William Shatner, Red Letter Media, and What Everyone Gets Wrong About Fandom

Never meet your heroes.

I’ve mentioned Red Letter Media before. They’re a YouTube channel that discusses film in a serious way, but with lots of jokes – spoonfuls of sugar to make the medicine go down. They’re different from most cinema nerds on YouTube in that they’ve actually undergone the process of making movies themselves – schlocky B-movies, that they themselves do not take seriously. But they’ve done it. They have some understanding of what it involves, so they talk about the nuts and bolts, which for a layman is an education.

Their infamous 70-minute review of The Phantom Menace taught a whole generation why the prequels weren’t working. Yes, they’ve savaged the Disney films as well. They especially made fun of Rogue One, which is the one everyone seems to love. They’re fair-minded and upfront about their perspectives.

They also do a MST3K-ish panel discussion of bad movies, called Best of the Worst, and they’ve had other creatives on as guest stars. Schlock ninja filmmaker Len Kabasinski has been on a couple of times, as has comic artist Freddie Williams, screenwriter Max Landis (before he got cancelled), comedian Patton Oswalt, and Macaulay Culkin, who’s practically a regular at this point.

I mention all of this because they’re a growing brand that is gaining widespread awareness. They hit 1 million YouTube subscribers recently. People have heard of them. Now, two of the three RLM stakeholders (Mike Stoklasa, Jay Bauman, and Rich Evans) are big Star Trek fans (I’m not going to call them Trekkies, for reasons that will become clear later). They talk about Star Trek a lot. They’re critical of the Next Generation movies, but love the show. They have nuanced criticisms of the recent film reboots. They do not like the more recent Star Trek Series, such as Discovery and Picard. But they stood up for one of the least-liked Trek movies, the 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture – a movie I’ve been wont to dismiss as “two hours of blue stuff”.

These two trends explain why RLM fans may have gotten it into their heads that William Shatner might become a guest on their show. They never invited him, but it became a meme anyway. This is an important point I’m going to come back to later.

Now I’m going to let Mike and Jay explain what happened next:

If you don’t want to spare the 20 minutes, Shatner got tired of being bugged on Twitter by RLM fans to be on the show. He was polite at first, if a bit shakey on the definition of “podcast” (which is fine, as “podcast” has a shakey definition). Then he started being less polite, then he started casually dismissing the RLM crew, watching tiny snippets of their videos and picking nits. This being Twitter, the volume increased, until the RLM guys had to stop what they were actually doing to announce that this was all a tempest in a teapot and it should all go away. Mike ends with the words “Leave him alone, because I just can’t take Captain Kirk pulling up pictures of me on The Nerd Crew (a satirical show they do) set, and calling me a moron. I just can’t take it.”

That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. That video came on Thursday, (July 23rd). Yesterday (July 27th), Shatner unloaded both barrels at the RLM guys with a Medium.com article called “The Toxic Empires of Egoligarchies“. If you’re having a hard time getting past the title, I’ll summarize it for you: Shatner didn’t watch the video, even though he used pieces of it, and brings in GamerGate and a host of screencaps to prove that… RLM sent its fans on Twitter to harass him.

In William Shatner’s mind, this is the only possible explanation. Three guys from Milwaukee have a zombie horde of fans that they can turn on and off like tap water. That’s how fandom works.

The absurdity of claiming, in the face of no evidence, in the face of all contrary evidence, that the RLM guys signaled their fans to harass Shatner staggers the imagination. The entire pretentious diatribe (truly an accomplishment for Medium, a platform that specializes in transmogrifying peoples’ shower thoughts into “essays”) has enough circular reasoning in it to flatten a trailer park.

