A couple of weeks ago Hank Green was interviewed on Adam Hills Tonight. The interview made me feel uncomfortable for a number of reasons. Below is an email I've sent to the ABC about it. My friend Lizzy suggested I also share it here, so here it is.
To whom it may concern,
I am writing in regard to the interview with Hank Green which aired on Adam Hills Tonight on the 3rd of July.
Firstly, I’d like to say that I enjoy the show. I think it’s been a great platform for issues and a showcase of local and international talent. Often the questions which guests are asked are the right ones and interesting and thought-provoking answers are the result.
It is because of this that I was extremely disappointed by your treatment of John and Hank Green and the community which is Nerdfighteria.
I am proud to call myself a Nerdfighter but I didn’t relate at all to your portrayal of the community. It seemed like shallow fan-service (and pretty inadequate fan-service at that) which pivoted on the mockery of nerds. I though your treatment of Hank and John Green was confusing and disrespectful. Their achievements were barely mentioned and, when they were, they were done so flippantly and with disregard.
Let me tell you what the Green brothers mean to me.
I understand the world better because of them. That’s what they do: they encourage empowerment through knowledge. They present complicated issues in a clear and clever way that makes you want to go out and learn more. Aside from their main channel, which regularly tackles issues of world politics, sociology and global debate, they make and produce a number of educational channels. These deal with, among other things, world history, biology and sex education.
Being a nerdfighter is about making the world a better place. That’s what DFTBA means; it is never forgetting that you can be awesome, in the face of all the terrible things in the world. By arming ourselves with knowledge, confidence and community we can tackle the seemingly insurmountable terrors of the modern world. Nothing is hopeless.
The vlogbrothers have raised a staggering amount of money for charity, both through the annual Project for Awesome and through other work. The Nerdfighter group on Kiva has lent well over a million dollars to business owners in the developing world. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This is a community that has made a tangible and real difference to the world. The vlogbrothers encourage their community to care about the world around them and to try and make a difference when they think that something could be better. We’re always being told that a single person can change the world but I don’t think I really believed that before I discovered John and Hank.
Your portrayal of these brothers didn’t even come close to conveying the enormity of what it is they do. Hank Green is an entrepreneur, at the forefront of the digital landscape. He is genuinely and honestly trying to solve some of the problems that the digital world presents. As a young person working in the arts, I can’t tell you how important it is to know that someone is thinking about these problems. Hank gives me hope that one day there will be solutions. One day we’ll work out how to tackle internet piracy in a real way. One day there might be a global response to online issues. One day it might be feasible, as a creative, to make your money online.
Take DFTBA Records. Hank is personally responsible for an innovative independent record label that has put the content creators in direct contact with the people who want to support them. It has helped dozens of online musicians make a real living from their music. Many of these people fall outside the mainstream but have found a way to make money.
I genuinely think that we will be looking to the vlogbrothers very soon and that their ideas and their innovations will inform the future.
Then there’s John Green, who on top of everything else, is a New York Times bestselling author, something you casually failed to mention. He is famous and successful beyond the vlogbrothers brand. John Green articulates things better than almost anyone I’ve ever encountered. The reason The Fault in Our Stars has been such a huge success internationally (another thing that was never mentioned) is that it is an incredible book. He’s a great writer. I also think his decision to take paternity leave after the birth of his daughter was a pretty admirable one.
On another note, his wife is a very successful curator working at a major art gallery. By suggesting she was somehow an idiot for having children with John belittled her. She has never appeared in a vlogbrothers video but I admire and respect her. She’s always seemed like an amazing, inspiring woman and I thought that the throw-away reference to her being dumb enough to have sex with a nerd was pretty disrespectful.
I’ve lost count of the times when I have looked to the vlogbrothers. On numerous occasions they have restored my faith in humanity. When London was burning during the riots and the global economy seemed poised on the brink of collapse and I felt like the whole world was sliding into chaos, they were the people who made me remember that there is good in the world. When an international disaster happens, they are the people I turn to for explanation and analysis. And sometimes I’m just sad, because sometimes life is hard, and they’ll make a video that cheers me up and gives me the will to go back outside and forge ahead.
John and Hank Green are an inspiration to me and to thousands and thousands of young people across the world. They are at the forefront of their (numerous) fields and have fostered a community of people who might just change the world. I think it’s a real shame you missed the opportunity to explore that on the show.
This blog is largely neglected these days. To read more of my stuff, including a 50th Anniversary Doctor Who rewatch, head over to Adventures in TV-Land.