by Ken B.
Before we get to the point of today’s topic, let me tell you a story: Much has been made about PewDiePie. For the six of you who are unaware, PewDiePie is the screen name of Felix Kjellberg, a Swedish YouTuber who gained fame with his Let’s Plays, where he plays a video game and overlays it with his commentary. I’m not a fan – I think he’s too loud, nonsensical, and his sense of humor a bit too obnoxious for my tastes, but I respect what he’s been able to build, and off so little. After dropping out of college, and his parents refusing to loan him any more money as a result, Kjellberg had to work small jobs to fund his online work.
And then he didn’t.
Now, as of this writing, PewDiePie is the most subscribed-to individual channel on YouTube, with 38.8 million subscribers and 9.4 billion total video views. People don’t care much about that, regardless of the strength of those numbers, until they hear how much he makes. Then people tend to get angry. They tend to get angry because in July 2015, a Swedish newspaper published information from Kjellberg’s tax reports, whose findings were reported just about everywhere, because they revealed an income last year of $7.4 million. And like I said, people were angry, and were under the impression that Kjellberg didn’t “deserve” to have an income like that, or one at all, from playing video games online.
And that’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Such a blindly ignorant rhetoric, that somehow your salary should be determined by the perceived labor going into your work, entirely negates the point of a free market. Simply put, if there is demand for what you do, you are likely to receive a related amount of compensation for doing it. That’s how Kjellberg made $7.4 million playing video games and making jokes at the same time, and also how the simple act of transferring a soccer player from one football club to another can be a €100 million transaction.
Kjellberg, love him or hate him, obviously has demand, in the support of a large, outspoken fan base from all over the world. I may not understand why he’s so popular, but I have immense respect for a person who has taken a passion and turned it into a thriving, moneymaking career. From what I understand, he donates a lot to charity, and encourages his viewers to get involved with similar work. If he’s paying his taxes and not killing anyone in his spare time, why does it matter what he’s making and how he’s making it?
And if we take the sliding scale of the salary way, way, way down, we still find people complaining, but this time about film critics. On criticism alone, there’s no movie reviewer out there making anything even close to Kjellberg’s earnings, but a handful of them can still make a relatively decent living from their work. And that still makes people mad. Complaints like the following are not uncommon sights in comments sections of more popular movie websites, where even if the commenter enjoys the critic’s work, s/he refuses to acknowledge it as a “real job”.
It’s silly to be under the impression that one thing can be a “real job” while another thing cannot. The dictionary definition of the words “job” or “career” does not come with an explicit definition of the amount of labor or public service required to be considered as such. Do we live in an unfair world where people doing important services make very little money? Of course. Are we going to fix that by complaining about people making more money doing things that you we don’t consider “real jobs”? No.
filmreviews12.com generates a small amount of income, but it’s significantly outweighed by the money required to keep the site running (which isn’t very much, admittedly). There are more financial roads that can be pursued if the website continues to grow, but I’m not at liberty to discuss them here and they’re likely a ways off, anyway. The money now is supplied through the advertising and purchases made through Amazon’s Affiliate program, where we supply special links to their pages for various DVDs, Blu-rays, and the like on our reviews in exchange for a set percentage of the profit that results if a purchase is made from one of our links. But all we do here is watch movies and write about them – according to the arguments we’ve heard from commenters, even that is too much, because, hey, anybody could do it.
My point is that we need to stop our moral highroading of some jobs being more “real” or “deserving” than others. The idea that some lines of work aren’t “worth” an income because they seem easy from the outset – well, a) they may not be as easy as they seem; and b) is a faulty way to look at the world. Entrepreneurship consistently paves new financial roads, often monetizing what was seen as nothing more than a hobby before. In the field of film criticism, the number of paying jobs are decreasing – retiring critics are often not replaced, and many are just being laid off outright. But there’s still a small group of people that make their money through it. We shouldn’t be mad – instead, we should look at what they’re creating and determine whether or not it’s worth our while. I don’t understand how this has become such a difficult concept to grasp.