Started in 2003 and rising in popularity thanks to the Halo parody machinima series Red Vs. Blue, which showed artificial intelligence wasn’t the only intelligence Master Chief’s fellow Spartans were lacking, the group known as Rooster Teeth has managed to grow into a major entertainment company, focusing primarily on web series, with some merchandise and games being based on their properties. RWBY, an anime-inspired fantasy series, is probably their most well know series. However, they also acquired the Screw Attack library, spinning off their popular Death Battle series into it’s own franchise under the Rooster Teeth brand as well as the new home for Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy after Go90 and Machinima (the brand name studio) both went down. That previous sentence pretty much represents my only current interest in Rooster Teeth, so judge the rest of this article on that disclaimer. Said article comes on the heels of this recent announcement.
The full story is that after their recent support of the controversial #BlackLivesMatter movement they’ve decided some of their years-long library doesn’t quite fit with their current opinions and values, which also includes support for the LGBTetc community. So they have opted to either remove those videos or in some cases merely add a disclaimer to the page or video as a “trigger warning”. (Bet there won’t be any for any religious bias.) Some people are all in favor of it and some are against, and my opinion may become obvious during this article or not. There were posts concerned that they were being bullied into this, which has been how “cancel culture” has been operating in entertainment circles recently. If that’s the case then Rooster Teeth is making a mistake and bowing down to people who may or may not watch those shows. However, if this is an honest reassessment based on their current world view they aren’t YouTube, who claims to be a platform but lately has acted like a publisher. Rooster Teeth is a publisher and thus can do whatever they want and take whatever the consequences are, positive or negative, from those actions. I’m not going to sit here and tell them how to run their own site. However I do have a few suggestions they should at least consider when deciding the future of their library.
Note some of the videos contain swearing and two senior citizens in facial mud.
Probably the best advice I can give, and the one they absolutely should follow, is to warn their viewers ahead of time if a certain series or episode is going down. If it’s going down temporarily definitely warn them that’s what’s happening, though to be honest re-rendering a video just to add 15 seconds of text seems like a waste of time and computer resources. Stick the disclaimer on the page and get back to something important. However, if you’re going to take a video down for good, you need to explain why. Don’t take the easy route and give some broad “it no longer fits with our brand” description. WHY doesn’t it fit your brand anymore. Is there a particularly offensive joke or is the plot of the episode itself something that concerns you enough to drop. Be extra careful if it’s an important episode in a series with a continuing plotline.
Additionally you should give advance enough warning that the fans can rewatch the episode to see if they agree with you or not, especially if members of the alleged target group, I guess actual black people in this case, find it offensive. Despite what Joe Biden thinks not all black people think alike. I know a few who disagree with the movement whose support led to this decision. Maybe THEY don’t find it offensive and want to state so. Maybe it’s even one of their favorite episodes and if it’s going to disappear they’d want a way to save it. Heck, here’s a way to at least temporarily boost your financial subscribers. Let subscribers download the “offending” video if they desire to keep it (if they don’t they can just ignore it…though granted they could also not watch it in the first place but that’s up to the consciences of the managers) and give them maybe two weeks to a month to grab it before it disappears like Song Of The South. Then if someone wants to save the canceled episode they have to subscribe, at least temporarily, in order to do so. They may even find other benefits and stay subscribers. It’s a good win for everybody.
It should also be noted that not every show was created BY Rooster Teeth. The company absorbed ScrewAttack, a video game website that also made the Angry Video Game Nerd famous. While James Rolfe took his IP with him as part of his own Cinemassacre brand until recently old ScrewAttack shows were still available on the Death Battle YouTube channel. (Death Battle was originally a ScrewAttack series that Rooster Teeth turned into its own franchise.) While a fan archive of other old ScrewAttack shows exists it would right to give to give any shows from that library to Stuttering Craig (who just opened his own YouTube channel recently for a podcast series) and Handsome Tom (who left to form The Game Heroes, which has since stopped making new content) an option to get their shows back. If Rooster Teeth doesn’t want to do anything with it I’m not even sure they should charge for it. Otherwise it’s a dead show and that show’s fans won’t be happy if they couldn’t see it again, especially if its one of their favorite episodes and don’t see the episode the same way.
Their other acquired show, and one I doubt has any episodes on the list, is the three miniseries that makes up the Prime Wars Trilogy, which they hosted after Go90 went down. While the new “War For Cybertron” series went to Netflix, where I can’t see it, I would like to get through “Power Of The Primes” before it disappears. So I know I’d like a warning there.
Also think about why you’re taking the video down versus the disclaimer. Hulu, inspired by the same movement and series of events, took down an episode of The Golden Girls because it made a joke about blackface. In the episode a group of black women arrive just as Blanche and Rose are wearing a mud mask, a special mud that supposedly clears up skin or something. I don’t use the stuff so I couldn’t tell you. However, the joke does speak to the theme of the episode, “Mixed Blessings”. In the episode Dorothy’s son wants to marry a black woman twice his age. Dorothy is upset by the age difference while the fiance’s mother is upset her daughter wants to marry a white man. The gag in question, which as you can see is unavoidable in a key moment in the episode, speaks to the racial divide as the two women are all defensive about the mud mask, when you can clearly see that’s what they’re doing. Meanwhile the episode actually speaks positively about interracial marriage and defends the age gap in some couples, so taking the episode down could also be seen as racist and favorable to continuing the racial divide. I’ve made my thoughts on that nonsense pretty clear. The Golden Girls has also shown gay people a lot of respect during its seven seasons.
It’s not only important to see if whatever moment in the video is offensive but to look at the context of the line. Is it appropriate to the character, or to that period in history, either when the story is set or when it was made? That was the defense of Gone With The Wind, which we all thought was going to take it’s own name out of context and do just that. The depictions were important for that time period and Hattie McDaniel beat out her own co-star (who passed away earlier this month) to become the first black woman to receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Having that movie join Song Of The South would be a major mistake not only for cinema but culturally given how influential it was there. I don’t think anything in Rooster Teeth’s line-up but my point is they need to actually examine how it is used and not just give their own properties a surface look like so many of the cancel culturists out there on Twitter. The advance warning would give the actual members of the allegedly maligned group to speak out in defense of the episode or in support of the removal. Do not think to speak for others because no one group agrees on the same thing unless they’re part of the same movement.
Wow, that’s really unpolished compared to current episodes. Even Wiz and Boomstick sound different. Respect your history folks, because that’s where you came from.
Again, Rooster Teeth can do whatever they want, and they have to decide if something on their site doesn’t fit their brand or their conscience. Just remember you aren’t posting in a vacuum. Fans are starting to push back against cancel culture and sites they see as “going woke” (leading to the phrase “get woke, go broke”). Choose your next actions carefully but be true to yourselves, not internet bullies or activists who may not even watch your content. In the end you are beholden only to your fans, and if enough of them are on board one way or another you’ve made the right decision. If you’re okay with that, then feel free to do what you think best. In the end you have to enjoy what you’re doing, especially in the creative fields where it’s essential to love your work. Otherwise your shows will suffer and your fans won’t be fighting over whether or not to keep a video up…because you won’t have any left no matter what you decide.