Over the past few days a pair of seemingly pragmatic events triggered off a reckless wildfire of futile indignation across the Internet.
The first began when David Chen (host of the popular podcasts The Tobolowsky Files and the /Filmcast) and Joanna Robinson (an observant and humorous editor at Pajiba) announced the launching of their Kickstarter for ten episodes of their Games of Thrones podcast, A Cast of Kings. After a year of spending countless hours watching, discussing, and analyzing the hit HBO program, Chen and Robinson decided that in order for them to continue this endeavor, there’d need be some compensation involved. Contrary to popular belief, putting together a thoughtful show for people to enjoy week after week takes time and energy that could be spent elsewhere.
Immediately after the Kickstarter went live a plethora of self-entitled comments began to surface across the Internet – chiefly on Twitter and this post on Slashfilm penned by Chen. While diligent editor-in-chief Peter Scirretta has removed many of the hateful and ignorant remarks plastered on the article, this one, by the aptly-named “The Devil’s Advocate,” sums up the frustration in a nutshell:
“If you’re not willing to do it for free you shouldn’t do it at all. It damages the credibility and is an insult to the real fans.”
What’s baffling about this comment (and many other like-minded ones) is that it ignores the obvious: this is a model that enables “real fans” of the program to help out if they’d like to. They don’t have to. Chen and Robinson (although this mounting anger among people like Devil’s Advocate would suggest otherwise) aren’t putting a gun to our heads. And to those who aren’t willing to give up a dollar or two to a show they ostensibly “love,” you can still listen the show for FREE. Last time I checked in the real world, most things we love don’t come without a price tag.
The second uprising was ignited when Letterboxd, “a social network for sharing your taste in film,” opened up their doors to everyone. However, contrary to the unlimited and free beta-version, the site implemented a system of “free, pro, and patron” accounts. Naturally each subscription offers something different. The pro (which costs $19 a year) and the patron (which costs $49 a year) includes some added perks and benefits.
Once again, furious, previously devoted members, began voicing their blind outrage publicly. Twitter especially was a firestorm of negativity with many declaring their resignation from Letterboxd. However, the issue in this case was not so much the conceit of making a profit, but the way they went about doing it. Not only was this scheme devised without prior warning, it was seemingly done without much thought for the consumer. To put it briefly, the pro and patron accounts simply don’t offer enough to warrant compensation. Sensible alternatives for people to help out and pay are in order.
Alas, while the anger toward Letterboxd is perhaps a bit more justified, these two events speak to a larger issue at hand: we’ve become a society dependent on the concept that things we like should simply come to us for free, and quickly. In many ways, it seems the Internet has made us forget that there’re actual people behind the products we enjoy. People who have jobs outside of a podcast or a website that truly can’t afford to produce quality material without a fee. We should remember that we don’t deserve this content. A Cast of Kings and Letterboxd were not bestowed to us at birthright. And yet, the responses by far too many continue to suggest otherwise.
Ironically, in the case of Letterboxd and A Cast of Kings folks are merely repulsed by the bare idea of reciprocation, although both still allow everyone to utilize their product for free. This willful ignorance, propagated by an ungrateful, self-entitled milieu too many inhabit, poses a problem we must, if not now, eventually, confront.
21 thoughts on “Futile Indignation from an Entitled Film Culture”
Very well said. I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard about the Cast of Kings podcast, and that the Letterboxd change took me by surprise (just because of how sudden it was) but the free service is still there, and on reflection, $19 a year is almost nothing, and I think I’ll be upgrading my account. When our goals are to create, and write, and tell stories, and when this is something that we want to be paid for, then what right do we have to get angry when people ask for compensation for something that put so much time and effort into?
Ruth, not sure about the Letterboxd situation but for the Cast of Kings podcast it should be pointed out that they held the podcast over the heads of their audience with the ultimatum that either they meet their minimum donation requirement of 3.2K or the show doesn’t return. In addition to that, the podcast produces no original content – it is two people talking about an episode of television that they watch and then billing the audience 100 dollars per produced our in addition to premium cable costs. It’s not as cut and dry as the editor here would have you believe.
