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17 completely wrong things about filmmaking I learned from The Sarkeesian Effect, the worst documentary ever made

A much better use of money than The Sarkeesian Effect
A much better use of money than The Sarkeesian Effect

“They’re called tropes in games or something like that?”

— Brad Wardell, Game developer and Anita Sarkeesian expert

The Sarkeesian Effect, which premiered as a $3.99 “on demand” video on Vimeo yesterday, and which I forced myself to watch all two and a half hours of, is not so much a “documentary” as an object lesson in why it’s never a good idea to hand over tens of thousands of dollars to hateful, incompetent ideologues barely capable of making mediocre YouTube videos and expect them to produce a documentary that looks even vaguely professional.

I’ve seen homemade cat videos with better production values. I’m not talking about videos featuring cats. I’m talking about videos filmed by cats.

It’s clear from the start of Jordan Owen’s The Sarkeesian Effect — he and his filmmaking buddy Davis Aurini split some months ago amid mutual accusations of incompetence and con artistry — that he’s never made a documentary before. Indeed, his filmmaking missteps are so numerous and so flagrant it’s not clear he’s even seen a documentary before.

Nonetheless, I think his video might prove instructive to aspiring filmmakers, in that it so clearly demonstrates some of the many ways a documentary can go terribly, terribly wrong.

I wouldn’t suggest to any would-be filmmakers (or to anyone else) that they actually watch The Sarkeesian Effect, even when (as seems inevitable) it comes to YouTube for free; life is far too short and precious for that.

Instead, just take a look at these 17 completely wrong things about filmmaking I learned from The Sarkeesian Effect. 

1) When you’re choosing who to interview for your documentary about a controversial critic of video games, make sure that most of those you talk to have no connection to video games and only a passing knowledge of the controversies in question.

In fact, it’s best if you let them demonstrate their lack of familiarity with the issues on camera, by, for example, stumbling over the name of Anita Sarkeesian’s longtime video collaborator, Jonathon McIntosh, before offering opinions about him. Or getting the name of her video series wrong.

2) If you’re interviewing women for your documentary, make sure that in addition to having no expertise on video games, most of them have some sort of connection to sex work and/or pornography.

The four women interviewed at the greatest length in this “documentary?” A sex worker, a porn star, an “erotic photographer,” and a former author of smutty fiction. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but none of the men interviewed for the documentary are sex workers or porn stars.

It’s almost as though Jordan Owen, as obsessed with porn as he is with Anita Sarkeesian, used the documentary as an excuse to talk to women involved in porn and sex work (none of whom seem to know much of anything about Anita Sarkeesian or video games), much as his ex-filmmaking-buddy used it as an excuse to interview right-wing ideologues (none of whom seem to know much of anything about Anita Sarkeesian or video games),

3) Make sure that the people you interview, who don’t actually know anything about the subject at hand, deliver their completely uninformed opinions with the smuggest looks on their faces as possible.

Video Game Non-Expert Karen Straughan: Thinks quite highly of herself
Video Game Non-Expert Karen Straughan: Thinks quite highly of herself
Video Game Non-Exert Jim Goad: Also thinks highly of himself
Video Game Non-Expert Jim Goad: Also thinks highly of himself

4) Make sure your interview subjects expose as much of their cleavage as possible.

cleaveelam
Hey ladies!

5) If you’re interviewing a disbarred lawyer best known for his relentless attacks on video games, in order to show that even the notorious Jack Thompson “gets” how evil Anita Sarkeesian is, make sure to include the portion of the interview in which, while attempting to undermine Sarkeesian’s credibility, he compares the gaming industry to the Third Reich.

In the “documentary,” Thompson compares the Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award Sarkeesian received last year to the award Charles Lindbergh once got from literally Hitler. Then, realizing that he’s just Godwinned himself, Thompson suggests that “when you start receiving awards” — any awards at all, apparently — “you undercut your credibility as a critic.”

6) When you’re setting up shots of your interviewees, make sure to liven things up by including interesting things in the background. Like wires. And the occasional pizza box.

Yes, that’s right: THE PIZZA BOX MADE IT INTO THE FINAL CUT!

