Until G4 Reckons With Its Past, I'm Not Watching

It's sort of weird that I remember the accompanying sound effect to this image.
It's sort of weird that I remember the accompanying sound effect to this image.

As is the norm on my blogs, I want to start with a disclaimer. Despite my blog's content and tone, I wish everyone who is currently under the employ of the revived G4 channel the best. For example, Ron Funches and Austin Creed are phenomenal hires, and they are rightfully excited to showcase their "best stuff" to a wider audience. Both are bombastic personalities that warrant building a new entertainment platform around and supporting with a production crew and budget, and that sentiment applies to the other new hires. Everyone signed to the label appears to be well-known entertainers with distinct personalities and perspectives that rise above the usual Twitch streamer/influencer. Finally, I want to clarify that I do not want any of what I am about to share to justify unwarranted harassment directed at any person associated with the brand-new G4 network. My issues are mainly with the network's new leadership rather than its latest batch of talent. To everyone who has secured a job as a result of G4's attempted "comeback," I say, more power to you, and GET PAID!

With that in mind, let's go ahead and talk about G4's "A Very Special G4 Holiday Reunion Special." Like many, I streamed the event live because G4 had a presence in my household while I was growing up. The channel's original programming was something I tuned into regularly, whether it be Call For Help, X-Play, Attack Of The Show, Judgment Day, Electric Playground, or many other shows that are on the tip of my tongue. I was young then, still en route to graduate from high school, but willing to watch this content even as I began to seek video game and tech editorial content on the internet. I'll even go one step further and admit I watched a TON of the network's repackaging of Sasuke (i.e., Ninja Warrior) as its original programming began to take a back seat. I'm not going to attempt to diagnose what caused me, and millions of others, to abandon the network, as I feel it's not a secret. Nonetheless, when G4 announced its revival earlier this year, I couldn't help but feel like I had to give it a shot. So, I tuned into its "Holiday Reunion," and in doing so, reached a pretty stark conclusion: I don't think I can watch the new G4.

Before we get into my reasoning for this statement, I feel motivated to share a niggling complaint unrelated to my most significant issues with the rebooted G4. That is to say: I cannot stand how the new network is being advertised and promoted. As you can see in the image below, everything about the new G4 reeks of the same tech-bro smarmy and passive-aggressive upper-management culture that seems to have permeated every multi-media endeavor for the past fifteen years. Their "edgy" use of Twitter has all the authenticity of every "sarcastic" corporate Twitter account that has cropped up the past five years. In fact, it's a weird anachronism to see a network try and bill itself as being "on the cutting edge" of gaming culture while also employing the same social media playbook that Applebees and Sonic the Hedgehog have used time and time again. Honestly, it would not surprise me if G4 took quotes from this blog, mind you, written by an amateur, out of context as part of a shitty viral advertising blitz about how it is "listening to its fans" with the end joke being they are aware of their critics. However, the more significant issue this presents, and this is something we will jump into shortly, is that these leaders have bought into a "myth" that G4's original run was without flaw and will translate perfectly into the year of our Lord, 2020.

bleh
bleh

Speaking of which, let's return to G4's much-ballyhooed "reunion" of old-time staff and its introduction of its new presenters and personalities. As to be expected, this was accompanied by a well-produced mini-documentary annotating the history of the network and its rise. What caught my attention was its attempt to depict G4 as a "trailblazer" in providing women visible opportunities to speak their minds about games and gaming culture when other media platforms supposedly did not. Clearly, I did not buy this for a second. Instead, whole swaths of the documentary pissed me off. First, ignoring the fact Olivia Munn and Morgan Webb endured waves of sexual harassment and personal attacks, at no fault of their own, from their employer's very own online user-base, is shitty. I get it is not a topic you want to bring up, but presenting both as figureheads that came into the G4 fold without issue ignores the toxicity they faced throughout their careers. In fact, it highlights how the new G4 has no clear message on how it intends to moderate and deal with toxic behavior or sexual harassment. Which, in 2020, is a problem. Do these executives honestly think they can jump into the industry, in the middle of a console war, and believe their network can avoid these sorts of issues or topics? If that's the case, good luck with that, but I can say as someone who has been a moderator on a video game website for ten years now, that will only last for a few hours! Likewise, there's a more existential question on whether a gaming television network should only present the happy and bombastic side of gaming culture, without any of its warts.

Second, and this is something even the most ardent of G4's supporters cannot deny, the original network had a pretty heinous reputation for how it depicted women on television. Yes, there are many great examples of female presenters fighting through the noise to share their perspectives on various gaming and tech topics. Nonetheless, suppose you were to tune into G4's original run. In that case, you will find that most of the on-camera female personalities were treated like objects no differently than E3 booth babes. For fuck's sake, Judgement Day had an entire segment wherein they had models awkwardly display third-party gaming accessories, with the male hosts occasionally commenting on their attractiveness. Cutting out this part of G4's past is the right call, but the new leaders of the network should have complemented that with a statement of gender inclusivity. They can't just pretend this sort of sexism never happened during the channel's previous run! Rather, it would help if they guaranteed that the "new" G4 has learned from these mistakes and will endeavor to do better.

