Youtube vs. Hollywood Part II: The Past 13 Years

If you haven’t already read Part I, let me give you a brief summary: Steve Bannon is wreaking havoc in Hollywood now

A-listers of today and yesteryear are getting raked over the coals, and the celebrity class is in full-blown panic mode now that the Pandora’s Box of sexual crimes has been opened. My article was more or less me congratulating myself on having foreseen this a year ago with the ascension of Steve Bannon from Breitbart.com mogul to White House power broker. Most people think this is just about Harvey Weinstein finally getting caught, ironically, by Ronan Farrow. Don’t kid yourselves. This is Bannon’s planning, and it proves he is a true mastermind. Just read Part I.

There is currently some speculation that Weinstein was earning a reputation as having outlived his usefulness among his tremendous Hollywood network, leading to his public disgrace. I’m chalking that one up to grumblings amongst those that relied on him for a paycheck growing nervous about a noticeable decline in Hollywood business. Basically, actors and studio executives whining about not making enough money, work starting to become a bit scarcer, dwindling public interest, lack of confidence in the current “hyperpolitical-Hollywood” model, and a genuine staleness in the medium of film. Morale is really low right now.

Who needs Hollywood or movies anymore? We have youtube. What’s more, we’ve had youtube for a while now. It seems like only yesterday, if you wanted to watch videos on the internet, you had to go to sites like somethingawful.com or my personal favorite ebaumsworld.com. The choices were limited, but there was some independent content being created. And then, like hearing the telephone ring for the first time, youtube goes live on Valentine’s Day in 2005. A completely centralized and very-user friendly video archive. With nearly everything on it. That 80’s Show reruns, vintage television commercials, how-to videos on anything, documentaries, any kind of music playlist, whatever. Unlimited choice.

It didn’t take youtube long to become an essential for routine internet users. In fact, there really is very little for me to say about the initial impact youtube had on the internet. You already know that. But think for one moment about how that impacted Hollywood, even in the most remote sense. Firstly, films and television were (and still are) regularly bootlegged on youtube, as well as on plenty of other websites. Right off the top, that’s a slice of the pie Hollywood doesn’t get. In retail, the term for that is “shrink”. But then consider that the mere existence of a popular, simpler, cheaper, and more accessible alternative to not going to the movies also hurts Hollywood. Not just the bottom line of the studios is hurt, but the reputation of being culturally relevant becomes more distant.

But youtube’s crown jewel feature is in her name. The best asset of youtube is the true content creators. The ambitious that are dedicated to producing high-quality video content are the very lifeblood of the website. But it wasn’t just about cat videos, tech videos, random viral videos, or old television show videos. Youtube needed creators willing to produce content that functioned as homegrown entertainment. “Internet shows” if you will, to entertain people. The possibilities were limitless, and the opportunity to independently create content that could entertain the world…without all the pesky business of Hollywood…with such ease was and still is phenomenal.

This is where I give credit to whom I believe to be the first true youtube superstars. There have been several. I never understood the appeal of Doug Walker, also known as The Nostalgia Critic. His videos were (and still are) unwatchable, but he is an old school youtuber that kept people coming back to his channel for years. The Young Turks have been making their awful little political channel since the beginning of youtube. Their content is trash and used to be extremely clickbait-ish, but they’ve somehow managed to stick around.

No, the original youtube star is James Rolfe, aka The Angry Video Game Nerd. Taking a favorite childhood toy, the Nintendo Entertainment System, and doing a vulgar (and sometimes horrifying) video with cheesy special effects out of his apartment was the most addicting, entertaining, and satisfying early internet show on youtube, and he earned millions of subscribers and regular fans over the years. The content on his Cinemassacre channel has evolved far, far away from its’ original charm, but I’m struck every time I rewatch one of his older videos. They remind me so perfectly of the original potential and the value of youtube. It is so easy to find an independent content creator that regularly produces something that is attuned to your tastes. It’s just a click away, and then you fall in love with something that doesn’t pay Hollywood a dime.

And then the years add up. More independent content creators add up. More clicks add up. 13 years of Hollywood having to exist in the same reality as youtube adds up. 13 long years of youtube users creating their own entertainers, their own content, their own artistic visions. 13 Years of an internet Hollywood that is by the people and for the people. And instant. And free.

It’s kind of like that old Jack Black movie, where he works at a video rental store and accidently erases all the video tapes. He and his coworker replace the videotapes with simple homemade videos that are much shorter, and the customers find it more appealing than the original film. What was the name of that movie? Who knows and who cares.

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