There are a few massive sites you probably have already checked today for internet reviews, but you have no idea are in the pockets of other major companies. I mean, mainstream, massive sites that secretly shill for some huge name brands but don’t make that shilling obvious because it would cost them their readerships. Sites telling you how much you would love certain movies, not telling you how the movie company flew them out in a private jet to a private screening filled with celebrities and top shelf booze, free.
The game site that told you how much you would love that certain game yet said nothing about the full sized (insert game character name here) statue so-and-so sent them with their review copy of the game. You are seeing about 40% of what is really going on in these situations. It really is some “sell your soul” shit, only in the end, you don’t get riches. You just get made to feel more important than you are for a brief period and that brief period is supposed to be enough to take you to the next brief period. Thing is, I rode that train for a long time and jumped off by choice.
Many people ask me, Remy, why did you stop taking all the free trips and vacations and set visits, and I tell them the truth. Because that is the major companies trying to jerk me off to completion so I will say nice things about their stuff all over the web. Problem is, I am too honest for that life. I can’t tell you shit is gold only to have me see you on the streets, covered in shit, chasing me asking me why I lied to you. I won’t lie to you. That is exactly why I stopped that life. But for any doubters, I will tell you all what really goes on behind the scenes, how it goes down, and then show you with photographed examples first-hand from me, so you know this is not bullshit. This is far from bullshit, my friends and REMlins. This is the new media, and it sucks.
Greased Up, Biased Reviewers
So here is how it happens for TV and movies. A PR person for a major brand will hit you up directly as writer or hit up the editor in chief you work for about having you review something. Often, if they want you to review a TV show they want hyped, they will treat it same as movie premier now. They will fly out cast and writers and bloggers, all V.I.P style, to some amazing theater somewhere fancier than where you live. They will give you limo service to and from event. They will allow you to rub elbows (sometimes) with their biggest stars (the funniest one I ever passed down was a major movie company was making a reboot of the TV show Dallas and wanted me to fly out to a Bourbon tasting in, well, Dallas, with the cast of original show and reboot. Hahahaha, you kidding me? There is no way I will like this show so there is nothing you could give me that would change that. I won’t shill shit to the masses, and that smelled like shit from three thousand miles away.
BUT, I have gone on some of these trips and I do know how pampered you get and how important they try to make you feel, so I can understand why some souls may be really drawn to that (even if it means compromising themselves). Because, in their minds in those moments when they are rubbing elbows and sharing top shelf booze with top shelf stars, your mind begins to trick yourself into the “I MADE IT” mentality. But that could not be further from the truth. You are just a pawn, and even that is being too kind. They are paying you to fuck you. At that point, you are a hooker. You are just selling your soul for a taste of the decadent life, and that crashes down fast and hard. Trust me, I know. There is a reason I am still writing for a living on an internet that eats people (and whole sites) alive daily. It is because I understand this place, I have inhabited it for a long time, but also, I am not blind. Stay anywhere long enough with rose colored glasses on and eventually, the shiny veneer gets torn away revealing the ugly truth. I just know the lay out of this place better than most.
Hackneyed and Half-Assed
The sad reality is, as proven time and time again, real journalism is all but dead (when it comes to the entertainment genre, anyway). You want to know the last review I took willingly to review because I had a nagging feeling I would love it? The Rick and Morty pilot episode. And they included NOTHING to seduce me, no letters begging for a good review. No secret flight out to Paris to be jerked off by a lovely Parisian whore. They just sent me the screener, which I went nuts over and called it the inevitable ‘next big thing’ (which has proven to be spot on, by the way) and the end result of that was I got to phone interview the show’s creator, Justin Roiland. That is how it should work. You should be able to say whether you like something or not, and if you do, maybe you end up talking to someone involved or something down the line. But the seduction for writers to say good things about things that may not necessarily be good is part of the new media. It is the seduction of the innocent, and it is really easy to fall for.
Here, let me show you, step by step, how they do it.