I was surprised by the changes as well. I wasn’t totally upset by some things but the limitations on the lists was really upsetting. I’m not sure if I’ll upgrade as I’m just content with what I’m doing right now. Besides, I don’t have the money to upgrade at the moment.
I have a strong opinion on this. For my opinion, please Paypal me twenty dollars.
If you’re not willing to give your opinion for free, you don’t belong on the internet
Wow both these stories have flown totally under my radar. I noticed that Letterboxd release but don’t use it frequently enough to validate getting a pro account.
As for the kickstarter campaign for cast of kings. Its a brilliant move and I hate when people expect everything to be free on the internet all the time.
Well, you touch upon a very interesting point: there is, in fact, a social contract on the internet. Media sites require visitors so they need free content to pull them in. Otherwise they’re irrelevant and their Alexa rating goes down – which makes it that much harder to be relevant. Now here’s the rub: the kickstarter campaign was not so much a request for donations as it was a shake down of the audience – and a majority of users noticed that – and were silenced for positing a discussion of why what was going on was improper. For more information, you can read my post above. I just don’t want one side of this story being heard, so I hope you’ll take the time to read the reasoning behind the outcry.
Agree with the assertion.
I hadn’t heard about the Cast of Kings podcast, and I just don’t get the anger from fans when podcasters ask for donations to keep going. While nearly all podcasters are doing this for fun and not a full-time job, it takes a lot of work and some money. It does say something about our culture at this point when anyone who doesn’t work for free is considered a sell-out. This also relates to many people’s unfair opinion of film critics. It still takes work to be a great film critic.
As far as Letterboxd, I use it fairly often but haven’t noticed any restrictions in the free version. I’ll have to take a look and see if the pro version is worth it. I also don’t have a big problem with them opening up their site and charging for it. It’s a great service, and if the price is too much, there are plenty of similar sites out there.
Dan: it wasn’t a request for donations. The way the writer set up the situation it became an ultimatum – you pay us or we don’t do the show. And it wasn’t just to cover the usual expenses of a podcast – they also want us to pay for their subscription to premium cable (HBO) in addition to giving them approximately 100 dollars per produced hour of the show to do nothing more than recap what happened on the television show with no other perspective than that of fans.
Thanks for the clarification. I just read through your response and discussion with Sam above, and it does clarify the issue a lot. In this particular case, their request for $3,200 (!!) feels pretty crazy. I was thinking of it more in terms of a lot of podcasts that ask for donations to continue functioning but do so in a casual way. This sounds like something very different.
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
There are certain assumptions you present as fact in this article which are false. As I was actually involved in the slashfilm debacle and you were so kind as to quote me as a representative of an “entitled film culture”, I think it’s only fair that you be given the unabridged account of the opposition and not the one that Peter Sciretta saw fit to provide with a most skillful use of the delete and moderation features. And it is radically different from how the opposition is painted in this article. It’s clear you have a lot of admiration for /film but I should point out that Peter conveniently deleted any comments critical of the Kick Starter campaign and then edited his posts to seem more intelligent and claim that the deleted posts were “disrespectful and disruptive” – that was not the case. They were merely critical of the approach and attitude presented by David Chen. While I acknowledge that some comments were made in a negative light, they were not the ones being up-voted and gaining traction. Without the proper context, I can see why you’d think that we’re motivated by a sense of self-entitlement but this is not the case: Entitlement did not drive the opposition to the KS campaign – at least not on our side.
When the post went live, the first red flag was the amount asked: $3200. Several users were perplexed by the amount asked: $3200. There was no list of expenses aside from vague references to needing to buy an HBO subscription and equipment. It seemed arbitrary, and when confronted by it on twitter D.C. responded that the number was arbitrary and not designed to reflect an accurate list of aspects of the project which required funding. The snowball effect began here – other users prodded about the situation until David Chen responded : “It is true that I’m lucky in some ways and I am grateful for that. That being said, I’m not willing to do the podcast unless I’m compensated for it. If people are willing to pay, great. If not, my life will continue. That’s my attitude.” This made the situation clear: if the money was not raised then the podcast would not return.
