CULTURE

What Ever Happened to Sam Hyde?

After losing his show on Adult Swim and getting banned from every major platform, what is Sam Hyde doing now?

In 2015, comedian Sam Hyde's career was booming.

The sketch writer/performance artist had just sold a show to Adult Swim and his off-brand indie comedy, which had been incredibly influential in niche Internet communities like 4chan, was starting to gain wider appeal. Three years later, he's been almost entirely dethroned––his show canceled, his YouTube and Reddit communities removed, and his Twitter banned. His rise and fall offer a unique case study on the topic of censoring artists with disagreeable views. So what happened?

Sam Hyde is the most prominent member of the three-man sketch comedy troupe Million Dollar Extreme (MDE). The Rhode Island-based group gained recognition in niche Internet circles during the early 2010s. Their most popular videos, like "MDE WHYPZ : New Bedford Street Heat," involved publicly screwing with unassuming people. Their videos usually featured bizarre language and absurd graphics and were likely influenced by the stylings of their contemporary YouTuber, Cboyardee, along with other sketch groups like Tim and Eric. Unlike their influences, however, much of MDE's appeal revolved around their confrontational style, especially the way they interacted with their subjects who weren't in on the joke. It felt alternative, gritty, and most importantly, very funny.

Million Dollar Extreme - MDE WHYPZ : New Bedford Street Heat www.youtube.com

Hyde, in particular, gained wider notoriety for a number of public pranks. In 2012 he hosted a fake panel titled "Samurai Swordplay in a Digital Age" using the pseudonym "Master Kenchiro Ichiimada" at an anime convention in Vermont, tasking a friend with blocking the door so trapped attendees couldn't leave. Then in 2013, he pulled a similar stunt at a Drexel University TEDx Talk, delivering a satirical, jargon-filled tech speech titled "2070 Paradigm Shift" while wearing a maroon jumpsuit and a breastplate. These bits, especially the latter, made a splash in the underground comedy scene, giving Hyde clout as an edgy, alternative comedian.

sam hyde gives a ted talk: 2070 PARADIGM SHIFT www.youtube.com

While his fake panels were certainly aggressive performance pieces, they weren't cruel. The same could not be said for his other best-known 2013 performance, a "standup" routine at a Brooklyn venue that consisted entirely of Hyde reading ultra-conservative talking points against homosexuality with the intent of making everyone in the audience walk out. Gauging the artistic merit of a performance piece like this is especially difficult, as it largely hinges on its creator's intent. Is Sam Hyde a living "persona," like Andy Kaufman, who never breaks character to comment on the absurdity of society? Or is he a genuine homophobe? Or perhaps his intent really doesn't matter at all considering the damaging effect it had on LGBTQ viewers.

Privileged White Male Triggers Oppressed Victims, Ban This Video Now and Block Him www.youtube.com

The truth likely lies somewhere in between. Sam Hyde is a comedian playing an amped-up version of himself. But that exaggerated Hyde also expresses his real beliefs, at least to some extent. In many ways, Hyde is the embodiment of post-ironic comedy, using the guise of humor to walk the line between genuine and "just joking." That's not to say Hyde is actually a raging homophobe or evil cartoon villain. He addresses the routine with an air of regret in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. But he's also a vocal proponent of alt-right ideology, which imbues a lot of his more controversial work with an added layer of maliciousness.

This toxicity, incited by Hyde and propagated by his fanbase, directly lead to his downfall. Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace premiered on Adult Swim in August 2016. By December, the show had already been canceled in spite of good ratings due to other Adult Swim-affiliated stars not wanting to work at a network that was supporting Hyde, especially when he had the power to instantly mobilize his small but rabid fanbase to brutalize any ideological dissenters.

Take, for instance, Hyde's interview with BuzzFeed News reporter David Bernstein following the release of his show. Hyde takes the interview opportunity, during which Bernstein attempts to gauge Hyde's actual viewpoints, to verbally abuse Bernstein, calling him insulting names and telling him that he'll never amount to anything in life.

(RE-UPLOADED) My Amazing BUZZFEED Interview w'ViewtifulBlockhead' Joe Bernstein! www.youtube.com

Regardless of whether or not Hyde's bit is funny or intended "seriously," the repercussions for Bernstein were certainly real. Many records of the online attacks against Bernstein have been lost due to purges of the MDE subreddit and various Twitter accounts, but a quick search for "Sam Hyde Bernstein" still reveals antisemitic, hate-filled threads on sites like Stormfront (which we won't link or support in any capacity) and r/TheDonald. In fact, many of Hyde's fans directly blame Bernstein for Hyde's deplatforming due to the resulting article. Hyde, on the other hand, blames Jews in a more general sense, along with fellow comedian Tim Heidecker who he seems to assume had something to do with MDE's cancellation.

Since then, Hyde's YouTube channel and Twitter account, along with the Million Dollar Extreme subreddit he moderated, have all been removed due to violating each platform's hate speech regulations. Hyde continues to generate content (rarely) for his few remaining followers on a private platform, but he's essentially been removed from every mainstream outlet.

In some ways, this is sad. Regardless of his political views, Hyde is a talented comedian and performance artist. He has a unique sense of humor and a knack for pulling off stunts. A lot of his content is very funny. It's a shame to see a good comedian essentially barred from performing. That being said, comedy, even satire, relies on the audience ultimately realizing the performance is a joke. You can't claim something is comedy anymore when its fans are actively sending death threats to the person being "made fun of."

Currently, Hyde's career prospects are barely a shadow of what they once were. He created a new YouTube channel which was immediately demonetized. Now he's hosting everything on a personal website behind a paywall, but his new content is lacking in quality and consistency, with a new release once every three months at best. In one video, Hyde goes on a massive "ironic" tirade against Adult Swim. In the most recent, he and his friends just harass people at their homes. His newer work completely lacks any relevant social commentary or greater point. It's not particularly funny either. Hyde's comedic voice has effectively been neutered.

Sam Hyde is living proof that free speech might prevent the government from censoring your views, but it doesn't force anyone else to support, promote, or monetize them. His career became a casualty of his own ideology. To be clear, Sam Hyde isn't just someone with conservative views. Rather, he facilitated and moderated a fanbase that actively spread hate speech and terrorized his enemies. His comedy wasn't just comedy with a right-wing twist. It was a comedy that inspired real-world harassment against specific people. Even in the free market of ideas, nobody should be forced to actively support toxic behavior. So they didn't – Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, and Adult Swim all showed Sam Hyde the door. That doesn't mean he can't still make comedy; he can. It just means that nobody wants to pay him for it.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.