Hello, pizza box!
Hello, pizza box!

7) Put a little bit of yourself into each interview. Literally, in the form of your hands and/or feet poking out from the corner of the screen.

Hello, hand!
Hello, hand!
Hello, shoe!
Hello, shoe!
Hello, side of face!
Hello, side of face!

And if you’re afraid people might not notice your hands in the shot, wiggle them around a little.

8) If the sound for your interviews is kind of crappy, cover it up with music so loud it threatens to drown out the person talking.

And make sure that the mood of the music has no real connection to anything going on onscreen.

9) When interviewing a notorious far-right racist with no connection to video games for your film about video games, make sure to include his thoughts about “communists and homosexuals.”

“When I was a kid, if you were a communist or a homosexual, then you’d lose your career,” Jim Goad explains, while sitting on a park bench. “Now communists and homosexuals are in power, and re seeking to destroy the career of anyone who’s not down with their agenda.”

10) If the tagline to your film is “there’s two sides to every story,” demonstrate your commitment to telling both of these sides by declaring the subject of your film to be “a bully like none [the game industry] had ever encountered before.”

Then declare other women who’ve been harassed by online mobs to be

maniacal, mean-spirited, malicious thugs that attacked their chosen targets without mercy then switched on their victim persona when it suited them. 

Also, after allowing your interview subjects to describe at length their versions of events involving women peripherally referenced in your documentary, make no effort whatsoever to discover whether or not any of what they’ve said is actually true.

11) Defend GamerGate from charges that it is a giant hate mob by declaring it to be “a passionate, vicious and unabashedly hostile pushback against Anita Sarkeesian” driven by “the unending fountain of rage from which we draw strength.”

12) When complaining about “professional victims,” make sure that most of your examples are women who have not in fact sought to profit in any way from their victimhood, including one woman who was fired from her job after posting a picture of two men who made crude sexual jokes at a tech conference.

13) Follow up your attack on professional victims who are not in fact professional victims with selections from an interview with a YouTuber who literally collects $3,305 from his Patreon supporters every time he makes a video, including those in which he attacks Sarkeesian (and there have been a lot of those).

In other words, he’s a professional victimizer, and a decently paid one at that. (For more, see “Sargon of Akkad and Thunderf00t: #Gamergate’s Well-Paid Talking Heads” by Daily Kos blogger idlediletante (Margaret Pless).)

14) When you run out of mean things to say about the subject of your documentary, make fun of the fact that she sometimes wears glasses.

Except instead of calling her a “bespectacled malcontent,’ call her a “bespeckled malcontent.’

“Bespeckled,” Google tells us, means to be covered “with a large number of small spots or patches of color.”

15) If you’re worried that your 2 1/2 hour-long “documentary” isn’t long enough, include a rambling, barely coherent Ayn Randian monologue about creators and “parasites.”

And start it off with this declaration:

All organic life possesses to some degree the concept of virtue which is the very act by which it is able to live.

No, really.

16) After kicking the subject of your documentary around for well over two hours, offer her perhaps the most ironic life advice ever given to anyone by an actual human being.

That is, if Paul Elam, notorious Men’s Rights garbage person, even counts as an actual human being.

Staring earnestly into the camera, Elam tells Sarkeesian

that you really do deserve and need to get some help. Whatever is driving you to push people and to harm people, whatever drives you to provoke people and take their reaction and raise money off of it is sociopathic behavior. 

On Sunday, you may recall, Elam released a video in which, drunkenly slurring his words, he yelled out crude insults about the alleged foul odor of one feminist writer’s vagina. And went on at length about another feminist writer and her complete lack of interest in giving him and his colleagues blow jobs. It’s a little hard to explain.

You should probably just go watch the video, if you haven’t already. It’s much more entertaining than The Sarkeesian Effect, and only two minutes long.

17) And finally, when making a documentary criticizing journalists for alleged ethics violations, make sure not to mention that one of your interview subjects is married to a paid consultant on the film — the mysterious mediator who attempted to keep Owen and Aurini working together long enough to finish the project.

ETHICS!

