Season one, episode 17
This will be a hard entry to write, as I’m friends or friendly with many of those involved with The Streamy Awards. I feel that in light of last night, it’s important enough to not pull any punches for the sake of nicety though. Our community is built on dialogue, integrity, and honesty, so with that in mind I apologize in advance to those whose feelings I’m about to singe.
I’ll be characteristically blunt here and say what’s on my mind: The 2010 Streamy Awards were awful. They were an embarrassment to our entire community and they were the best evidence that mainstream media could ever find to reiterate their belief that online content is no threat. I’ve heard many people say that they believed it set our industry back a number of years in a single night and I honestly do believe the only way to salvage The Streamy Awards and the IAWTV as an organization is for the organizers to issue a very public mea culpa.
I only want to touch on the problems briefly, as others can (and have) spoken more eloquently than I. They’re important to note, so we can avoid them in the future, but more important to me is to begin the discussion of “how do we fix this.”
The biggest issue to me wasn’t the tech, but the tone. Apparently someone at the Awards theorized that because we were coming from the internet, we could be “edgy” and “uncensored.” In practice what this meant was that an industry’s own awards show decided not to be a celebration of achievement, but a roast of everyone involved – audience and performers alike. “Surprise!” it yelled from atop a stage, “You’re the punchline of a joke!”
If I knew nothing about online content and I had tuned into the Streamy’s, this is what I’d have learned: we shouldn’t expect to be taken seriously because even our own awards show thinks we’re hacks; misogyny is funny; flash and spectacle (like musical numbers and fight sequences) trumps practicality (like security, even after having dealt with streakers two night prior); we’re desperate for any celebrities to get involved because we need their validation and acceptance; and someone, somewhere, thought a bit involving a fake porn producer getting a “lifetime achievement award” and repeatedly uttering variations on the phrase “oceans of semen” was on target to the core group of professionals present.
Now that we’re all caught up, let’s talk about the more important part which is how do we make sure this doesn’t happen again. Here are my suggestions:
- An awards “ceremony” just isn’t the right venue for this. We’re not the Oscars, nor should we try to be because it makes us look like we’re desperate to be “mainstream.” A different format is required. One thing I heard several times was “the Academy Awards were a dinner party the first two years.” Maybe that’s the right tack to take – a dinner party of peers celebrating peers – maybe you go another direction, but either way, the “Awards Ceremony” vibe feels wrong.
- Speaking of food: respect your audience. The attendees were subjected to long lines, a shitty ticket pick-up situation, commercials during the presentation, the bar closed 45 minutes into the show (apparently there must have been too much “lobby traffic” if you know what I mean) and no food at either the event or the afterparty (protip: drinks can be optional, but people need to eat every once in a while.)
- Forget about flashiness and celebrate achievement. This isn’t about gloss and hype, and while a nice stage setup gets the “oooh” for the first 5 minutes, it’s ultimately worthless. It’s obvious that this year was “trying too hard” in so many ways – to be mainstream, to be taken seriously, to be an “awards show” equal to the Grammys, Oscars, etc. Three words: Fuck. All. That. Celebrate achievement, work on showcasing quality, and you won’t have to strain your voice shouting “we’re worth all this hype” because people will already know.
- Stop denigrating online content. Look, we can all be snarky motherfuckers (well, except iJustine and Felicia Day, both of whom do a remarkably good job of staying above the snark fray) but there’s a time and a place. Telling a thousand people that their jobs, content, livelihoods, and dreams are a joke, and that the only way they’ll amount to anything is to beg their “betters” (read: “celebrities,” but the unstated implication was made very clear) to slum it in their crappy webseries…well, that’s not gonna go over well. Repeatedly joking that it’s subpar quality, or that there’s no money, future, or reason to get involved only hurts us all.
- It’s the oldest maxim in business: You want to be treated like a professional? Act it. Stop the profanity just for the sake of profanity. Stop trying to be the “edgy awards show.” Stop the masturbation, dick jokes, and sexist humor. It. Is. Not. Funny. Right now you’ve got awards nominees and winners apologizing to their fans (whom they’d asked to join in watching your show.) You literally cannot go more wrong than actual winners telling their fans “I’m sorry I told you to pay attention to this.” The best moments of the night were the classiest: Felicia Day’s acceptance speech; Chris Hardwick’s recovery from what appeared to be some sort of sexual assault on-stage; Auto-Tune The News; Mark Gantt breaking down into tears as he thanked his partner Jesse Warren for believing in him. Emphasize that, don’t give a fake award to a porn site creator.
- Stop trying to be what you’re not, and embrace what you are.
So what would I do if I were faced with figuring out the Third Annual Streamy Awards? I’d remember that at the heart of things, we’re a small community and the awards should be to celebrate the achievement of our peers. I’d pick a host from the community; someone who knows how to work a live room and who is respected amongst the group. I’d hold it at a ballroom and have a couple hundred people attending. I’d have a bar, hors d’oeuvres, and a bunch of tables set up for people to mingle and chat beforehand (and to a certain degree, during.)
Emphasize community, quality, achievement, and highlight that which is worth holding above the rest – stop worrying about what Hollywood thinks, and stop coming off as so desperate to be “mainstream.” Recognize that there’s something very affirming about seeing your friends get the recognition you always thought they’d deserved. There’s something about having your peers come together and say “in this category, we who know this world best find you to be above all else.” That’s the mark we should be aiming for, not “look how wacky we can be because we’re not on television.”
We’re not going to force a mainstream acceptance with a flashy awards show, or by alternately acting like them then acting like we don’t care about them. We’re going to do so by making really fucking good programming, challenging our peers to do better, and making other people aware of what’s best. By showing the world the best of the best, we only help ourselves – as a medium and as individual content creators. By showing them what we did last night, we’re only telling the world “we’re not ready for prime-time,” in all senses of the world.