However, let's return to the figureheads the renewed G4 welcomed with open arms during its reunion event. Now, look, Adam Sessler probably has to be in this homecoming. And I say that as someone who has been perpetually disappointed in how he has conducted himself on Twitter since the demise of Rev3Games. You can't not include him on this rebooted network, but at the same time, providing him with a platform does not sit well with me. For those unaware, the reason for my squeamishness comes from Adam's track record of being a "grump" on Twitter and not knowing when to stop. Before G4's reboot, the guy would not stop picking fights with random Twitter accounts and being a powder keg for waves of toxic behavior. This includes when he engaged in language, some found to be transphobic and replied to the situation with a proverbial shrug. Regarding that last point, it was incredibly disheartening to see Mr. Sessler refuse to accept any accountability even when his closest allies and friends begged him to do so.

The Ron Funches part of this deal was great.
The Ron Funches part of this deal was great.

Admittedly, whenever I bring up the issue of Adam Sessler's shitty Twitter behavior, his defenders point out that he has been public about dealing with bouts of depression and anxiety since X-Play's cancellation. I get where these comments are coming from, and I certainly sympathize with someone struggling to come to terms with seeing something they worked on get ripped away from them, but that doesn't excuse transphobia. If the new G4 wants me to accept seeing Adam Sessler on camera, then he needs to prove that he understands he's hurt targeted and vulnerable communities in the past. Likewise, G4 could have AT LEAST made a public declaration on it being a safe place for LGBTQIA communities! Look, it's not fucking rocket science, and I say that as someone who has personally fucked up and needed to reflect on the impact of their behavior on others. In this regard, a little humility goes a long way.

However, this PALES IN COMPARISON to the most egregious invite the G4 reunion made. That would be the decision to invite Chris Hardwich to reminisce in a roundtable about the "Golden Age of G4" accompanied by Olivia Munn, Kevin Pereira, Adam Sessler, Morgan Webb, Sarah Underwood, and many others. After everything that has come out related to Chris Hardwich's abuse allegations and multiple other media platforms publicly dropping him, this was a choice. I know bringing up this topic will invite the usual suspects that will likely repeat the same soundbites that have been said a thousand times before. Yes, I am aware AMC and other companies closed their investigations related to Hardwich in his favor, citing "lack of evidence" as the primary reason. However, it is important to point out the victim of Hardwich's abuse elected not to cooperate with these investigations. In addition, this victim stated their intent in going public about Hardwich was to open up about a dark part of their life as part of their coping process. And before you ask, I support the victim's right to do this and trust that their testimony is true. As a result of all of this, it's tough to accept many of the new G4's claims that they are "bigger and better than ever," as this alone highlights a massive oversight on their part.

I have been running through various scenarios that involve the new executives in charge of G4 when it comes to Hardwich's resurfacing. My thought experiment has arrived at two possible conclusions. In the first scenario, the executives did no research and invited everyone with an on-screen credit during G4's original run to their holiday event. I find this prospect impossible to believe as Comcast, by the revived G4's own admission, is paying for G4's bills and wouldn't let them book someone they thought hurt their bottom line. In the second scenario, the executives reviewed the contents of Hardwich's investigation, or even conducted one of their own, and decided Hardwich was fit to air and posed no risk to them or the people around him. This is likely the "correct" scenario, and goddamn, do I not know what to say about it. At the very least, it shows a massive gap in the revived network's understanding of media accountability. It suggests they are not up to the task posed by most gaming websites or online forums in guaranteeing a safe working environment.

Finally, this preponderance of the evidence shows a very stark truth about whoever is in charge of the current version of G4: they do not have a proper grapple on the mistakes its original run made. Those mistakes, mind you, played a role in the network's eventual downfall. The new G4 cannot expect that it will get a pass on these sorts of stumbling points as it tries to bill itself as a fun place to consume video game content. Consumers today have higher standards for their media than they have had ever before. One of my criteria is that I will only consume content from a source I know will not engage in homophobic or transphobic language. This is not to suggest that the channel's new signings will engage in such behavior. Nonetheless, given the original network's past, including skits wherein Adam Sessler is publicly "emasculated" or Kevin Pereira engaging in non-stop kink-shaming, all I am asking for are "receipts" that a culture change has occurred at the renewed G4.

As I cannot ascertain if that has happened, I will wish those gainfully employed by the company the best but will refrain from watching G4 until further notice. That said, I will not discount tuning in should the company prove me wrong. If anyone in charge of the network's restoration, including its personalities, come out and do everything I am asking for in this blog, I will give them the appropriate credit. The names tapped to be a part of the revived G4 label are fantastic people, and many have commented on the issues I have brought up in this blog. So, I'm rooting for them; despite everything I have said, I want this to be something that works out for all involved. And if anyone associated with G4 finds this blog, a prospect I highly doubt, all I have to say is to go out there and make the best damn product you can and turn me into a believer.

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