In 2007, film enthusiast Doug Walker posted comedic film reviews on YouTube under the alias Nostalgia Critic. His style of ranting at the drop of a hat got attention, some positive, others negative (and by negative, I mean 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate accused him of copyright infringement and had the reviews taken down). Eventually, Walker joined Channel Awesome Inc., and became the face of the company. He also worked in management alongside brother Rob Walker and founder Mike Michaud. Aside from a break in 2012 where Walker quit the Nostalgia Critic reviews in favor of other projects, he became an online presence and a beloved comedic film critic, with some fans expressing that his reviews helped them get through dark times in their lives. I myself owe the Nostalgia Critic for the confidence boost I needed while penning a draft for a writing project.
Then the firestorm came.
Beginning in 2014-2015, other content creators for Channel Awesome started a trend of leaving the company and complaining about management. This continued until March 2018, and by this point most people figured these claims were internet rumors and didn’t think much about it. Then, as of April 2, 2018, these former creators produced a 69-page Google document called the “Not So Awesome” document, detailing a history of disrespect, sexual harassment & abuse, miscommunication/no communication, blatant misogyny, and all around unethical behavior. Most of this is due to founder Mike Michaud being an asshole, but the document includes instances where the Walkers either had their own moments of mismanagement or didn’t care enough to speak out. And for the icing on the cake, Channel Awesome released a statement via Facebook and Twitter that basically exemplifies Gaslighting 101. As of this blogpost, Channel Awesome’s YouTube channel has lost 15,000 subscribers and counting, more producers have left the company for various reasons (though some admitted they were motivated by Channel Awesome’s response), and the Walker brothers have not commented on any of this.
To be clear, I don’t hate Doug or Rob, and I don’t want to see the people at Channel Awesome crash and burn. While I was already aware of the brothers’ hubris (they do like hearing themselves talk, after all), I respected their opinions on films, and I still do. I learned a lot about storytelling from watching their reviews and editorials, and at times these videos helped me with some of my personal struggles. Seeing this document released—followed by a pathetic response—is akin to watching a role model grow wings and fly too close to the sun.
All of that said, I believe the producers who created the Not So Awesome document. These are serious allegations, and Channel Awesome would’ve been wise had they not brushed them aside or taken them lightly. Even if things have improved in recent years, the producers who left following the Channel Awesome statement confirmed that communication between management and content creators is still lackluster. All Channel Awesome had to do was say “I’m sorry”—or at the very least specifically address the concerns brought up—and the fact that they couldn’t speaks volumes.
If anyone still at Channel Awesome is for some reason reading this right now, I just want to say this: If there’s any way you can get rid of Mike Michaud, do it. If there’s any way you can improve communication and accountability, do it. If there’s any way you can set things right, do it. Then and only then will I re-subscribe to your content without any qualms. Until then, I can no longer support your channel as a consumer or as a fan.