“Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Feels Like It’s For Jerks

15Mar13

This will be super judgmental, but WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

Let me start over. With lots of spelling errors and conjecture. Feel free to debate. Onward…

Recently the producers of cult-TV show “Veronica Mars” launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a “Veronica Mars” movie. The movement was overwhelmingly supported as the production’s needs were surpassed within days. In a lot of ways, this is amazing. In some of those amazing ways, it’s positive, and at least intriguing. Publicly-funded entertainment sets a strange precedent. In the last decade we’ve witnessed the power of persuasive fan campaigns to resurrect shows and support ousted “Tonight Show” hosts, but this takes things a step beyond. The fans of this show cared so much about it — even with the show being off the air for six-ish years… and even with the show waning a bit in its popularity in that third season — that they put their money where their mouths were and gave. People often say that your ticket is your vote. This eliminates the ticket (for now, at least). 

Again, it’s strange, because with a publicly — actually, FAN supported production, you’d think that would alleviate Warner Brothers from interfering in a number of ways, both good and bad. On one hand, they might just wash their hands of it and say, “They got their money; go nuts, guys!” But on another, more realistic hand, they’ll probably try to get as much money out of this as possible with a sincere “Yay, free money!” attitude. And what if the movie isn’t good? What if the fans who gave their money to support this product don’t like it? What if just half of them don’t like it? Will they feel more inclined to complain about it now that they have a financial stake in the matter? Will they expect glimpses at the script? I suppose other Kickstarter supporters don’t necessarily ask for or need such things, but this feels so unlike any Kickstarter I’ve ever heard of that I feel like all bets are off.

Which brings me to my bigger point, which is the use of money. Particularly the use of money to do good. I’m not saying this was a bad project, or even the worst Kickstarter campaign or anything like that. But I can’t help feeling that the people who supported this campaign come off as assholes. I don’t know who they are, of course, and I have no hard evidence in either case. Except for the speed of the support. You don’t see too many records being shattered to, say, support a bridge being built in Uganda with generous charitable donations. But, hey, if it’s for a show that was on the tee-vee? You couldn’t stop people from giving money.

As of 3/14/2013, the “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter raised over two million dollars.

Two million dollars?

…      …

…Come on!

(Here comes the real judgmental part)(as though the earlier parts weren’t already)

I bet you know a few families around you who could’ve used a tiny bit of that. Think how much $50 means to a person on hard times. Or even $20. Or $10. Maybe the “Mars” donators give regularly to charities and this was just one that unified them all… but I doubt it. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of the donations were given by first-time or rare-to-give donators who often ignore the pleas of the destitute or some other worthwhile endeavor, but apparently jump at the chance to bring a TV show back to life.

You may be wondering if in that last sentence I’m implying that the “Mars” Kickstarter was not a worthwhile campaign, so let me be clear: That is EXACTLY what I’m saying. Pop-culturally speaking, it’s incredible. But globally speaking big-picture speaking… it’s pretty whacked. The tidal wave of support for the “Mars” campaign appears as a selfish, weird reflection of our culture’s values.

To push further, this decade of fan-resurrected entertainment could been seen as a bad sign for the fate of humanity, too. Bringing back “Family Guy” and “Community” and even my beloved “Arrested Development” didn’t just happen from nothing. It took work. Worth and energy which could have been directed in any direction, but went in the direction of “Me want more TV.” I’m a lazy guy, but I like to think that I’m comfortable with accepting that when things like TV shows are cancelled, they’re over. They move on, I move on. I might miss them, but I have other things to do. Does the world need more to do? This whole trend feels like a symptom of everyone needing another job.

And this pisses me off, too, because — as a lazy person — I don’t WANT another job. When you’re working a paycheck job, and all you have to do is show up, the last thing you want to do is get caught napping. Even if you don’t have any real work to do, you at least try to appear like you do so the boss won’t give you more responsibility. But this “Mars” Kickstarter feels like a loud, nation-wide snore that’s going to bring the boss into our cubicle, check out how many texts we send a day and give us a lot more filing to do.

Look, I’m not the most charitable guy* around, so I’m not trying to make like I’m the example we should all follow. Also (I think) I know people who donated to this, and I KNOW I know people who would be excited to have this show back in some form. For them — and for all the fans who donated or not — I’m honestly happy. It’s incredible. And it’s great the producers get to make their movie. I suppose jobs will come of this, and that’s wonderful, too. Maybe careers will launch or relaunch. And maybe so much good will come of this that this will change the fabric of society, and the feeling of philanthropy and generosity will stick in the brains of those who gave, and they’ll actively find new ways to give (after they pay to see the movie, then buy the DVD and look for the next thing to do with all their disposable income).

But I bet none** of the people who donated thought of this as a reason to give. Like I said, it’s certainly a fascinating cultural experiment. I’m just pessimistic about what the culture looks like after seeing the results.

UPDATE: I saw THIS on Buzzfeed which said that 72% of the donations came from first-time users. So while I can’t assume that those people have never given to any other organizations ever, I am going to assume it anyway because it really helps support my theories.

*So just to keep score: I’m a lazy, miserly guy. So take all this with a grain of salt. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

**As in “zero.” I’m not apologizing for this hyperbole. I’m going for it. ZERO! I’d also bet that 75% of the people who donated passed by a person during this week who could have used that money to feed the homeless, or themselves, if they were, in fact, homeless. “Sorry, poor fellow. I’ve got a TV show to save.”

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One Response to ““Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Feels Like It’s For Jerks”

  1. Anything that can unite 50,000 people in a common goal seems pretty incredible to me. This system of funding community goals is band new, and I’m sure will work its way into the social and political realms soon enough. Just give it some time. It won’t be long before we all have the power to allocate public spending in much the same way.


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