Introducing the Beginning of the End of Culture
Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace and its cancellation has been a disaster for comedy and the modern entertainment landscape. As of its cancellation, there has been nothing like it, a post-modern surrealistic comedy troupe that critiques modern political beliefs and the crushing realities caused by the industrial revolution that we revel in, our daily lives. A new era of edgy humour started by an entourage of comedic nobodies who started off by posting skits and videos on the internet that somehow found the attention of Adult Swim, a Television Network that is housed by media conglomerate, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. The after effects of the show held a great deal of power outside of airing, inspiring an underground minority both artistically and spiritually. There was never any mainstream appeal to all of it, it wasn’t supposed to. The 6 episode Television show was made to shock and to rile up the system itself, alluding itself as a rascist, homophobic and sexist show to provoke and offend those that are unaware and most comfortable in our society.
A controversy caused by this lack of conformity caused the show’s cancellation and started an era of “cancel culture”. A generation now used to their favourite artists’ liberties taken away from them for the sake of self-constructed societal do’s and don’ts.
In this essay, my goal is not only to understand the rise and fall of MDE: World Peace but also how it ties into censorship and its prevailing effects on modern media. How freedom of speech slowly becomes a thing of the past as the status quo is celebrated in lieu of innovation and creativity.
The Inception of Million Dollar Extreme
Million Dollar Extreme ( more commonly abbreviated to MDE ) is a group that focuses on the creation of absurdist anti-comedy humour, composed primarily by Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll and Nick Rochefort. They were a small group that were from different ways of life, uniting with a similar interest: To create something different in an age where humour and entertainment had become sterile. The YouTube channel “Million Dollar Extreme” was created in 2013 and since its inception, hosted popular content aimed at disillusioned younger crowd of teenagers and early adults that praised the content for its satirical and deeply ironic body of work. The channel featured an abundance of daring sketches based around cultural taboos and norms that was a far cry from the type of content being produced by the mainstream media.
Arguably the most notable of these early works by the group was a sort of prank pulled on a TEDx lecture. TEDx is a series of popular lectures hosted by lesser known members of scientific and artistic fields, giving them the ability to talk about themselves and what they do. It is a renowned event, characterized by what I can only describe as pseudo-intellectual progressivism. Most individuals spout vague entities of ideas, being fairly renowned in their area of work to have the ability of hosting the lectures, wherein Sam Hyde was able to infiltrate and integrate himself as a journalist returning from Mogadishu. After a series of various speakers had talked about the subject of October 2013’s TEDx talk which was on futurism and technologies role in shaping the future, Sam Hyde takes to the stage with 15 minutes to present his arguments on futurism dressed in a red sweat suit and clad with Bronze, Roman plate and shinguards.
He goes on to make purposefully outlandish predictions and statements throughout his lecture such as:
“The second thing that inspires me are ideas. Ideas are amazing. Ideas are like currency. Ideas are what drives the world. Ideas are what we need to get to the next stage. And not just great inventions like the train, little things like this microphone, that enables me to speak to the unwashed masses. TED talks, TED talks are another GREAT idea. And we have to talk about it, because great ideas don’t come in all shapes and sizes. 9/11, September 11th. And we’re gonna use some reverence here and not be silly about this, but, look at what they accomplished with no weapons and just 11 guys who didn’t even speak English! And that proves that sometimes great ideas are actually horrible ideas.”Sam Hyde
In a Steve Jobs style seminar, Sam Hyde goes on to satirize the buzzwords and vague intellectualists that plague the modern think tank and surprising the unaware audience with his style of bizarre humour and stand up performance art, mirroring the likes of Andy Kaufmann that came before. This lecture would be known as the “2070 Paradigm Shift” and would make the rounds on certain news circuits.
The reaction of the uninitiated and confused audience mixed with Mr. Hyde’s abrasive speech left passerbyers perplexed and intrigued, helping to gain attention towards MDE itself, which continued to produce skits and content with a similar intent to “2070 Paradigm Shift”. This consistent body of work would eventually gain attention from others and people in powerful positions started to take notice.
Adult Swim and Helming a New Wave
Adult Swim ( stylized as [adult swim] ) is a nighttime block of shows that is aired on Cartoon Network ( but is marketed as a separate network for ratings purposes). The nature of the network is more oriented around alternative humour geared towards adults ( the shows being aired from 9pm to 6am ) and saw success by showing reruns of recently cancelled shows such as Futurama and Family Guy which were cancelled on their original networks and became uncancelled due to the amount of viewers tuning into Adult Swim to see these now prematurely ended shows. After housing a plethora of original content which would not normally see the light of day in ordinary channels, the network gained a reputation for being experimental, surreal and wacky in its appearance and its show line up. Some examples of successful Adult Swim TV shows can be seen today with the likes of Rick and Morty, Robot Chicken, The Eric Andre Show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (this show in particular would influence the MDE troupe and their style).