EDIT: Removed a photo to make my joke about cleavage clearer. And added a bit more of an explanation to my point about Owen’s interviews of women involved in sex work and porn.

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Film Runner
5 years ago

You’ve almost convinced me to watch this, it sounds amazing.

Scarlettathena
5 years ago

Welp, I’m so surprised. I was certain Ken Burns was going to be calling these guys any day for advice or even to collaborate.

Also, hahahahahaha it sounds hilariously terrible!

Kootiepatra
5 years ago

I mean… I’ve been following the saga of this documentary from the first rumblings of its origins. I’ve seen the rough cuts. I knew who was getting interviewed. I’ve giggled at the omnipresent skull. I knew there was no way that this would be anything other than abysmal.

And yet… yet, I’m STILL sitting here with my jaw in my lap.

What. on. earth.

Karki Meade
5 years ago

Did it have one redeeming feature? I’m only wanting to know about one thing, and it isn’t whether or not they stole that line “All organic life possesses to some degree the concept of virtue which is the very act by which it is able to live,” because if it has a source, I don’t care. What I want to know is, did it have

18) Lots of skulls

davidknewton
davidknewton
5 years ago

I don’t think it does, as Aurini got custody of all the skulls due to the agreement through the mediator.

Kootiepatra
5 years ago

Also, on a side note, Anita Sarkeesian has just released a mini-episode of Tropes vs. Women where she of course criticizes sexism, but also gives a passing rebuke to certain sketchy business practices of triple-A games regarding DLC and preorders.

Sketchy DLC and preorder business practices are one of a very few legitimate problems that Gator and Gator-adjacent people have objected to for a long time (predating the Quinnspiracy garbage). I wonder how many heads will explode when they see Anita Sarkeesian saying something that they *have* to agree with.

chaltab
chaltab
5 years ago

…Virtue is an action… and is necessary for life? Do bacteria go around virtuing all the time as they mindlessly consume and reproduce? Do trees sit there and virtue while they photosynthesize?

You… used that word once. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

I don’t even know what to say to this, these people are so hyprocritcal and projecting themselves onto others it’s laughable.

Lorcan Nagle
Lorcan Nagle
5 years ago

If you do want to watch it, it may have already made it to certain websites that specialise in letting people steal media off the internet

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
5 years ago

Needs more ANIMATED TITLE SEQUENCE.

GiJoel
GiJoel
5 years ago

Man, I googled Jim Goad. Holy fuck, I wonder how hard they tried to interview Charles Manson?

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
5 years ago

So David, how much of the documentary is just about Anita and how much is what Jordan and Davis said it’d be; looking at the broader SJW movement? Did they ever follow up on their little teaser of looking through where Feminist Frequency’s mailbox is located? Was there every a coherent narrative throughout the “documentary,” or was it basically just two of Jordan’s normal youtube videos pasted together?

Inquiring minds are trying to avoid having to see the end product of this train wreck for themselves.

Kryst-hla
Kryst-hla
5 years ago

This would make for solid material for a YouTube poop.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

Knowing that videos, etc like these exist beg me to give all my money to people like Sarkensian.

I don’t quite understand why they even have documentaries that are so long, takes so much money to make and a lot of it is not even about Sarkensian.

Moggie
Moggie
5 years ago

All organic life possesses to some degree the concept of virtue which is the very act by which it is able to live.

See, what you’ve done there is, you’ve confused “concept of virtue” with “carbon”. Perhaps that explains why, from the point of view of those of us with a more mainstream understanding of virtue, you have none.

spacelawn
5 years ago

Thank you David for this sacrifice. This “documentary” sounds amazing(ingly shite)

“All organic life possesses to some degree the concept of virtue which is the very act by which it is able to live.”

Who’s idea was this!??! What in the shit does it even mean?!

Lady Mondegreen
5 years ago

All organic life possesses to some degree the concept of virtue which is the very act by which it is able to live.

It’s true! Fungi possess the concept of virtue. Archaea possess the concept of virtue. So do plants and sea weeds.