Now there’s a very big difference between a donation and a requirement. The “outcry” that was experienced came from the fact that this was an ultimatum, not a request. There was no clear list of expenses and we were told simply that in order to bring it back the goal would be met or no one would be able to enjoy it. Joanna claimed that this was not an attempt to extort but it was – they were holding the show over the heads of the /film fans (which is not what my quote is in reference to btw). It would be a completely different matter if David Chen came out and said “hey guys, we’re still doing the show no matter what – but we’re in need of some funds to help continue to bring you the best quality podcast.” That was NOT the approach taken. Instead we were brought down with the attitude that he deserves the money.
Let’s get into the actual Kick Starter itself. Their goal is to help get creative endeavors funded. That’s an awesome goal – but it does have guidelines. Among them: KS may not be used to “fund your life” (specific examples used: fund raise for college classes, buy an object you really want like a camera, etc). This is where the serious misuse of the KS comes in. Now before I get into the problems with the list, I’m going to cite some statistics from the same comment section you quoted me from. A user named ResonanceCascade wrote that he maintains a podcast 51 weeks a year at a cost of 600 dollars. 600 dollars. A fifth of what D.C. asked for in order to produce five times more content. I’ll let you determine how you feel about that for a moment because anyone who pointed that out on /Film got deleted and/or banned. Now let’s get into specifics. Because of this one podcast, D.C. thinks that an HBO subscription should be covered under this crowd source. This is NOT OK. An HBO subscription gives him access to a far wider breadth of material and content than just Game of Thrones. While Game of Thrones is essential to run the podcast, the subscription should fall on him and him alone simply because of how much content he’d be given. Now, I’d be willing to concede the HBO subscription if D.C. didn’t also want to be paid for his time.
Now the actual podcast is little more than two people sitting around recapping an episode of Game of Thrones. They possess no insider information, no exclusive details, and posit theories and interpretations that are, more often than not wrong. The reason they have the listeners is because all of us like Game of Thrones but there’s nothing groundbreaking or creative being put in aside from some sound mixing. So essentially, David Chen wants to be paid to talk about something he is by no means an expert on and is simply sharing his opinion. So let me ask you a question. Imagine you’re a funny guy, your friends think you’re a riot and you’ve got an insightful opinion on the topics of movies and such. You can talk about it for hours and you enjoy doing it – so you do. Would you ask your friends to pay you $100 dollars for an hour or two of your time just to hear you talk about things you have an opinion on? The only answer to this is No. If you think about the /Film model it is mostly reposting information drawn from other sources but there’s no actual creating of original content so comparisons to writers, directors and producers is misguided (and David Chen makes those assertions on his blog as well, so there’s a reason to bring this up). If you were to total the legitimate costs (not including HBO) – Joanna’s new mic, webhosting, taxes and fees on the money raised you would still be left with 2 grand. Which means that David Chen wants 100 dollars an hour for each produced hour of podcast.
Now my original quote is cited as “If you’re not willing to do it for free you shouldn’t do it at all. It damages the credibility and is an insult to the real fans.” While referencing another post I made which Peter didn’t let on the board, I made it clear that this was in response to Chen’s statement that if people don’t pay him then he won’t do the podcast. I went on to point out that I would rather listen to someone who isn’t paid to be their because their passion for the material is what brought them to the table – not greed. The fans I am referring to are NOT the /Film podcast fans but the fans of Game of Thrones that this move is meant to milk and take advantage of. If you want to focus on the behavior of an entitled film culture, you should look at the actions of the slashfilm cast. You may feel they deserve some compensation for the efforts they put in, but do you really think that justifies them receiving an easy grand AND a subscription to HBO for the time they put in? At that point it became a matter of weighing what’s being asked against what’s being given. And I don’t think that one month’s rent and a luxury good/service is a fair trade – not by a damn mile.
The most dangerous point of all this was the precedence that it is trying to set. In saying “we won’t give you this content unless you give us X arbitrary amount”, it’s not a matter of collecting donations. It’s the weaponized monetization of the /Film fanbase. The point is not that we didn’t want or are unwilling to pay for the content – it’s that we didn’t want to OVERPAY for it and we certainly don’t want to deal with the smug self entitled attitude put forth by David Chen. Having actually met this guy in person at a screening he hosted in Boston and seen him in action, I’ve long suspected the kind of man he is and his post only helped cement that he’s not a man who should be followed, paid or even respected. He’s just a parasite bottom feeding off of the hard work of George RR Martin, the writers of the television show, and HBO.
