So, this is it. We are really doing this. This is what constitutes gaming news.
Allow me to suppress my obligatory groan and instead demand, much like Daffy Duck at the end of “Duck Amuck,” who’s responsible for this. I demand to know who it is that has made this a thing for anyone to discuss or even acknowledge.
Felix Kjellberg, more commonly known as PewDiePie, was given an eviction notice last week for creating excessive noise that disturbed other tenants. Reports indicate that Felix (as I insist on calling him, since he is every bit a cartoon as the cat of the same name) was approached by either his neighbor, his landlord, or indeed both, who proceeded to call him a slur. Thereafter, he was given an eviction notice and then a notice complaining of his excessive noise. Felix already has moved to another place, so I suppose that is the end of the story.
Of course, it is not the end of the discussion. Felix made a crack that he could buy the house he was renting. After all, with forty-five million YouTube subscribers, he is considered the most commercially successful YouTuber, having the most subscriptions on the site. This is where a lot of people naturally would ask, “If he’s so rich and successful, why is he renting instead of just buying a house?” Well, it is a legitimate question, although Felix’s reasons are his own. The housing market in the United Kingdom, where Felix lives, is likely very different from us in the wide open Americas. The concern is not even why Felix is a tenant rather than a homeowner, but why this is even news in the first place.
Let me get a few things out of the way first: I practice often in landlord/tenant court. I would conservatively estimate that eighty percent of my practice is centered around landlord/tenant law. Plus, I worked very hard to become a lawyer, and I make a modest income, just enough to live a comfortably austere life. I am pretty sure that Felix draws in crowds because he shrieks into a camera and people who have never beheld actual wit find him funny, to the degree that he is a millionaire because of it. That is totally at odds with how I pay interest every month on law school loans that are somehow increasing, not decreasing, the longer I pay. In no way do I have even the slightest iota of sympathy for Felix, who has a magic bag of money to spend on whatever he pleases. He had the good sense to go into the business of being a professional howler monkey and I, like a fool, decided I wanted to put my intellect to use in defending the downtrodden. When society has rewarded the jester in place of the public advocate, I can only conclude something has been turned upside-down. So, understand that Felix and I come from two different worlds, and if it pleases you to deem me bitter about that, so be it. My job is to give a voice to the voiceless by representing and counseling people too poor to afford their own attorney. No, it lacks the glamor of addressing millions of people from the comfort of my home, and that is exactly my problem with Felix getting attention for this.
As even Felix conceded, “Luckily for us, it’s really easy to move. It’s not a problem. We have the resources, and we can just do it. I imagine for another normal person this would throw them out on the streets.” He is right, probably much more so than he realizes. At least in the United States, the rental market is miserable nationwide, with twenty-five percent of renters spending over half of their income on housing alone. The amount of money therefore spent on housing means less to go around for everything else, such as food, utilities, vacations, luxuries, etc., i.e. other things that stimulate the economy. Having seen this firsthand in my practice, I can say without hesitation that for a normal person, this would throw him out on the streets, short of having a competent lawyer who might be able to backdoor a victory on some procedural technicality. I can also say this: if tenants could afford an attorney to defend them in landlord/tenant court, they would be homeowners already. I do not think I have ever seen a private attorney hired by a tenant for landlord/tenant court, and given the facts on how much rent eats up of the average renter’s income, that is not surprising. So yes, this would indeed be the end of the normal person’s tenancy, but then, Felix is not a “normal person,” is he? No, I am not questioning his integrity or his state of mind, but for Felix to refer to “another normal person” smacks of him forgetting, or at least deluding himself into believing, that he is normal despite being vastly rich from YouTube, appearing on two episodes of South Park, and having written a book (with the terms “written” and “book” here being used as liberally as possible). So, with the knowledge that rent rates and evictions are concomitantly soaring everywhere, a tenant who can simply walk away from an eviction by moving somewhere else is assuredly the exception, not the norm.
What am I driving at, then? Well, we know Felix is not normal. Tenants can be accused of all kinds of outrageous, false things and landlord/tenant judges can flippantly find in favor of landlords. Some landlord/tenant judges are, in fact, landlords themselves. Other landlord/tenant judges are prejudiced against recipients of rental subsidies and assistance, such as the infamous Section 8 in the United States. As long as there is a veneer of plausibility to a landlord/tenant judge’s finding, overturning his judgment on appeal is well-nigh impossible. Then, we add to our knowledge the fact that evictions, including and especially wrongful ones, are spiking all over the land, and we must draw the obvious conclusion: there are millions of people getting evicted every day with more compelling stories than Felix, but he is the one who has received media attention. Of course, that is what gaming journalism has boiled down to, so the fault is not Felix’s here, but his response is.
To be sure, the fact that the landlord approached Felix and called him a slur and then did everything about evicting him totally backward says little admirable about him. However, Felix effectively said, “I don’t need you. I am rich enough not to be sincerely inconvenienced by you.” Grand. This guy, with 45,000,000 subscribers, is one of the premier ambassadors of gaming. I hope nobody wonders why gamers are perceived as shrieking, anti-social man-children even to this day. As a gamer, I am embarrassed. I would never want to say that I belong to the same social group as Felix for the simple fact that his lowest common denominator humor and fountain of profane verbal diarrhea are completely unlike anything I enjoy. The entitled response, whether or not it was meant to be taken as humorous, is cringe-inducing. That response telegraphs to all of Felix’s neighbors that he should not have to be punished because he is a celebrity, and both stories that reported on this neglect any mention of his neighbors’ opinions, reactions, or requests; you do not need to be an attorney to know there are two sides to every story, but any attorney will tell you that your client’s side of the story may be wildly different from everyone else’s. Yet at least to the eyes of the Fraghero.com reporter, the reason for Felix’s eviction was “outrageous.” Actually, outrageous is when landlords jack up rent prices beyond legal limits and threaten eviction to anyone who reports them. Outrageous is landlords lying to oust tenants they see as a problem. Outrageous is the statutory scheme that stacks the deck in favor of landlords and the judicial system that enforces that scheme. Outrageous is the absolute fortune that attorneys can make representing landlords just by showing up to court or coercing tenants not to stand up for their rights. Outrageous is how this passes for gaming news in place of investigative journalism that pierces the corporate hype veil and would be of real benefit to consumers.
I suppose it does not pay as much to ululate into a camera about socioeconomic inequity as it does about toys. Positively outrageous.