I have been a fan of the production company Rooster Teeth for more than 13 years. I started watching when you still had to download the videos via torrent sites, before youtube even existed. I have watched all of their episodes of RvB, but more importantly, when Achievement Hunter broke out, that really hit the entertainment spot for me. I consume easily 60% of their content. (as a grown man with a family, full time job, and being the youtube star that I am, that is a real accomplishment).
One of my favorite people on that team, for YEARS, has been Ryan Haywood. His dry dad humor, his lack of empathy, and the chaotic neutral energy he bought to the things he was in really made them complete for me. I have gone back and re watched a dozen times all the golf and GTA episodes he has been in over the years.
Today however, I saw the news that he was leaving Achievement Hunter under terrible circumstances. He has been accused of taking advantage of his position of fame to take advantage of others. The claims are very heavy, and I hope are false, but feel for the victims he has created, and the lives he has negatively impacted.
Tonight, I wanted to talk about something I don’t see anybody else talking about though. I’ve seen a lot of support of the victims, a lot of condemnation for the person who has allegedly committed these acts, but I wanted to talk about the roll that Rooster Teeth itself may play in this situation.
First and foremost: I am NOT going to try to justify any kind of behavior, nor am I going to victim blame. I am going to try to view this as impartially and analytically as possible. My purpose is to see what could be the cause of this and what could be done in the future to prevent it from happening to somebody else.
I apologize in advance if my thoughts are scattered. it is 11pm, I am running on 3 hours of sleep, and it has been a long day, just to come across this news. I spent over an hour reading responses and watching video accusations, and I am emotionally frustrated.
Ryan, like all members of achievement hunter was a relative nobody before nearly overnight stardom. I have no frame of reference. I am not well known, I am not popular, nobody recognizes me on the street. But how can it be going from being a complete unknown to having millions of fans? How did his family take it, especially his wife?
My own wife tolerates my online stuff, between youtube, this blog, social media, etc. She barely sends text messages. Technology holds 0 interest to her. I work in I.T., it took her the first 10 years of our marriage to be able to describe what I do to other people (who then rarely understand). My family doesn’t really get it. My parents are too old, my siblings think I should do something better with my time (and they may not be too wrong).
But what little I know about them, I know his wife is a vet, I know she works long long hours. I know he works long long hours. How much of their conversations were about his work? Did she ever listen to him, or pretend to care? or vice versa, did he care much for her work? Did they have healthy forms of communication? I have no idea. I can however relate on some small level to this whole situation… Story time:
This all happened nearly 15 years ago. I was freshly married, my wife and I both worked. I in a call center, she at a bank. I worked nights/weekends, she banking hours. We tried to make as much time for each other as we possibly could, but with opposite schedules, we were often just like ships passing in the night. As I mentioned before, she has NEVER been one to send text, and she almost never reads them. If I were to look at her phone right now there would be literally 100’s of unread text messages from friends and family members. She spent 90% of her day today with no clue where her phone was and couldn’t have cared less. The problem is, with the work she did and the work I was doing, text messages were one of the ONLY ways I could communicate with her on a regular basis. My “lunch” hour was well after she would have gone to bed, and breaks were just long enough to find an available restroom. I would still be asleep when she was on her breaks. It was not easy, especially as newlyweds. At this time there was a girl on my team, We were nearly the same age. We both had worked for the company about the same time and moved through departments at the same time, and had nearly identical shifts. Basically, I saw and talked to her 10x more than I could my wife, we had known each other before I had married my wife, and had become casual friends, but around the time of this story, we had been sat next to each other at work, and we talked. A LOT. We both were going through some issues with relationships for a lot of the same reasons. Different schedules, significant others not understanding the work that we do, financial issues, etc. And all the things I should have been discussing with my wife I was discussing with my co worker. This lead down a bad path very quickly. certain lines were never crossed, but the path was there and open to us. We were able to step back and both requested a schedule and desk change at work. I left that company shortly thereafter for unrelated reasons, but I won’t deny it was a relief to not have to associate with her anymore.
How does any of that apply to What happened with Ryan? A lot. Think about it. I was just a guy at work, and she was just a coworker. We connected on similar issues in life. These people at achievement hunter have millions of fans, fame the likes of I’ll never understand. What preparation have they been given to handle that? People seeing them as idols, people to worship, look up to, to lust after, to idealize. Not only that, they were encouraged, even required to interact with their fanbase through social media. I know Ryan REFUSED to get a twitter account for the longest time. I wonder if he knew it would be a temptation he couldn’t resist?
So now you have adoring fans throwing themselves at you for your attention. How long do you resist for? I know we all would like to stand in our towers and cast judgement. That we would NEVER fall victim to that situation. But I sure did. I fell and I fell hard. I took me years to repair my relationship with my wife. I cannot cast a stone.
Most of the time, famous people surround themselves with others. These people can either help them stay grounded, stay focuses, help them reach goals, and not be influenced by those around them. Their contact with fans is also pretty limited. Usually they have a social media person controlling their online accounts, at least their public ones. Sometimes celebrities surround themselves with the wrong sort of people. A great example of this would be Justin Bieber. He went from being a cute new kid on the singing stage, to a complete out of control asshole. Spitting on fans, peeing in buckets, racing cars while intoxicated, and who knows what else. He had surrounded himself with the wrong sort of people. He fell from grace pretty hard. He then surrounded himself with, what seems to be, the right kind of people and has made a pretty significant comeback.
Unfortunately, Ryan’s situation is not unique with online creators. How many in the last couple of years have done FAR worse? In the last few weeks alone, there have been multiple people on TikTok called out for being pedophiles and accused of grooming. Who do these creators have to surround themselves with? To keep them grounded. To help them no go down paths that they shouldn’t even consider? Their behavior is of course deplorable, there is no questioning that.
I think of it this way. I don’t drink. I never have. I’ve never taken a sip of an alcoholic beverage. I just have never had any desire to. But what if one day, all of a sudden, there was a case of cold beers in my fridge? Not just there, but the pantry, the cupboards, when I open up the dish washer, Ice cold beer. Again I’ve never had a sip, but how long of it being in my face, being welcoming, and attractive before I break and take just a sip?
I can only imagine having the fame that these people do at these online production companies. The number of people who are constantly reaching out, Begging for your attention, praising you, sharing their every life’s detail, talking to you in a way that only two people who are truly close should be talking. Making it so easy for it to be the person you go to when you need to “just talk” or be the shoulder you lean on. How lonely is it for somebody who’s family doesn’t “get it?”
Who do the people at Rooster Teeth surround themselves with? I would say that their coworkers do not count. Anybody else who’s in the same situations as they are, creating content for vast hours of the day, they simply cannot be there to support each other in that way. Does Rooster Teeth have a team that checks up on their creators? Monitors their social media activity? Provide counselling? Helping them to stay grounded, to keep themselves free of the temptations that come along?
At this point, I’m just sad and disappointed in the situation. Ryan, despite being the person I enjoyed most, is just a person, who, whether by accident or design, became famous. I fear that fame was more than he could handle, and he didn’t have, or get the support he needed to make smart decisions. I will miss him, and the chaos he rained. I hope that there is healing for all involved.