You should know this: the fans of slashfilm helped build that website – we are its life blood and keep it alive. Without us, there would be no purpose to slashfilm. The way the matter was approached was horrendous – but my issues with Peter Sciretta are more directed at his incompetence in addition to the deletion of actually well thought out comments. So it’s a double edged sword – you need your readers but we’ll only come if the content is free. But Cast of Kings isn’t free and the intentions of the kickstarter were not pure – a fact you conveniently forgot to mention in your article. So really, this isn’t about a birthright or anything as melodramatic as you suggest – it is merely the social contract of the internet. And without an understand of that, you lack the credibility to write capably.
But I’ll say this: your writing is competent, if misinformed. Your tone, however, is pretentious, disrespectful and seeped in bias. So the next time you dare call someone out on their ignorance, I suggest you reflect long and hard on your own. I hope this post changes your opinion on the matter and shows the other side of the story you were so quick to dismiss. I sincerely hope you’ll take the time to read this post and address the points. Or you can take the Peter Sciretta way out and pretend that your version of the truth is better than the true version of the truth.
I would never be so ignorant as to ignore your post. I appreciate your comment and providing some context. And if you’ve noticed, I haven’t deleted any of your comments on here … allowing you to explain yourself as you see fit.
Unfortunately, as you mentioned numerous times, it was a bit hard to decipher that cryptic comment section moderated by Peter. That said, I stand by my post. Your comment, whether directed at David’s comment or not, is just a segue into a deeper, more important issue.
I’ll address a few things briefly:
Most of this comment seems to be directed towards David and Peter, not me. Perhaps you should voice your complaints to them, elsewhere.
Also I’m baffled by how you can call my writing disrespectful when you claim David Chen is a “parasite” … a claim so disrespectful that if I wasn’t such an advocate of free speech, I’d delete it.
I won’t pretend my version of the truth is better than the “true version of the truth.” But do realize how silly that claim is. That’s YOUR version of the truth. Another bias. I know you’re bright enough to see that we have different interpretations of this event – and that claiming you’re version is the right one is downright ridiculous.
At the end of the day I do hope you understand the purpose of this post. It was not to pick on you or treat you poorly (and if I did either of those things, I sincerely apologize). The point was to discuss the dangers of the entitlement society we live in – especially in the pantheon of film.
Thank you for reading.
Hm. I have nothing but respect for you after reading this response. Funny. I think you might have just earned yourself a reader. The idea that you would actually respond in an intelligent matter was alien to me – great move on your part. Since I’m done with slashfilm, I think I’ll stick around. 🙂
I’ll be brief: Most of the comment is meant to illustrate the actions those two took in an effort to get a quick but and explain why the opposition came off as “entitled.” I can’t speak to the letterboxd community but I can safely say that the majority of opposition to slashfilm was based on the points i listed above. The real sense of entitlement is coming from David Chen in his demands and the way he demanded it from his listeners. Surely you see that when it’s brought down like an ultimatum, it’s not really provided for free? It’s a subsidy and it’s one taken through ill intent.
Let’s just say this about the nature of truth. Your perception of it appears to be second hand (post-revisionist) – as such you wrote the first part under the assumption that we’re kids with silver spoons demanding what we want for no cost. That’s P.S.’s work. My version of the truth has it’s own bias, yes, but it’s one that’s borne of anger – passions run high when the cup runs low. Together I think we’ve done a good job at projecting a more complete version of the truth – which is the most important thing. I admit that there’s a sense of self entitlement but because of the editing you’re painting the slashfilm debacle into something it wasn’t since you focused on the wrong side.
One last question: do you think that it’s reasonable for David Chen – who produces 10 hours if that – to request that the listeners pay not only for his premium cable but also the equivalence of one month’s rent in his old city of Boston? This is really just something I’m curious on about you.
