Odd Thoughts: The James Rolfe Ghostbusters ‘Controversy’

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Some may be aware of the recent kerfluffle involving James Rolfe aka The Angry Video Game Nerd posting a video that quickly rose to infamy across the net where he spoke out about how he refused to watch the new Ghostbusters film.  The reaction to the video has been mixed and draw heat from many different sides.  I’ve seen people calling James ‘sexist’ for not backing the new all-female cast, I’ve seen others stand by him and pledging their support to help him weather the onslaughts of “Feminists and SJWs”, and I’ve mostly seen people chiming in with a just a simple “Is this really what all the huff is about?”  And that’s the interesting thought to me. Why is this such a big deal?  A guy can just have opinions right?  Of course.  But how one voices their opinion can sometimes be an opinion in itself.

Let me first say that I am in no way condemning anyone with this post.  This issue was already a massive clash of a growing cultural divide in nerd culture that predates the announcement of this film’s production.  This video was much like that one offhand comment made on a day time talk show that sends the just starting to calm down guests right back in the heat.  James doesn’t want to see one of his favorite movies rebooted.  That’s fine. We’ve all been there with something.  Especially geeks and nerds.  I know I pretty much stopped seeing the Transformers movies after the first one.  I know a lot of people who didn’t want to touch the newest Ninja Turtles or even the 2003 TMNT movie for pretty much the same reasons.  The issue comes from the fact that this movie already had a ton of heat associated with it due to the number of voices decrying it because the cast is female becoming mingled with the voice of people who just aren’t interested, and nothing ever stays simple when gender politics enters the picture.  Likewise, I don’t think the gender flip is a bad thing.  I’d like to see it done more often – especially with reboots.  Explore another side to things.  After all, what good is a reboot if you don’t try to do SOMETHING different with it?  It might not work, but that’s true with anything.  I don’t know if anyone would have wanted to see a shot for shot remake of the Original Ghostbusters either.  But the gender issues being brought to the fore front by this remake are a discussion worth having.  A lot of ugliness has been brought to bare in the wake of this movie’s announcement and trailers.  And everyone who has a personal stake one way or the other in the fight are pretty much coming to this movie with all or nothing mindsets.  We win or we die.

So perhaps it was a wider view of the landscape that James lacked when making his video.  After all, all the video says is that he is going to do a “non review” because he refuses to see it.  And why couldn’t they do a ‘good reboot’ like the Star Trek movies (a subjective comparison if I ever saw one) along with the feelings of how he wasn’t wow’ed by the trailer and all the cgi looks dumb.  So what’s wrong with that? Why am I even writing this?  I can only speak to my problem with the video, one that I have spent several days thinking about what bothered me about it, and say that I honestly think it’s the way he said it.  If it had been made as an offhand comment on Twitter in reply to people wondering if he was going to review it, I don’t think this would have been a big deal.  But this was a 6 minute video: lighting, camera, editing, visual effects, the whole thing – not just to say but to ANNOUNCE that you are REFUSING to see and review a new movie, on your YouTube channel that is mostly video games and classic horror movies.  Oh sure, there’s a few vlogs, but I don’t think that’s what your channel is known for.  Just like I don’t need to produce a 5 minute video to tell people that I don’t much care for the new menu numbers are McDonald’s when everything else on my channel is a Let’s Play.

Also, ‘refuse’ is a strong word. Refuse usually implies a command or a request that you are not willing to do.  If you were working for a paper, and they were sending you to see the movie, then you might refuse.  But no one is telling James to go see it.  In fact, everything else he describes is just that he doesn’t want to.  A personal preference.  But the use of the word Refuse in combination with producing an entire video about said refusal, makes it come off like you are taking a stand, protesting, or just straight choosing to be a martyr for the cause of not seeing this film.  Which is a bit over dramatic, and I can’t say that is what James intended with this.  He probably just wanted to voice his opinion, but the problem there is when you are a public figure – and we cannot deny the importance of the AVGN character or James Rolfe’s contribution to the internet media we have today – that how you say something can doom you.  Especially since this wasn’t a VLOG off the cuff thing but a produced & edited video.  There was time and thought put into this.  So it’s not like you don’t have the opportunity to think about the intent.

I imagine that might be what upset some people about this, why others don’t think it’s a big deal, and why others are throwing their unwavering support behind it.  Because through it’s language, design, and intent it can be all of those things and probably none of them as well.  Am I saying James shouldn’t have made the video?  No.  He has an opinion and his channel is his to say what he wishes on it.  But given his choices when making and releasing the video, there was going to be a volatile reaction.  Given his years doing ‘The Nerd’ I’m sure James is not stranger to all kinds of volatile reactions.  I also don’t think any kind of volatile reaction (barring threats of bodily harm and any illegal act) should be silenced either.  I just wanted to examine exactly why this whole thing even happened, really.  Goodness knows James’ ad revenue with YouTube probably just peaked for the year.

