Crowdfunding, to hear Amanda Palmer tell it, is a socially conscious, innately human way to put an audience to work and solicit the support of a community. It’s based essentially on altruism; people are parting with their cash in the hopes that whomever they’re donating to will deliver on whatever it is they’re promising. It’s, you know, nice.
But what does it mean when an absurd project — like, say, a model of a Tyrannosaurus rex with Christopher Walken’s head — raises over $2,000 in a single day, based on nothing more than a rough sketch that anyone with a sheet of graph paper and a pencil could’ve scribbled in just a few minutes? Is it nice of those backers to pledge their money to an intentionally-ludicrous concept, or just stupid?
There is no proof that the Christopher Walken Rex, as it’s being called, could be built by project creator Ethan Cyr, who claims that the Indiegogo campaign’s extra funding will go towards his first art show. None. Zilch. Backers are supposedly buying sketches of the ‘Rex — or, for $75, a sketch of themselves and the ‘Rex, which six people have been silly enough to purchase — to be sent via email.
The above image is a sample sketch, provided by Cyr on the Indiegogo campaign. Just to be perfectly clear: This is a thing people have paid for. People who steal candy from babies are probably looking at this campaign and wondering where Cyr trained as a goddamn hypnotist.
But, then, maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. There’s always an upside to every seemingly fucked circumstance — or so all those self-help books say, anyway — and maybe I’m just a jaded technology writer oppressing a budding artist.
Perhaps this is the new “viral.” This project is perfect for social media, from its inclusion of dinosaurs (always a fan favorite), Christopher Walken (a saint among men), and crowdfunding, the feel-good lottery for altruists, suckers, and writers.
Maybe many of the project’s backers would be happy to receive something like the image shown above in their inboxes. Some probably know Cyr and were willing to pitch in, either to add a bit of legitimacy to the campaign or to make his, erm, unique dream come true. I suspect that many simply thought that the project was funny and were willing to pay $5 for the novelty alone.
That isn’t so different from other crowdfunding campaigns, which are never a sure thing. Some campaigns, like the OUYA videogame console, promise the skies and then end up receiving abysmal reviews. Maybe a musician promised the next electro-funk, avant garde album to their backers and delivered nothing but an album with a few power chords, a car alarm, and some off-key howling.
So, yeah. While I feel that anyone backing the Christopher Walken Rex is, um, not smart and should feel bad, it isn’t really all that different from other, more-serious projects. Crowdfunding is the financing of ideas, a monetary contribution to whatever idea happens to have the most traction at any given moment. It makes people feel good. And if they’re willing to part with $5 or $75 to get a squirt of dopamine in their rattling skulls (and are opposed to other, um, entertainment), fuck it. We might as well let ‘em.
Even if it is stupid.
[PandoDaily reached out to Cyr for an interview, and was told that he would not be available until "Sunday or Monday."]