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Film and TV

Porn Jokes vs. Net Neutrality: 2nd Annual Streamy Awards Backlash 'Echo Chamber' and the Future of Web as Entertainment Medium

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Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 10:00 PM

click to enlarge Felicia Day and David Faustino on stage at the Streamys - @SHADHAVARE TWITPIC
Text received April 11, 2010 7:54 PM

"When does this end?"

Text sent April 11, 2010 7:56 PM

"Supposedly in four minutes. Trainwreck? I'm hearing bad things back here."

Sunday night was rough for the web TV community, and by now you've heard all about it. Before we could even begin to nurse our wicked hangover this morning, the blogosphere was already writhing in reaction to the 2nd Annual Streamy Awards, citing fails across the board for the web TV evangelists: technical difficulties, crude humor, a run time of more than three hours, a poorly executed script, etc. Even Twitter got its gossip on with a rumor that the show's sponsor Trident wants its $100k back.

Most of the first-hand accounts and dismal tweets, however, came from those in the audience or the nominees and winners themselves, because backstage in the press room watching the live broadcast on a poor screen projection, we could barely make out host Paul Scheer's facial expressions let alone hear much of what was said on stage. It was another technical difficulty, but problematic for journalists whose only source of information about what really happened during the program became insider-y Twitter streams, texts from within the belly of the Orpheum Theatre where the ceremony was held, or stragglers from the audience who accidentally wandered into the segregated press area while looking for the bathroom.

"That's probably a good thing you can't hear anything," one said. "It's really bad. Way too many porn jokes. Like, graphic." The technical difficulties were forgivable for an event only two years young; it was the tone of the program that was most upsetting to people, who saw last year's optimism replaced by self-deprecating humor and masturbation jokes (and these folks are not prudes).

Jaleel White, Fake It Till You Make It creator and presenter for Best Female Actor in a Drama Web Series, had a different take, however, and told us off stage that he thought the vibe inside "was cool. That's one of the things that's fun about the web community; it's chill. It's like this thing is being put on by a high school play production. It's a good thing in terms of tone, trust me."

Tubefilter CEO and executive producer of the Streamys, Brady Brim-Deforest, told NewTeeVee on Monday: "Last night's show really wasn't in the spirit of how we wanted to recognize the nominees and winners... The show suffered from a lack of cohesiveness. There wasn't enough focus on the awards, it was more focused on the comedy. Last night's show was off that mark and we're very sorry for that."

The general sentiment expressed by those who attended the Streamy Awards was that it let down supporters of the online entertainment community, and even let down some of its talent. According to his tweets, What the Buck? video blog creator and 2010 Best Web Series Host Streamy nominee, Michael Buckley, didn't feel that the awards show provided him with what he came there for (gifting bags, food, and to be celebrated).

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After the show, Best Female Actress in a Drama Web Series winner Felicia Day tweeted an apology to fans, and Best Vlogger nominee iJustine wrote: "I left this event feeling confused, embarrassed and a bunch of other emotions that I still have yet to put my finger on. "

Sure, we all like our entertainers to entertain us and our awards shows to inspire, but this #streamyfail echo chamber overshadows the topic of several winners' acceptance speeches and what should have been the most important talking point -- yes, even more important than the Audience Choice Award -- to emerge that night: net neutrality and the effect corporate ISP regulation will have on the web entertainment community.

A majority of Streamys guests, nominees and presenters wore white ribbons provided at the ceremony to show their continued support for net neutrality, particularly in light of the recent Comcast/FCC case in which a court ruled in favor of the cable giant. As the New York Times noted on April 6, "The decision will allow Internet service companies to block or slow specific sites and charge video sites like YouTube to deliver their content faster to users." Companies will have the right to place restrictions on the web content you watch/download/stream, and will make content creators or providers pay-to-play, so to speak, eliminating equal access. Rising independent web series creators, meet your next hurdle; Comcast says the Internet is at capacity and you're not on the list.

We caught up with a couple winners (and our pals at Mashable) in the press room to get their thoughts on net neutrality, because for an awards ceremony honoring web TV and one that was broadcast world-wide, one might hope that the real message the Streamys audience took away was about protecting the future of their medium, and not dick jokes.

Mark Gantt and Jesse Warren, winners of Best Drama Web Series, Best Male Actor in a Drama Web Series, Best Editing in a Web Series and Best Directing for a Drama Web Series for The Bannen Way:

"I think that it's really important that we fight for [net neutrality]. This is a time and a place that we can't just sit back and let corporate America and all the big boys run what's happening. We should have Internet, we should be able to do it, and get it at a price we can afford, if not free. It's about individuals creating stuff. Taking that away by saying 'we control the pipes' is bullshit."

Barb Dybwad of Mashable:

"Net neutrality is very important and we just had a recent setback when the U.S. court ruled against the FCC saying that they didn't have the power to establish net neutrality rules, which kind of sets back the whole movement. Now we'll have to go through appeal, et cetera. Ultimately, these huge cable companies and pipes and ISPs shouldn't be allowed to throttle bandwidth and traffic and determine what's happening on their networks because that will absolutely decrease innovation on the web. It's bad for you and me, and it's bad for the consumers who are actually using it."

Michael Irpino, winner of Best Ensemble Cast in a Web Series for Easy to Assemble:

"Net neutrality, rock on. I had no idea what [the ribbon] meant; I just thought it was pretty. Everyone's wearing one and so should I. So I found out what it meant and then I took it off [laughs]. No, no, I'm just kidding. [Net neutrality] is important. I think that the Internet needs to be free and it should not have corporate sponsorship and that is something that I'm very serious about. Not kidding. I think the Streamys are brilliant. People can create their own stuff, get it on the Internet somehow and really get their voices heard. It's great. And we did just get picked up for Season Three..."

Check out our photos from the Streamy Awards and see the complete list of winners here. Also, stay tuned for our video interview coverage from the red carpet.

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