Now, that I’ve addressed this I’ll have you know that there’s currently a bit of a vacuum for a film blog in my life and because your last paragraph made me smile, I think I’m going to push for the support of this site. Quite a few disgruntled slashfilm fans are looking for a new outlet, so…start advertising. 🙂 Loyalty’s earned and I think you’ve got what it takes.
I’m glad you may stick around. It’s good to hear.
One thing I found particularly fascinating about this comment was …
“My version of the truth has it’s own bias, yes, but it’s one that’s borne of anger”
Isn’t anger typically irrational, lacking reasoning and pragmatism? Strong emotions compel us to say and do things we may otherwise, in a different state of mind, not do or say. You’re fueled by anger, as mentioned, and anytime arguments are motivated by anger instead of reason, I have my doubts.
That said, I do think a lot of your points in this comment are valid. Yes, Chen did a poor job articulating the specifics in his Kickstarter, which he dutifully acknowledged in this article (http://www.davechen.net/2013/02/how-to-successful-kickstarter.html).
With that in mind, I’ll allow Chen to answer many of your inquiries.
And to your last question, obviously I don’t find it acceptable. I’m a human being. Not an unreasonable idiot.
Again, thanks for reading.
The Letterbox criticism is hard to justify, but /Film earned every comment it received. The moment they lorded that ceiling over its readership was the moment they lost a fan.
I agree with your take on things. I think one of the downsides of the Internet is it has come to make many consumers devalue the worth of things because of how many benevolent people craft amazing things they offer up for free. And when these people start asking for some funds in return for continuing their service, people have a way of becoming snooty as if people asking for money to do something they love is simply a cheap money grab.
I think we need to get over that, I think we need to become a bit more liberal when it comes to financially supporting many of the “free” services we receive because while it may be offered for free, it costs time, and often money, for the individual behind that work. It’s something I need to get better about, honestly.
My sentiments exactly.
Wow. Feels like it’s been forever since I’ve been in the comments here but this post just popped out at me for the obvious reason that I notice and agree with your current assesment of the internet.
As it pertains to the nature of @thedevil_sadvocate:disqus in the comments, maybe he isn’t being entitled with his disdainful approach to the way in which Dave Chen is going about it and he has every right to have an opinion and spend (or not spend) his money wherever he pleases I do feel he’s missing one very important part of this equation… IT’S OPTIONAL.
I know a lot of podcasts which tried to enter a pay scheme (one instance was with Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show) and failed because the internet immediately said ‘no’ to giving money to anything…. ‘it should all be free’ which is sad. But moving on.
It’s a choice that Chen and Joanna are doing this podcast and they can choose to do it for free or not. If they choose not to then can ask for money. They can choose to put a minimum number on that. That number is entirely based on how they value their time. As a professional I value my time and know that if someone asks me to do a job I won’t accept anything under a certain number because I know what I can accomplish with that time otherwise… and before you tell me that Chen and Joanna aren’t that highly valued in their work of film criticism I’d happily point you to the successfully funded KS which proves that they are. I’m sorry you seem to be offended by people who are confident enough in their talents that they can put a price worth something on their time, but that’s the story that’s being put in front of you now.
He says that what bothers him is that there’s no real big detailed listing of expenses to justify (what ever happened to the Justified Cast???) the $3200 mark they placed on the project. I’ve seen a ton of projects on KS or IndieGogo where people had required funding of $500K and no accounting system in place… it’s something that I’m very skeptical about with these crowdfunding websites, how do I know whether these guys are just fleecing money from 10000 people on the internet???
As it pertains to Letterboxd I decided (probably a poor decision in the long run, but who cares) to go pro… as a software/web developer by trade I am happy to always see new services pop up and as someone who is more and more disgusted by the ‘free only’ ideas of the consumers on the internet I’m always happy to contribute to a project or cause I see pop up that I like… hence why I went pro… but also I can understand anyone who couldn’t see how it would make any sense to (as at it’s core the site offers nothing more than what excel does but with pictures).
I completely understand one being skeptical. As for Devil’s Advocate, I think we’re on good terms now. If you continue to read the comments it would appear he is now an avid reader of Mezzanine.
Appreciate you stopping by Andrew. Glad you’re back around here.
Not quite satisfied with their current unpopularity. /Film writers now start telling readers to screw themselves.