Comments Can Be Fun: A Response

Michael here,

Today, I woke up to this comment from poster “POPISEN” on the Episodes page of our site (don’t look for it there, I’m trying to keep comments to the blog in order to streamline the look and feel of the site in general). In the interest of fairness, and because of the opportunity for conversation it opens, I’m posting it in full here, interspersed with my reactions to it.

I do this in the interest of conversation. GCC is designed in the Gene Roddenberry ideal that all people, from all walks of life, can embrace the various concepts and ideals of geekdom and enjoy them for their own. Clearly, “POPISEN” is not a fan of that.

I will not be linking to “POPISEN”‘s blog (or his YouTube channel). If you want to see his work, “@POPIDOCLIVE” is his Twitter handle. I discuss his YouTube screenname “theblakelvis” later, but want to mention it here as well. Feel free to take a look at his work, his poems, and his vlogs before you read further.

In the interests of fairness, I’m not going to link any other GCC content in this response either. “POPISEN” gets into a thing at the end of his comment about the show being a “cynical cash grab” and I don’t want him to think that this response is a similar attempt to get clicks. This is Geek Crash Course, not Gawker.

Enough of the prologue, let’s get to the action. Firstly, “POPISEN” starts strong:

I don’t know what’s more atrocious; the stilted hosts, their cloying attitude or the generic, reductive and uninformative reviews. Why make videos that pander to the layman? They [the layman?] truly don’t care enough to even do the most cursory of research. And if they did, they’d read a thorough Wiki long before they happened upon your reviews.

I’m guessing “POPISEN” has only watched one or two episodes of GCC and doesn’t understand the format of the series. The idea of GCC is to provide a quick primer (originally 15 minutes, but cut down to 3-5 minutes as the show has progressed since last July) for big topics in popular geek culture (a ‘Crash Course,’ to coin a phrase). It’s not a detailed examination of topics. It’s “reductive” for a purpose, mainly to inspire viewers to go out and watch/read/play the covered material on their own (hence the Homework segment every week).

On the stilted hosts point: Sorry, you don’t like the way we host. I’ll admit that Diana and I purposefully present “twee,” or artificially friendly, fronts to make the show more presentable. Most of my friends are surprised that I’m capable of smiling, much less doing it on video. This response is not being made by Co-Host Michael, I can assure you of that.

If laymen wants to go read a thorough Wiki, good for them: it means they have the time to read pages and pages of material on a subject they’re curious about. We encourage that. In fact, Geek Crash Course is designed to lead a viewer to do just that. Whether or not they do once the ending credits roll and we show our affiliate logos is their business. We want to inspire interest and conversation. That’s the goal of most content creators. I did not expect our first success to be this vitriolic, but you take the good with the bad.

Why the nebulous category of “geek?” That’s not an actual demographic. The content itself is haphazardly assembled to meet the expectations of the geek, aspiring geek or whatever. Geeks, as you’ve so broadly defined them, don’t really exist. Geeks are particular in their tastes; geeks are voracious, obsessive consumers of “culture.” These videos won’t do anything for them. So who is the target audience here? There’s a perfunctory attempt to be topical, but no true forethought in any of this.

Again, Geek Crash Course is not made strictly for the geek set. “POPISEN” seems to approach geekdom from the same place as Patton Oswalt did in his essay “Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die” for Wired Magazine, in that geekdom as it is now should be torn down to make way for the same exclusivity that existed pre-Internet. As huge a fan of Patton Oswalt as I am, I disagree with that idea. I spent way too much time getting verbally abused as a kid for being a geek to desire the same exclusivity of geek culture for anyone. That last sentence was not designed to generate pity: it was a statement of fact, just for clarification.

Specifically with Marvel, any fan knows that the movies take many liberties with the source material, so much so that the characterizations (sloppy) of the heroes rarely resemble their comic counterparts. The alternative is writers who attempt to consolidate years of continuity into a two-hour movie, the sum of which is usually a by-the-numbers plot and two-dimensional characters. Intimate, or even a working knowledge of the MU [Marvel Universe], should be left at the ticket counter, lest you be sorely disappointed.