SO IT BEGINS
First, they fly you on some nice airlines in a nicer class than you are used to, then you land and some guy dressed better than you does that “your name on a sign” thing at the airport every geek (or human ever) has dreamt of experiencing at least once:
I would love to tell you that is not how I felt but it blinded me. That is exactly how it felt, because that is exactly how it was supposed to feel. Damn, they have this shit busted down to a science.
Next, you see the over-sized limo they got for the drive to your 5 star Hotel. They even have the cute little mint/water combo set up you always see in movies and shit. No bubbly, though, I clearly HADN’T made it, and that is how I knew.
Now you are being driven somewhere in a limo by an escort. Inflated sense of self importance much? I have cool mints and cold water and my windows are tinted as he tells me to pick the station. The illusion of power hath already set it. Thankfully, it was at this point I realized all this and the rest of the excess’ shoved in my face over the course of that one weekend were not at all surprising.
In the same breath, I was raised to believe I would never be a writer and all my dreams were insane, and in this exact moment, it felt pretty damn good knowing I had proven them all wrong, But don’t worry, I knew I was a pawn that weekend. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to enjoy the fuck out of it.
Next up, you get your over-sized and way too nice hotel room:
I literally called down to front office immediately and was like “I think you gave me the wrong room” and they had a sort of pre-programmed fluffer come back that was meant to make me feel worthy of it, and I laughed again at how transparent this whole thing was already. They MAJOR company did not just want a good review of their (edited). They wanted me to feel like I was one of them. They wanted to brand ME.
Okay, well, fuck it, I had two more days of this, so what next?
Next up, you meet up with all the other sexy, trendy bloggers who were flown in for this event and you rub elbows. Very odd thing I noticed. The crew of writers I was with were all male, and the PR people taking us around were all REALLY attractive women, taking us to high end bars and then ending up and one of those restaurants you always wanted to eat at but know you could never afford, the ladies constantly shoving shots in your and their own faces.
Now, you are eating five star food at a five star place with five star women bathing you in attention. I loved it, but I also found it almost a parody of what I had expected in its most extreme. I was in a relationship at the time that sucked and I totally should have cheated in hindsight but I did really well avoiding all the high end ass that seemed to want to “check out my room” that weekend as well. Listen, I may be acceptable looking, but when you door is getting hammered on by tens all night, you know something is afoot (or you are a jackass).
Yes, of all the things, I regret NOT cheating that weekend when it is something that I should be proud of.
Hey, I never said I was normal, but I am honest as fuck.
So after drinks and seafood and fireside conversations with women who looked like they should be carved out of porcelain, I went to bed. It was said to me in plain English, I didn’t have to go to bed alone that night. I chose to. Let that be known.
Okay, next day you wake up and go pop into limo to go to actual event (be it movie or TV or branding or music). In my case, it was a music festival. Hell, even the check-in and the process of getting your badges and shit made you feel like the whole show was waiting on you. PR and branding specialists do what they do really well.
After that is when the REAL feeling of faux power sets in. They give you your “go anywhere and do anything at any time” badge, and they tell you to run free like a unicorn. Not in those words, unfortunately. You even get a special wristband to flash so all food and liquor is even free. So now the people at the festival are watching you in your special (edited) branded sunglasses with special press pass and shit, and even the crowd wants a piece. Suddenly it goes from you being some dude at a show to people asking you who you are, which band you’re with, who you write for. Again, an insane experience no writer would ever expect, but that is what happens. Then the fun really begins. All the shit up to now has been the figurative intro track.
First, you check out the V.I.P area you will be rubbing more elbows in (I brought lots of skin cream so as to keep my elbows dry amid all the rubbing). Impressive, sexy places filled with sexy people and sexy food. It is exactly what you think it would be, only even sexier in person.