Except viruses. Viruses need a host organism before they can engage in moral philosophy.

spacelawn
5 years ago

Also that quote reminds me of Legion from Mass Effect which in turns reminds me that his voice actor (D.C Douglas) is an avid feminist! yey.

kirbywarp
kirbywarp
5 years ago

It sounds like it should be tagged as a quote by C.S. Lewis and pasted on an advertisement for a local church. O_O

Now I want to know what the monologue was like as well, and how it could possibly fit into the rest of video. Is Sarkeesian a “parasite” despite being a content creator? Or do opinionated videos referencing other people’s work count as being parasitic. In which case… hello “Sarkeesian Effect!”

weirwoodtreehugger
5 years ago

I suspect that they interview women who are associated with porn and sex work to sell the idea that feminists are all big prudes who hate sex.

Of course, tomorrow they’ll be selling the idea that we’re all whores intent on seducing men’s fortunes away and riding the old rooster go round until we hit the wall. But hey, whatever is convenient.

scalyllama
5 years ago

We salute you for your sacrifice, David.

Bananananana dakry
Bananananana dakry
5 years ago

*agrees with a solemn salute*

NonServiam
5 years ago

There is a drinking game in this film-fart somewhere, I’ll tell you that much. See a shoe? Take a sip. Hand? Sip. Skull? DOWN IT!

alaisvex
alaisvex
5 years ago

I almost died laughing when I read the Sarkeesian Effect’s description of GamerGate. They’re so close to, yet so far from, self awareness.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

weirwoodtreehugger
“I suspect that they interview women who are associated with porn and sex work to sell the idea that feminists are all big prudes who hate sex.

Of course, tomorrow they’ll be selling the idea that we’re all whores intent on seducing men’s fortunes away and riding the old rooster go round until we hit the wall. But hey, whatever is convenient.”

I believe it’s about being angry at women choosing to have sex or not is what it all boils down to.

kylagb
5 years ago

Check out Karen Straughan in the photos—seems her talking even puts her to sleep never mind anyone who watches her videos.

Paradoxical Intention
5 years ago

spacelawn | September 15, 2015 at 4:27 pm
Also that quote reminds me of Legion from Mass Effect which in turns reminds me that his voice actor (D.C Douglas) is an avid feminist! yey.

Which is also funny because he voiced Albert Wesker in the later Resident Evil games. Y’know, the guy who kept releasing viruses onto the world because he wanted to wipe it all clean and start over.

A true “egalitarian” icon, that character. Though, I’m sure he’d be more than happy to wipe them off the face of the earth too. He’s got no need for ass-kissers.

kylagb
5 years ago

Brilliant blog, hilarious.

Catalpa
Catalpa
5 years ago

All organic life possesses to some degree the concept of virtue which is the very act by which it is able to live.

I parsed this as saying that the act of living, and the specific abilities possessed by the organic life which allow it to survive, are inherently virtuous. Which would be a weird ass thing to preface a rant about parasitism with, considering that parasitism is a viable survival strategy, but oh well. The idea that it’s saying that all living matter grasps the philosophical concept of virtue makes even less sense.

I wonder how many heads will explode when they see Anita Sarkeesian saying something that they *have* to agree with.

You might be surprised at just how intent some of these guys are at getting angry at literally anything Anita has to say. (or maybe not surprised, really, they talk about ethics in gaming but all it seems to be is a smokescreen to allow them to harass women and attempt to prevent any social progress within the games industry.) At best, they’ll criticize her for finally getting around to the REAL problem in the games industry, and berate her for not focusing entirely on that instead of stinky feminism. Though I’d bet more on them either ignoring the comment completely or berating her for somehow contributing to the very corruption she just criticized.

Quintin
Quintin
5 years ago

You just have to wonder if Mercedes knew who she was dealing with when she agreed to the interview: a white nationalist “”””on paper”””” who thinks women today are the most decadent sluts since the fall of Rome.

Hipsterminator
5 years ago

Sorry. That akamaihd link is followed by a string of about 100 numbers. You need to copy the entire string or it won’t work.

Enjoy.

Alan Robertshaw
5 years ago

Hi Hipster

I understand your motives but perhaps we shouldn’t be giving them any ammunition for a copyright complaint or reporting this site for a breach of terms and conditions.

