you care about is the things you like. But if the people who make the things you like feel they’re being mistreated — or if they’re assholes who mistreat others so that no one wants to work with them — then the things that you like stop getting made.

    Maybe the lesson here is that to get the things we like, we have to care about how the people who make those things are treated, and support them when they ask to be treated better.

  • Retnan

    Except they didn’t stop being made (Pregler took off and her content was elsewhere), but might stop now that people whining has set off all this outrage from people like you, there wasn’t a new Nostaliga critic episode posted yesterday, hence resentment.

    I can’t control how anyone is treated.

  • Bluejay

    there wasn’t a new Nostaliga critic episode posted yesterday, hence resentment.

    It’s possible that how real human beings are treated is more important than you getting a new episode of your favorite thing.

    I can’t control how anyone is treated.

    Not directly. But content creators want YOUR eyeballs, and their advertisers want YOUR money, so you do have power. If you care about how they treat their people, you can threaten to withhold your views or your dollars until they do better.

    But that’s only if you care, of course. If you don’t want to be a good citizen or a good neighbor, and you just want to be a consumer, then I can’t help you there.

  • Retnan

    I’m a “real” human being, you wanna diss me for daring to be self-interested? So be it.. I don’t believe in boycotts, which would be punishing myself much more than the “bad” people producing the product I like. I had to turn adblock back on anyway after youtube started with these BS double ads, again self-interest and I have no moral problem with that..

    Again, nothing criminal alleged? They were just mean? Boo hoo hoo, seriously.

  • Bluejay

    I’m a “real” human being

    Given the sentiments you’ve displayed, I think you may have actually used those quotation marks correctly. Well done.

    Again, nothing criminal alleged? They were just mean? Boo hoo hoo, seriously.

    So the law has to have been broken before mistreated people earn your sympathy? Coolcoolcool. Glad you weren’t around when slavery was completely legal.

    again self-interest and I have no moral problem with that.

    Got it. You do you. If you’re ever laid off for missing a day of work because you’re recovering from surgery, don’t expect anyone here to shed any tears for you.

  • Danielm80

    Even the late Ayn Rand is reading Retnan’s posts and rolling her eyes.

    I was actually going to say, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch,” but I looked through Retnan’s Disqus feed, and he’s complained about GRRM on multiple occasions.

  • A.K

    Lindsay is atrocious unless you’re are a high octane, cancerous SJW.

  • Bluejay

    Guess we’re all cancerous here. But only to troglodytes.

  • Jurgan

    Wow, what insightful commentary!

  • Jurgan

    The thing is, if management treated the workers better then they’d be able to make more content. They wouldn’t have to waste their time fighting against mismanagement. Henry Ford knew that workers are more productive when they’re happy in their work. If managers drive their workers away through cruelty and maltreatment, that’s the fault of management. Think about it: none of this would be happening if CA had been better employers in the first place.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I see the incel contingent has arrived

  • You’re callous.

  • You can not support endeavors that treat people badly.

  • Sean Ramsdell

    I too stopped watching NC (some of the films he reviewed aren’t that bad, etc)

  • Skullomaniac

    To be fair nobody in Channel Awesome was ever talented or funny.

  • Then how did the channel make so much money?

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