The bed in the middle was for orgies I think. No, seriously, I think if you sat there it was an unspoken thing that you were down to display some serious PDA. Notice even early on, it had little things fluttering nearby, as if someone or something cool had to be everywhere you were at all times. I was straight up being seduced top the dark side, but knew it and had fun with the ride. Now the show begins and I am on-stage with indie bands (no name dropping, that comes next) and major acts, popping their heads, five feet away on stage while they perform.
But that also shows you how serious I was taking it from the moment I knew what was really going on. I would respect what they did here, but I wasn’t going home and writing a puff piece. I was going home and writing NO piece after this. THAT is how I let my feelings toward the seduction of the innocent be known.
Speaking of feeling powerful, fine, I will name drop one person:
And yes, that trailer door was open. And yes, that is the NAS. There are only a couple things in my life I brag in my head about and this is one. I got to give daps to one of the greatest MC’s of all time. I am not some celebrity worshiping whore though, so no selfies. Just wanted that solid proof so people couldn’t talk shit.
But still, even walking by greatness (and he was by no means the only great one there), I knew what this was. A three day long whack off to make little Remy feel bigger and more important and how I would go home after this and use that adrenaline soaked high to write out pure praise of this brand’s items they shill. What brand, you ask? I won’t name any names. I am not a snitch.
I did mention how, at ALL TIMES in this festival, you were surrounded by mostly beautiful, aloof people, right?
But as you can see, this event drew out only the best and brightest butterflies, and I had a V.I.P badge, laughing inside at how they wasted their time on me. Funniest part is, I was never even given a phone to write up. Nothing. So I didn’t write up ANYTHING, EVER, until now. I have had that story and those photos in my for three years now. Now it is just a funny memory that laid out how this business works, and laid it all out for me, right away. Hell, had they been trying any harder there would have been elephants you could ride while high on Molly. Closest they could come was a Ferris wheel filled with people smoking pot (of which I was one, at one point). Ah, the silly things modern festivals do to keep the millennials happy never fails to make me laugh.
Finally, there was a moment in the evening when I was about ten feet away from Jack White, doing a fucking amazing solo set. The place is illuminated blue, and you can feel the energy in the crowd, it is pure electricity flowing through all of us. In that moment it hit me, why am I watching the show from the stage? I am not one of these people. I never was. This isn’t me.
That was the point I left the stage for the night. I went out, way out, way back to the place I usually end up at all shows (the field or worst seats in house) and I watched the show like I was supposed to. Not above the people, not selling it to the people, but as the people.
It was a humbling end of a very not humbling day, and it was just what I needed. By the time the festival was over, everyone was kinda nasty drunk (the women were a sight to behold. Jesus ladies, keep your public game together a little more than that, just saying) and I passed on two more options for straight up sex, went to bed, got up the next morning, took a limo to the airport and flew home to my girlfriend (who I should have cheated on with that beautiful Japanese girl, but I digress).
Like I stated prior, I KNEW what my role was there. I was being seduced. And yes, it was as much insane fun as it sounds. But my my soul has no price tag. I will not shill a product just because you CHOSE to jerk me off. Hell, I don’t shill, period. I have never tried to sell anyone, anything. And if you ever see a good review of something by me (and even the reviews I do, I do now very sparingly) you will only hear me talk good about something only if I genuinely think it is good. Here is an example. I was honest as fuck there, and no one got jerked off for any of it. Some brands may not like people like me, but that’s good.I don’t write for them.
I write for you. I am your voice, not theirs.
Just Remain Aware Many Online Reviewers May be Lying (with Someone Giving Them A Handy Under the Table You Don’t Even Know About)
So there you go. I just walked you through entire series of events exactly how they happened, and you know I don’t bullshit. So the next time you see a game review that seems far higher than what you and your friends thought, or see a TV show get pumped up to movie like levels of hype online, please realize, there are people far weaker than me buying into this shit and selling it back every day, so do not take it all as truth or accurate or factual.
Sad fact is most of the people in this industry have already sold their souls.
Featured image by Kiran Foster via Flickr. All others by Remy Carreiro.