Let me see if I can summarize this well enough. Channel Awesome was until recently what’s known as an “aggregator” site, a place that hosted other videos, created a community where people could interact and set-up crossovers with other reviewers. It was pretty much one of the first, and led to the birth of other sites including one I was on, the late Reviewers Unknown. Channel Awesome was responsible for the rise of a new type of review, one that fully analyzed what movies and other media did right or wrong, willing to spoil the whole story to give it a proper scrutiny, as well as doing so with jokes, skits, and storylines. This made the review as much an entertainment source as the medium being analyzed.
Then came that infamous day, when one former contributor got tired of people acting like her time on what was basically the Carnegie Hall of internet reviews was the best thing ever and finally let out all of the problems she had during her time on the site. Other contributors, including a few who were still on the site, started sharing their stories all over Twitter. Soon stories none of them had heard before were coming out. It wasn’t just mismanagement of the anniversary movies or other “backstage” failings. There was talk of harassment, sexual harassment, and even sexual assault! Soon a document was created to condense these stories in one spot. (I’ll link to the condensed version but there is a link to the full version in the Google document.) But what really sent most of their contributors away was the response, attempting to blame the producers and accuse them of lying. And that’s when things took a turn for the worse, something that shouldn’t have been possible.
In the document one “Anonymous 1” accused one of the former producers of “grooming” her as a sexual plaything. She thought the other producers knew but they didn’t. All agreed to avoid names not only to protect the victim but the perpetrator more out of respect for his family, and you’ll see why. However, in CA’s response their (poor) attempt to prove they handled the situation properly not only revealed a second victim (who later came forward on Reddit) but was so poorly censored that it was easy to figure out who the sexual predator was…Justin “JewWario” Carmichael.
This news was probably the most devastating yet. After “J-Dub” left Channel Awesome, appearing for a time on the video game review site Retroware, he retained and increased his level of popularity with livestreams and content focused on games from Japan that were still playable to US audiences and even gained financial backing for his passion project, the Japanese superhero parody FamiKamen Rider. (The Famicom is the original Japanese name for the Nintendo Entertainment System.) Also, he had committed suicide in 2014. There was a huge funeral at I believe ConBravo or MAGFest. He was very much beloved.
There was even a tribute movie which I helped promote on this website because I also believed in his work. Farewell, FamiKamen Rider was an original movie based on his planned concept, done out of pocket by his friend Kaylyn “MarzGurl” Saucedo and her husband Josh. It featured other friends in cameos or as other characters, plus some original performers who didn’t know Justin except as JewWario if that. To create such a work only to learn the man was capable of such horrible acts has to hurt. In what she hopes is her last video on anything related to Channel Awesome for a while, Saucedo goes into her thoughts on the whole mess…and helps me figure out what to do with my postings as well.
According to the extended document Channel Awesome management wouldn’t let one guy do a tribute to the late reviewer because they wanted it handled by the big talent, not by the podcaster that Mike Michaud seemed to hate personally. So when she says they care that little about Carmichael or his legacy I believe her. The sad thing is according to Sovrn, the link suggesting service WordPress works with, “JewWario” links to Channel Awesome’s NEW site, created after his suicide. (“Mike Michaud” brings up some politician from Maine’s Wikipedia entry.) I do understand why nobody told his grieving widow. To have to learn this while still dealing with the fact that she was locked out on the other side of the door when he pulled the trigger (according to reports at the time) and then to hear years later that he was a sexual predator? That’s a cruel thing to do. Please send your prayers her way because she was not aware of any of this as far as we know.
You also have to wonder what drove him to do what he did to these women? Was it the same inner demons and fowled-up brain chemistry that led him to depression and later suicide, or was he just a horrible person? Did his conscience catch up to him and he decided to remove himself from this world? We may never know, and only God knows now. While I’ve never done anything as bad as what he did I know my own social failings have led me to do say or do things I regret in certain situations. What we can all agree with was that what he did was horrible and the response by people who contributed with him and those who thought he was one of the greatest men ever only to be shown this dark side of JewWario is both understandable and to a point justified. It’s not fair to blame his widow. It’s not fair to expose the identity of these women, either to get on their case or (as certain news editors have done or claimed to be doing in rape cases) to force them out to convince other women to speak up…like we need that these days considering what’s happening in Hollywood. If anything, you are joining CA management in ruining the lives of those who are not responsible for Carmichael’s actions. So knock it the @#$# off! Besides, the man’s dead. We can’t exactly punish him now so don’t take it out on the innocent or the victims.
As to keeping Farewell, FamiKamen Rider up she also makes a good point there. Although it turned out that the man they eulogized was not deserving of it (including the huge funeral for fans and all the other tributes) the work itself was really good for the budget. The costumes, sets, and performances were done out of love, and that’s for the people involved who knew him, either in person or through the livestreams. The rest did it for the love of the craft of filmmaking. Why should their hard work go away? As hard as it is to see this man praised for the things he did, maybe something good can come out of this. Like I wrote in Sunday’s Jake & Leon comic.
For the horrible things he did to the two victims we know of and who knows how many we don’t, not to mention betraying his wife and lying to even his closest friends, his work still inspired others, which granted doesn’t make up for his evil. His Japanese import game review show inspired others to try games they probably wouldn’t have otherwise and find some fun out of. His videos made other laugh and think. There is a reason the Indiegogo for FamiKamen Rider did as well as it did and so many tuned in to his livestream, even passing around his “you are not stupid” monologue after his death. Saucedo is going to have disclaimers on her video and turn off the comments. It’s no longer a tribute to the man but to what people can do for something or someone they believed in, even if that person turns out to not be what you thought.
And that’s why I plan to do the same with both my posting of the movie and the tribute post I posted as well as this article you’re reading now. As soon as this goes live on the website I’m doing just that so I can link back to this commentary. I never knew the man. I talked to him on Twitter a couple of time but so did a lot of people. Two of my online friends were good friends of his, and one was even involved with all three incarnations of FamiKamen Rider. (The review show, the proposed series, and the tribute movie.) However, I enjoyed his work and that work inspired others. It’s irresponsible to sweep away what he did, as Hollywood and the music orsports industries likes to do with their scandals. (Anybody remember what Rob Lowe did with teenage girls? When’s the last time you heard Chris Brown’s beating of Rhianna addressed? And you don’t think the Harvey Weinstein mess is going to go away? Let’s not even start on politicians who get away with this and worse.) Even the comics industry has been guilty of that lately. We really need to fix this problem.
There is nothing that will make up for what Justin Carmichael did but if his tale can serve as a warning to others not to put celebrities on a pedestal like they’re somehow better than mere mortals (they’re just as human as everyone else, for good or evil, and people have been fooled by even their neighbors), if his work as JewWario can still inspire others to create amazing things without committing the same inhuman acts he did, then maybe some good can come out of all this tragedy. One can only hope.