Again, we don’t make the show for lifelong fans of geek properties, we make it for their friends, families, significant others, or even newcomers or the interested. Marvel hasn’t generally seen a boost in comic sales from their movies, but maybe a show like ours can help generate at least some interest. I have friends who run comic shops. I don’t want to see their shops fail because of the desired exclusivity of “POPISEN”‘s brand of geekdom.

All this being said, you can’t be making these reviews sincerely nor can you be operating out of good faith. This is a cynical cash grab meant to pander to the lowest common denominator. This is the end result of the rush to monetize all content, original or otherwise. As an actual geek, I find this sort of unseemly and offensive.

I’m sorry if you find the series “unseemly and offensive,” I find your “actual geek” claim equally cloying. Clearly, this is not the show for you. I’ve said in various interviews that the entire goal of Geek Crash Course is to educate newcomers in geek culture in the ideas of geek culture, not old hands in it.

On the subject of money, we’ve made a grand total of forty dollars ($40) in the time we’ve been making Geek Crash Course. That’s it. It takes a lot more to make the thing. Our goal is not money. If that were our goal, we’d be doing a really bad job at it. Diana and I have stable enough finances (she has a job, I work freelance) to create the series and continue to do so because we enjoy making it.

In the interests of full disclosure, we do operate the series under the ideas put forward in the YouTube Creator Playbook, which fellow content creators shared with us in the early stages of making Geek Crash Course. But we’d have run our episodes concurrently with big summer releases because that’s just smart programming. Our Avengers show came out a month before the Avengers movie on purpose, I admit that.

However, this week’s Kingdom Hearts show coming out the same week as E3 was a weird coincidence. Also, KH hasn’t exactly been a massive view-getter. We made it because we like it. We like it enough to put together a video blog just about how we sat down and played a bit of it before making the KH episode because we enjoy it so much.

Now, after getting this comment, I looked to his Twitter feed to try to get a better idea of who “POPISEN” is. It looks like “POPISEN” is the same “theblakelvis” who posted the comment “yo first of all why the snap zooms this isn’t some shitty nbc comedy. 2nd, you guys are insufferable. its all semantics…what’s the term for ‘no real content?’ kthxbye” in the first episode of the New Media Moment (which was designed to be an introduction to the entire format of that show, both for the audience and for Diana and I).

[Sidebar: we agree on the snap zooms, “POPISEN”. I’m not a huge fan of them either, but NMM’s not my show.]

“POPISEN”‘s response was possibly inspired by our lack of response on YouTube (Full disclosure: I did respond to his comment using my personal YouTube account). I wish more YouTube commenters took the time to form formal responses to things. It would raise the level of discourse, frankly. Also, seeing fully formed sentences like “OK? Thanks for your time. Goodbye.” in place of “kthxbye” is something I think my English teachers in high school would quite enjoy.

“POPISEN” took the time to at-tweet, “I saw the show you wrote, edited and co-created. I left a comment. I hope it is an edifying experience.” which got my attention, roused me from bed, and started the process of generating this response. I’m glad he took the time from his schedule to respond to the show. Not sure if this was an edifying experience, but it was clarifying. Thanks for that.

On the point raised by his follow-up tweet: “The comment I posted is ‘awaiting moderation.’ In fear of censorship, what follows is said comment, reproduced in full.” For clarification, we hold all comments to avoid getting spam posted to the site. That’s not censorship, that’s smart policy when making a web site on WordPress. Also, I was asleep when he posted the comment.

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2 Responses to Comments Can Be Fun: A Response

  1. Someone who runs a generic geek webshow as a pretext for hawking CafePress crap accuses me of coarsening the discourse. Wow.

    • To clarify, the Cafepress store was only established so Diana and I could get shirts for New York Comic-Con last year. We left it up and populated it with a few more things because we thought it was fun. The pricing of the goods on the site are not under our control and we make maybe $2 on each sale (we’ve “sold” a mug to my dad, I think).

      The show doesn’t exist to hawk Cafepress crap. If it did, we’d probably mention the store at least one whole time in the 50 episodes of the series.

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