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You Don’t Have A Right to Tell Creators What to Create

I saw a screencap recently that made me want to hurt small animals. It was of a YouTube comment from someone telling the YouTuber what they should put on their channel. The notion that audiences have the right to dictate what the creators create is as repulsive as it is pervasive.

I remember arguing against it decades ago when people were complaining about the Wheel of Time series becoming a bad travelogue. More recently, it’s come up when some entitled clownboys tried to raise money to remake Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the incessant cries to release the Snyder cut of The Justice League.

Whether it’s a smalltime YouTuber or a blockbuster film, dictating how the art should be made is as rude as it is wrong.

It’s Rude

It has never been easier to make art and deliver it unto the masses, but easier doesn’t mean easy. Creation is hard. It’s hard to figure out what to create. It’s hard to figure out what you want to say. It’s hard to do the necessary research. It’s hard to do the technical aspects that most people wouldn’t even understand. It’s hard to take a bunch of ideas and turn it into something that someone, somewhere might like to read, watch, listen to, or whatever.

It’s hard to put yourself out there. It’s far safer to be rude in the comments section than it is to take your inner thoughts and put them on display in front of the entire world.

When you tell a content creator that they made the wrong thing, you’re telling them that all their worst fears are justified. You’re telling them that they shouldn’t have bothered. You’re telling them that their voice doesn’t matter.  You’re telling them that they’re worthless.

The folks that make the big blockbusters aren’t going to notice or care. The folks who have small YouTube channels, blogs, podcasts, or whatever, are going to notice and they are going to care.

Worse, the people who are thinking of starting a blog, podcast, or whatever, are going to notice and it’s going to be just another argument against them creating.

The world gets better every time someone makes something cool. You’re not going to like it all. That’s fine. Just don’t put pressure on people not to create. That’s a dick move.

It’s Not About You

Take a look at the language the clownposter used. It’s all “we” when what he—and I’m pretty sure this is a he—means “I.”

These are one person’s opinions, and that’s fine. He’s certainly entitled to have opinions, but what he’s doing here isn’t just having and sharing opinions. What he’s doing here is assuming that his opinions are both universally accepted and objectively true when they’re nothing of the sort.

Recently, a lot of straight white men have had to come to grips with the fact that they’re not the target audience for everything, and they have reacted poorly. I get it. I’m a straight white man myself, and there have been a lot of very popular books, TV shows, and movies that have just not done it for me. I’ve felt a little left out and you know what?

It’s fine. It’s not about me. And it’s not about you. To assume that something that falls into the broad scope of things that interest you has to be something that falls into the narrow scope of things that are made exactly for people like you is incredibly presumptuous.

That’s true regardless of gender, race, religion, or anything else. People are going to make stuff that isn’t aimed at you, and that’s okay.

It’s Wrong

It’s also good business.

It’s no surprise that many of the folks behind small (read: non-corporate) YouTube channels, blogs, podcasts, and so forth are doing it as a business, either as a side-hustle or for their main source of income.

What is a surprise to many people is that aiming for the largest audience isn’t necessarily good business.

For many things, it is. If you’re selling fast food, toilet paper, or hinges, you’re not there to be everyone’s best friend. But if you’re selling something people are going to spend their entertainment dollars and relaxation time with, having a small audience that loves what you do is preferable to having a large audience that only engages when they don’t have anything better to do.

Because really, there’s always something better to do.

As a non-corporate creator, you’re looking to identify a core audience and become the thing they stop other stuff to do.

I used to have a job where I didn’t write much and desperately wanted to drown out my coworkers, so I listened to podcasts and audiobooks all day. I now have a job where I write a ton and have no coworkers so I have much less time in the day for podcasts. If you were a podcast, would you want to be one I loved or one I thought was mostly okay?

Case in point: true crime podcasts. Generally speaking, they either focus entirely on the crime/investigation, or they include some banter. I listen to the ones with banter (shoutout Morbid and Wine and Crime) and have dropped the ones without.

That’s not to say small audiences are better than large ones, but that engaged ones are vastly preferable to unengaged ones. Most small creators would trade fifty unengaged listeners for one engaged listener. It’s the engaged audience that supports creators on Patreon, buys merch, and provides word-of-mouth advertising you just can’t buy.

Conclusion: Stop Doing It

Keeping your yapper shut isn’t that hard. If they didn’t ask your opinion, don’t give it to them. Go post on your social sites or whatever about your preferences. That’s fine. That’s not in-your-face. Commenting about how someone is doing something wrong in their spaces is in-your-face dickishness that makes the world a lesser place.