William Shatner knows better than this. William Shatner has had to deal with his own fans being out of control. So has George Lucas. So has everybody who has a fandom. Fandoms (oh, I how I loathe that word) are not armies, sent out into the world like digital stosstruppen to do their master’s bidding. If they were, then Red Letter Media, which is based on fans being critical of product, couldn’t possibly exist. Fans are human beings, and act along the gradient of human behavior. Some of them will be monsters, and some saints.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was small. I’ve never gone to a fan convention. I’ve never bought a lightsaber or any other Star Wars paraphanelia. The only T-Shirts I have were given to me as Father’s Day gifts. I sold my old box of Star Wars toys at a yard sale for $5. More to the point, I think people who do fill their house with junk and go to such conventions are spiritually depleted dorks. Am I still a fan?

Art is a worthy topic of discussion. That’s why I have articles about Star Wars on this blog. But art is meant to be enjoyed, considered, and critiqued, not worshipped. Liking something is not a substitute for an identity. The RLM guys get that, which is why I watch their YouTube channel.

But I would never bother an octogenarian actor on Twitter to be on their show. I don’t understand why anyone would. I think doing that is just brainless schoolyard trolling, of the kind that makes Twitter nothing more than a blood-pressure surge device. Anyone who bugged William Shatner about a YouTube channel he’s never heard of is a waste of a rational soul. There’s no reason for it; you didn’t achieve your goal, and you manufactured the phoniest kind of drama in a world that is filled with real-life, actual drama. You are shrieking gibbons flinging poop and bits of half-chewed berries at the gravestone of our culture.

Now ask me: am I still a fan?

Go ahead, ask me.

My Interactions with @REALBROTHER0003 and the Banality of Twitter

A few days ago I tossed off a rather unremarkable post called “Self-Hating Honkies and the War on Easter“. Not much to it, really. In the post, I linked Stacy McCain, who gave me a shout-out on Twitter, as befits a gentleman and scholar.

This must have coincided with an ongoing spar with one @REALBROTHER003, voice of what he calls the Real Brother Radio Show, about which, I must admit, I know little more than nothing. I say that because I was visited with this:

Now, the first part of this tweet is correct, if someone pedantically so. Ethnicity and religion aren’t identical. But is intolerance for a different religion really so different from intolerance for a different race? Are not both essentially based on fear and dehumanization of Teh Other? But whatever, score him the point. The second part is probably what drew me in. It’s almost hilarious in it’s rush-to-judgement, a too-perfect expression of “RAAAAACISM!” I had to read through the man’s tweets to make sure he wasn’t being ironic.

So I engaged:

This earned me a counter-thrust, complete with ALLCAPS capstone:

Ah. The cri-de-couer of the Reality-Based Community. How authoritative. I probably should have taken my cue and left things be at this point, but somehow, I plunged on, determined to see if I could get past the rhetorical armor:

I thought my hashtag would provoke a different line of attack, but he just doubled-down:

We now have an entirely Manichean worldview: the Land of Reality, and Bizzarro World, presumably filled with Racists. I have been judged and landed in the second place. Which is not really telling me anything new, so at this point, I got bored.

I suppose I had one last hope that my refusal to jump to his bait and moan “But I’m not a racist! Honest-to-gosh! And I don’t live in Bizzarro World either!” would at least give him pause. But @REALBROTHER003 has no truck with my contempt, and returned it full-force:

You have to give the man points for on-message consistency. And since I scored not one but two ALLCAPS explostions, I suppose I was getting under his skin that little bit. At this point that I summoned the interest to discover what TKCAL was all about: it seems to be an anagram for @REALBROTHER003’s name, Theron K. Cal. He’s also an independent filmmaker, with his own IMDB page.

Incidentally, the Urban Dictionary has three definitions for TKCAL, all of them referencing Theron, and none of them complementary (one of them is by “Real Brother’s Worst Nightmare,” which doesn’t sound terribly objective. This was the first link on the Yahoo search engine, as a matter of fact. So I’m guessing he puts that in all his tweets; reclaiming the name and all of that.

Anyway, I sent one more shot across the transom:

And that was that.