Matthew
Matthew
5 years ago

“‘when you start receiving awards’ — any awards at all, apparently — ‘you undercut your credibility as a critic.'”

…Did he seriously say that? ‘Cause even for Jack Thompson, that’s a *really* dumb thing to say.

EJ (The Other One)
EJ (The Other One)
5 years ago

Except viruses. Viruses need a host organism before they can engage in moral philosophy.

You are now my new favourite person.

Mike
Mike
5 years ago

Hey, that GIF at the top is from ‘The Seventh Continent,’ a great (and very, very dark) film by one of my favorite filmmakers, Michael Haneke! An interesting (I think) bit of information about that moment (minor spoilers): the film is based on a real-life incident involving a real-life family, and while some elements of the film were, naturally, fabricated or imagined, the ‘ripping up money and flushing it down the toilet’ part was something that the real-life father actually did. Haneke has said that if he had created the story as pure fiction, he wouldn’t have thought to include that part since it just feels so outlandish, but it really happened and was included in the script as such.

Anyway, ‘The Seventh Continent’ is a good movie – maybe almost as good as ‘The Sarkeesian Effect!’

Hipsterminator
5 years ago

If you’re wondering who that Jim Goad fartknocker is, look him up. He’s probably the original MRA from the early 90s before the Internet was a thing. He wrote a book called “Shit Magnet” about the trials of white men in America and what a human rights violation child support is. I remember reading about him back in the day and he did actually have a few good points at the time (his descriptions of the porn industry in Portland were hilarious). Trouble is, it’s kind of hard to build an empire when all you do is hate people and he’s the proof.

http://www.jimgoad.net/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Goad

Hipsterminator
5 years ago

OK Whatever. I’ll abide by the rules.

Subtract Hominem, the Renegade Misandroid
Subtract Hominem, the Renegade Misandroid
5 years ago

I’d like to give Jack Thompson this award for Least Credible Critic.

http://classroomclipart.com/images/gallery/Clipart/Objects/TN_trophy_2513_2.jpg

Lady Mondegreen
5 years ago

I parsed this as saying that the act of living, and the specific abilities possessed by the organic life which allow it to survive, are inherently virtuous.

But that makes no sense! “Virtue” requires moral agency, it’s not an inherent property of living things. And anyway, the claim is that all living organisms possess the concept of virtue. That’s weapons grade silly.

It’s pretentious word salad, s’all it is.

pkayden
pkayden
5 years ago

Just recently started watching Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women” videos and immediately subscribed to her Youtube channel. It’s sad that just for pointing out problematic themes in some video games, Sarkeesian has been subjected to horrific abuse and threats of violence. Anyone who supports these threats is garbage. I have zero interest in watching this documentary but give props to Dave for wading through the garbage for his readers.

That Youtube cat video was wonderful, by the way. Love cats!

Lady Mondegreen
5 years ago

Aw, thanks, EJ (The Other One).

*blush*

Mij
Mij
5 years ago

That is, if Paul Elam, notorious Men’s Rights garbage person, even counts as an actual human being

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……………………………

Mij
Mij
5 years ago

That is, if Paul Elam, notorious Men’s Rights garbage person, even counts as an actual human being

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh……………………………

Troy Brooks
5 years ago

Thank you for watching this, so I don’t have to.

Fruitloopsie
Fruitloopsie
5 years ago

Hipsterminator
Jim goad sounds like a truly despicable being. I feel sorry for his mother for dealing with him and his father and for the women in his life. And “torn between two b*****es” just wow. All those books, productions and things he said just wow.

David and Pkayden
“That is, if Paul Elam, notorious Men’s Rights garbage person, even counts as an actual human being”

“Anyone who supports these threats is garbage.”

I don’t mean to get onto anyone but I thought we were against dehumanizing people? I understand the anger and disgust of people like them though, I am too.

tg
tg
5 years ago

Sounds like classic J. Owen, down to the Ayn Rand rambling and the lurking pizza box. Think Aurini will lay out $3.99 so he can mock it in one of his I Am Tho Thuperior podcasts? You’re a brave man, DF, a very brave man.

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