Welcome to this week’s DVD Diggers - Beware the Giant Panda!
Originally I was planning on talking about several upcoming DVDs this week, but then I got up on Rafe’s soapbox. Trying to explain what I wanted to rant about took up quite a bit of space, making this week’s DVD Diggers run a bit long, and having absolutely nothing to do with DVDs. Not that that’s anything new for this column. I’ve ranted about G4-Tech TV and several other tv shows, so why not expand an editorial to something else. This week I want to talk a bit about internet fame and the fact that...
With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility
We point and laugh celebrities all the time. Sometimes they make us admire them, other times they make us hate them, but part of celebritydom is being in the public eye. When they do good stuff they act as a positive role model, and then on the flip side you get bad boys like Dennis Rodman and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
On the internet, you get a slightly smaller celebrity status level, although it does exist. Ask anyone in the video gaming communities and they’ll immediately recognize the name Penny Arcade. Wil Wheaton Dot Net is big with the geek crowd. And then there’s PVP, a successful webcomic that has managed to hit the independent comic business as well, first under Dork Tower’s banner and now with Image Comics. I’m a huge fan of Scott Kurtz’s work - I have a subscription to the monthly comic book and the webstrip is on my daily “must check” websites. I can’t help but laugh every time a Panda Attack occurs (and have the Panda Attack t-shirt) and the new character of Scratch Fury always reminds me of my own cats (and I have that t-shirt as well). So what I’m about to say is not because I dislike Kurtz’s work... I’m a big fan, but I still feel the need to get on my soapbox for a minute.
Last year Scott Kurtz came up with a solution to some letters he was getting. One of the characters in PVP is a dedicated Mac user, and Scott constantly received flack from the Mac crowd that read the strip because he used a PC exclusively. So as a solution to the letters Scott told readers to put their money where their mouths were. With a Paypal account set up, Scott “suggested” readers donate to a Mac fund instead of complaining to him, thereby empowering him to buy a Mac through their complaints, sort of a way of making the complaints constructive.
At the time he set this up I felt pretty strongly against it. I knew, given Scott’s fanbase, that he’d end up getting a Mac. As I said, I check his site on a daily basis, and I see how things work there. When he has a question about something, he posts it on the news/blog section of the site and usually he has an answer pretty quickly. He asks about purchasing something and he gets offers from multiple people. It’s one of the benefits of getting the type of site traffic he gets, but I felt by using that fanbase to buy himself a computer, Scott was misusing that fanbase. I posted to my own blog something along the lines of “if you want a Mac, buy yourself a Mac, but don’t use people to accomplish that, and if you do accomplish it, you should use that money to do something better than a computer for yourself.”
A lot of my frustration came because of jealousy. Scott has made his webcomic successful to the point that it’s his job. He doesn’t pound out a 9-5 at some job he hates and then work on the site on the side. He gets up and works on the site, or on other tasks that are related to his comic - convention appearances, strips for site sponsors, etc. There is no one here at Cinema Blend who gets to claim that, so jealousy was certainly a factor. At the same time, a lot of frustration was just watching a web celebrity misuse his status to accomplish something.
Fast forward to this week, when Kurtz announced he was getting a Mac. Apparently the donations capped off around $1100, too low for Scott to buy a Mac worth anything (meaning Scott would accept a decent Mac for free, but a base level eMac wasn’t worthy even for free). This past week, at the MacWorld Convention, Apple announced the release of the Mac Mini, a small, affordable, BYOD (Bring Your Own Display) Mac, capable of just about anything you can get your iMac or PowerBook to do. Scott’s announcement this week seemed to treat the release of the Mac Mini as something akin to divine providence - the fans had given a certain amount, and now thanks to Apple, that certain amount was enough to provide. As I had foreseen, Scott was getting his Mac.
Needless to say, I’m frustrated again. This time it’s not jealousy, it has nothing to do with Scott’s success at a level I’d love to see CB accomplish. This time it’s complete and total misuse of powers. You see, since last time a lot of people had forgotten about the money, but not me. So what’s the big difference between then and now?
Oh, about 150,000 lives.
Through all of this time, Penny Arcade has run their holiday “Child’s Play” drive, gathering video games and systems for children’s hospitals, outdoing their first year. More recently, a tsunami has killed over 100,000 people in Asia, leaving tons more homeless and without jobs and families. These are just two of about a million causes out there that are more worthy than purchasing a computer with fan money. At the very least you’d think Scott would connect the dots in his mind and realize that if people donated for him to have a Mac, he could set up and collect donations for one of these causes. Alas, it seems that if the cause doesn’t benefit Kurtz in some manner, it’s not worth supporting.
While I will remain a steadfast fan of PVP and hope to continue reading the exploits of Cole, Brent, Jade, Francis, and Skull for lots of time to come, I have lost respect for Scott Kurtz. I thought a lot of the accomplishments Scott achieved until now, making something he loved his life. I’ve never even given him a hard time for having the strip up late on a regular basis, regardless of not having much else to do. But to misuse his internet “fame” in this manner... well, Uncle Ben would be disappointed, and so am I.