It’s not the worst conversation I’ve ever had on Twitter. I once got blocked by someone calling herself “Jezebel” (not @jezebel) because I wouldn’t let her give Bill Maher a pass during the Limbaugh-Fluke kerfuffle without calling her on it. Her tweets were hysterical in every sense of the word, and the block came when I told her that she had no idea how funny she was. @REALBROTHER003 was dignified by comparison.

But still, what a waste of time: a diary of two people not talking to each other. He shouts cliched insults, I sneer and condescend. He makes assumptions about me on nothing, I make assumptions based on little more. And that’s what we had: two assumptions with @-signs blabbing. What did we learn? Nothing, not even about each other.

And this is the media that delivered the last election? That sounds about right.

Piers Morgan, Freedom Fries, and Other Jokes That Progs Don’t Get

Right now there’s apparently a White House Petition to get CNN jawflapper Piers Morgan deported to the that happy realm whence he came. Something to do with his flubbering commentary on Newton and the 2nd Amendment. I haven’t read it, and I certainly haven’t signed it. Because punishing idiotic speech is not what we do in America. Middle-Class Englishmen with tony accents are always welcome here, even if their understanding of American law, liberty, and culture is no better than your average working-class yob with a few pints of Newcastle in him (stereotypes: they never get old).

Unfortunately, Morgan himself doesn’t seem to know that:

Dear me, what a sticky wicket! Like to chuff one’s chips down the apples and pears! Narky! (I have no idea what I’m saying).

Now’s probably a good time to mention that none, or very few, of those who’ve signed the petition actually want Piers Morgan deported. And even if they did, almost none actually expect it to happen. Even if President Obama was terribly interested in checking the visas of European immigrants, he’s hardly like to expel a man for agreeing with him on what should be done in the wake of Newton. So Morgan need not worry. He’s got a home in the USA so long as CNN can pretend his ratings can only go up.

So why are we bitterclinging wingnuts bothering? Aren’t we just making asses of ourselves, diminishing the dialogue, making a big deal out of nothing?

Probably. But consider this:

This is what no one ever got about “Freedom Fries.” OBVIOUSLY French Fries weren’t really going to be renamed. OBVIOUSLY a Congressional resolution to rename the items on the Capitol Menu was an utter waste of a legislative session. OBVIOUSLY the whole thing was juvenile and stupid.

But what about the message that it sent? The disrespect to a valuable ally?

Every now and again, we on the right like to blow off a little steam, stick our fingers in the eye of whoever happens to be irritating us. It doesn’t accomplish much, but it lets us find an outlet for the frustrations we suffer sharing a country with socialists and the useful idiots who love them. The French were being rather annoying back in 2002, so Congress found a creative way to remind those cheese-eating surrender monkeys that we hold them in as much contempt as they hold les laides americains. And unlike similar events in European history (War of Jenkins’ Ear, anyone?), nobody got hurt.

The effort to run Piers Morgan out on a cyber-rail is much the same. It will accomplish jack mixed with squat, but it gives us a way to be obnoxious to a man who drives us to drink every time he unbuttons the flap on his pie-hole. It reminds the triumphant progs that we are not quite dead yet. And it reminds those recalcitrant mopers who still can’t believe that Mittens lost that there are better targets for bitter japes than our fellow wingnuts.

And besides, as I tweeted to Piers:

Never let the redcoats get too comfortable.

Twitter: Where Dissent is Punished.

The Progressive celebration of free speech continues.

As our late-night-owl readers know, after Twitter reinstated conservative activist Chris Loesch’s account in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning, the progressive flag-spam lynch mob — a vicious group of free speech-squelching Twitter users who trigger automatic suspensions by falsely “mass reporting” conservatives as “spammers” — took him down again and again.

Other McCain offers the Marcusian rationale for silencing people in the name of tolerance. At Protein Wisdom, Darleen Click notes the “hit list”.

But don’t call them fascists. It hurts their iddle feewings.

Let's go liberate stuff from being different from us!