Having seen the success of MDE’s YouTube channel, Adult Swim’s Network Executive, Mike Lazzo ordered a pilot from the group to see whether a fully fledged TV show would work. After viewing it, Lazzo was confident enough to order a 6 episode season, consisting of 11 minutes each episode and thus, Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace was born.
The Birth of World Peace
Producing the series in 2015-2016, the members of Million Dollar Extreme started to realize that their creative vision would take a hit and the show would not be as they had wanted it to be. According to Sam Hyde, the networks marketing department conflicted with him on a set of billboards that were to be made and eventually, none were ever created which would decrease the amount of people seeing the show. Disagreements were also had with the editors, leaving the group to eventually gain creative control and edit their own work. With this, one morning, the group found that one of the production staff had broken into the editing studio and was attempting to delete everything before release, only to be thwarted by the group and fired on the spot. At an Adult Swim party, the members of the group were threatened by someone at the party, claiming that this person was going to attempt to fire them. So even before the release of the show, Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace ( or World Peace as I will be referring to it for brevity sake ) was in danger. This seems to be due to the politics associated with MDE.
Sam Hyde, the most popular member of the trio was a conservative and on Twitter, he would frequently mention talks of Donald Trump and mention/frequent websites normally associated with right wing behaviour such as “4chan”. This is in contrast to most of the content that is shown on television, depicting members of the right as being racists and deplorables, so it seems that Sam Hyde’s association with MDE would put the show in danger as the other members were not so inclined politically.
Despite all the attempts to destroy the show, it left slightly unscathed to be viewed by the masses. Released in 2016, each episode of the show was watched by almost an average of a million people and was a great success for not only MDE but Adult Swim too as the show was the second highest watched cable show during the weeks it aired. At release, it received massive praise by the public and the executives at Adult Swim, Mike Lazzo going on record claiming that “It would be the next Tim and Eric”, a show that’s one of the pillars of Adult Swim.
The show itself was abrasive, even in terms of the schedule helmed by Adult Swim which was already alternative in comparison to other TV shows of the era. Even with only six episodes, the MDE troupe were able to convey a very strong message and artistic style, maintaining a skit show format. Within the six episodes was a mixture of several humourous criticisms aimed towards women, Jewish heritage, African-American racial movements and school shootings, this being countered by skits that are a lot more introspective, critiquing the life of a modern worker, his place in a world that punishes and the modern social injustice towards the individual.
Some of the more offensive skits were never aimed to make fun of minorities or the less fortunate ( such as the african-americans or women ) but were instead biting criticisms of those satisfied with the media and politics that are presented to them. Anti-Semetic jokes were made as well, possibly offending the higher ups of Turner Broadcasting and lots of other media companies and news outlets, which themselves are Jewish. Those that are comfortable and enjoy their rights becoming ever so diminished were the ones being laughed at. All of the skits work on a superficial level but taking a close look into each of them, it becomes clear that this has something meaningful to say and several interpretations can be made about each one. There are a few cases where a skit is drowned out by several layers of irony, only to hold a beautiful sentiment that carries real depth and weight ( the skit “The Man Who Would Never Be… What They Made Him To Be” comes to mind when I think emotionally impactful skits that resonate with me ). Some are just stupid for stupid sake, celebrating and simultaneously showcasing the American Dream in full effect. The show contained a new and innovative array of comedic humour, much needed in a landscape that had long gone stale and uninteresting to an audience of young males that had been unsatisfied with the entertainment that was being presented to them.
Nothing really worthy of cancellation but that’s not what others thought.