Oh and as for MY thoughts on the new Ghostbusters? Looks interesting.  Reminds more of the cartoon than the movies. Not a bad thing. Will probably check it out and maybe do a write up if I have something worthwhile to say.

Final Thought: Just… don’t go into the YouTube comments on these things.  That should be common knowledge for any Netizen, but I felt in this case it beared repeating.  Seriously. Don’t.

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Posted on May 19, 2016, in Other Random Geekery and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Huh, that video was shockingly calm and measured for something that apparently stirred up a lot of controversy. I guess it’s for the reasons you cite in your post.

    As someone who doesn’t have a very strong connection to the original Ghostbusters franchise (I mostly remember watching the cartoon series a lot as a kid), everything surrounding this new film has seemed very weird. It really shouldn’t be as controversial as it is. The all-female cast is, as you say, just a neat way of doing things differently. On the other hand I thought the trailer looked very lame, but that by itself is hardly something shocking and unusual in the world of film either. You’d think people had nothing else to worry about…

    • Yea, the initial trailer didn’t wow me a ton either. I didn’t think it was appalling or warranted anything near the reaction it got. On the plus side, the UK Trailer that was released today actually had me in stitches laughing. Trailers are weird like that. For instance, the Civil War trailer made the movie look like a lame half-assed Avengers sequel than a Captain America movie to me, but it’s got brilliant reviews and has nearly broke 1 billion in box office. *shrug*

  2. With James Rolfe I was in the group of ”Seriously, THIS is the controversy?” and didn’t really care much for the video. I didn’t think it was over dramatic or completely unnecessary, I actually think that maybe James made a video because he predicted the backlash he would get for a simple tweet (Twitter has proved to be easily mis-interpreted) and at least wanted to fully explain himself before it happened.

    And my thoughts on the trailer? First one sucked and made me not want to see the movie, then when realising that the cast was all woman, I just inwardly groaned at the obvious reaction to the hate it was getting would be. There was no surprise when people started screaming ‘SEXISM’ to explain to hate, granted, there was probably some people doing it for that reason (This is the internet); but the people reporting on the reaction didn’t even get comments that were really that sexist.

    Second trailer? It actually looked like an average film I might want to watch. It reminds me of the Superman V Batman trailers, first on was groan worthy while the others seemed to have gotten a different editor.

    I think this really speaks about how the internet is in regards to differeing opinions now a days. You can’t be mis-informed, unaware or just have different tastes and thoughts. No, you have to have some sort of agenda.

  3. James made the video so that people wouldn’t ask him what he thought of it.

  4. You sound really butthurt. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the way James said anything. It’s probably the most measured and reasonable criticism of a movie which was clearly only made to make money. But I guess a fool and his money are soon parted, so go see it.

  5. you are way too hung up on the word refuse. Attaching to it an overly strong meaning.
    And James probably got a lot of requests since it’s an old franchise he’s known for liking.
    On top of that, it’s a one of two part video where he talks about the third failed sequel that never got made.

    James uses that equipment except when he’s at Mike’s house.

    His videos would all look like that. As long as it’s not a moving camera. And I’m pretty sure this was scripted somewhat.

    • How am I attaching Refuse to a overly strong meaning? It means “To reject” or “To not be willing to accept”. It IS a word that has a strong meaning. Hence why I called attention to it. The fact that it was scripted, and had post-production work done to it, shows it wasn’t just some off the cuff usage of the term like one might have in a Vlog. James is a man who has shown great attention to his rhetoric as noted in his profane but cleverly constructed insults in the AVGN videos, so assuming he is not aware of his own wording would seem belittling of his abilities as a talented wordsmith. No joke there. I truly admire his ability to construct these far out, detailed, and sometimes disgusting mental images out of a sheer string of words. It’s a gift.

      Beyond that, as I said in my post, there’s nothing he needed to address in this video – a six minute long video – that couldn’t have been done in a tweet. The follow up about the failed third Ghostbusters film would have been fine standing alone without this one, and the addressing the requests could easily be done on his own blog or on twitter with a simple message in text – both of which have been used for announcements by Cinemassacre before this point.

      However at the end of the day, it’s a six minute video by an internet reviewer about how he’s not going to review a movie because he’s not going to see it. That’s why the topic fascinated me – the outrage is simultaneously justified and unnecessary and it’s the reaction that interests me far more than James’ actually video.

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