The Death of World Peace
The show came into some controversy when journalist, Joseph Bernstein, from the “acclaimed” Buzzfeed News wrote about the show, criticized the show and what it stands for, claiming it to be a dog whistling tool aimed towards the “Alt-Right” ( the Alt-Right being a vague term for far-right and white nationlist political movements ). More and more news publications caught wind of the story and it gained some traction, enough to cause a controversy and consistent complaints aimed at Adult Swim for airing such a show. Other participants in Adult Swim’s content were quick to fire at the group, parroting the claims of racism spouted by others. Tim Heidecker, one of the most popular show runners in Adult Swim remarked that he defended the show despite evidence that shows otherwise. It seems that others inside the network were scared that the show would gain too much traction and steal attention away from their own creative endeavours. World Peace came out during a divided time in politics and in media in general, a changing of tides was occurring as Donald Trump’s candidacy to Presidency was becoming a reality which was a reality that scared the left. Despite no substantial evidence to support these claims, loosely throwing around buzzwords of racism and calling fans of the show “Nazis”, the show was turned down for a renewal of season two. Though it seems that the executives at Adult Swim were willing to put up with the hate as the show was none of the claims aforementioned and could stand on its own as a good show, the higher ups at Turner Broadcasting decided to pull the plug.
Million Dollar Extreme were let go from Adult Swim with little to no regard, though Adult Swim tried to buy the writing material of everyone involved with the exception of Sam Hyde, the group refused out of pride and disgust with the company. Adult Swim lost the respect of lots of fans on December the Fifth, 2016, the day World Peace died. It seemed the company lost a lot of its original values, giving more worth to profits and mainstream acclaim rather than the focus on originality and passion found within its architecture at the networks conception.
The troupe disbanded soon after the blowout of the show, each person going onto doing their own creative pursuit with some of the members collaborating frequently but it seems that for the most part, there won’t be any new Million Dollar Extreme content being produced in the future.
Lastly, the Death of Freedom of Speech and the Rise of Censorship
The following is in parts more subjective and is my own opinion on the topic of censorship but at a certain point, you will see patterns in the articles you read and the media you consume that supports my arguments.
We can use Million Dollar Extreme as an example of the prevalence of censorship that has seeped into mainstream acceptance in our times. It is almost a daily occurrence now that we hear the of attempts to delete historical films and people of the past, accounts on social media being deleted and wiped of years of content and the news itself being corrupt, censoring stories that should be known to the public and spreading false news in order to serve a greater narrative. A narrative that seemingly supports equality and anti-hate but actually promotes hatred and helps incite violence under the guise of “progress”. ´
Technological conglomerates are given power not only by their governments but by the people they virtually house to do as they please, spreading what they deem as right and cancelling what they deem unwelcome.
This holds little to no advantages as false accusations and lives are thrown around in each news cycle, only to come back around and hit someone else. The capacity to ruin lives and art is too high and the people do nothing about it. Humans love to hate, they love drama and they love “inciting change”. We want to feel important and like we belong so we join the herd and its mentality and do as others do, instead of thinking for ourselves. This is what Million Dollar Extreme presented to us. The individual and his newfound feelings of loss and isolation in a society that promotes progressive values that do nothing to change our miserable circumstances. This is why they perished. They were not politically correct and did not follow the grain that the mainstream culture was barreling towards.
Beautiful pieces of art and important figures are held to a certain cultural standard that is dictated by no one in particular. If you are to look for episodes of World Peace, you will have a hard time as they have been seemingly wiped off the internet, only found on pirating sites and within the community of fans the show harboured. This has happened to this cult television show but what’s stopping this from happening to other things too? You may think that cancelling Kevin Spacey based on unconfirmed accusations is the right thing to do but what are you to do when someone is cancelled for less? You will then be deemed just as bad as the accused. Making racist jokes in the office is now 10 something that deems you fireable and unwelcome to society, leaving you without any prospects of a job or comfortable life.
Gone with the Wind promotes values that are now unpopular in popular culture yet it is an important historical document that is still beloved by many. The Birth of a Nation is one of the greatest films in cinema but seeing as though it paints a strong light to the Confederate side of the American Civil War, it would be said that it holds no good use and all copies should be burned if you ask certain people. Though these films hold mesmerizing film techniques. Innovations and most importantly a compelling story, you will be told that they are “dangerous” due to the ideas put forward. Your agreement with the politics of something should not dictate the entire identity of the entity. If that were the case, very few people would be fond of each other and lots of works of art would be lost to time because of the man-made laws dictated by our society. The most important landmarks of entertainment and progress in thought are drenched in controversy and outcry by a mostly ignorant majority that, over time, gained the acclaim and respect it deserved. But the way the future is heading, this new wave of appreciation will never come to those that deserve it most.
If you or anyone you associate with does not have the right mentality, you are rejected from society and not allowed to be employed. You must support the right ideas, the right candidates and accept what is given to you, that is the society we live in. A dystopia whose people refuse to recognize the dystopia they permeate. Erasing history and in turn, ruining the future.