On Sunday night, actor Adam Pally took the stage at the Shorty Awards, a social- and digital-media awards show, and gave a bizarre, rude, unscripted rant in which he negged specific creators for their work, trashed the industry he was there to honor, and compared the awards show itself to the DMV.
At the end of his diatribe, he finally proclaimed: “This is the worst night of my life.”
Internet onlookers were quick to praise his “hilarious” hate fest. Vulture did a roundup of his “best one-liners,” including such witty phrases as “this is hell.” Quartzy declared that “for 10 glorious minutes, social-media influencers were mocked at their own awards show.”
“What Adam Pally did at the Shorty Awards was perfect and I howled with pure joy,” proclaimed one writer.
But what Pally did wasn’t “perfect.” It was rude, entitled, insensitive, and, more than anything, a dick move.
As BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos noted on Twitter, “You don’t have to agree to show up (and presumably get paid) to do this if you think it’s stupid? It’s just insulting to the people there.”
The Shorty Awards were created in 2008, at a time when social media and the concept of influencers were still nascent.
The show’s founder, Gregory Galant, was an early advocate for the power of social media and the internet to radically transform the way that people create and connect with each other. As a result, the Shorty Awards were launched with the idea that there’s value in identifying companies and creators doing exciting new things on emerging platforms.
This year, the ceremony celebrated its 10th anniversary by paying homage to the over 35 creators and creative teams who’ve won for their innovative work on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly, Tumblr, YouTube, and more. Pally was there to present the award for best overall Instagram presence.
It’s easy to mock lists and award shows. At their core, they’re overblown, biased, and arbitrary measures of success. But Pally’s disdain seemed less directed at the Shorty Awards itself and more toward the hundreds of creators and creative teams who were there to be honored for their work.
“What qualifies you to get an award?” he spit out mid-speech to the room full of creators before insulting individual people by name and mocking their work.
“Social-media influencers” are regularly maligned online and Pally’s disdain for the type of people who are able to make a living mastering platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, or YouTube is shared by many on the internet.
These haters revel in their own perceived intellectual superiority and “serious jobs.” They are the ones who implore brands to “fire the intern” for off-brand tweets, as if a multinational brand has no marketing or communications department and would trust an intern to speak on behalf of the company directly to millions of customers, clients, or investors.
Social-media platforms have literally helped sway elections, given rise to powerful new forms of activism and more, yet these naysayers still scoff at the idea that anyone would “waste” time mastering these tools. It’s hard to believe that in the year 2018 people like this still exist, but there they are, on the internet, calling Pally their “hero.”
While there are aspects of influencer culture that certainly deserve criticism—some YouTubers and Instagrammers regularly profit off of stolen content or trade in borderline racist and misogynistic humor—those aren’t the people Pally chose to skewer. Instead, he singled out individuals like a harmless 15-year-old boy from a meme and a girl who chose to forgo college debt and become a successful Twitch streamer.
“I think a lot of people assume that creators don’t provide any value to the world, and that is inherently wrong,” said Ariel Viera, a livestreamer who attended the award show. “In my case, I give people value by teaching them about histories of cities, for the girl who was a Twitch streamer, she provides entertainment and makes people happy. People out there who see our content are affected by it. It’s not useless. It might help them through a bad day at work, learn about a city, or feel closer to someone across the world. That’s the value of creative work in any industry, movies, music, or art.”
“Pally’s rant was followed up with so many powerful moments that spoke to the power of creativity, innovation, activism and the work we do online that it only underlined the pure disrespect of Adam’s comments,” said another creator in attendance.
The Shorty Awards is one of the few award shows out there with gender and racial parity in its set of nominees—and that, too, makes it a strange target for Pally’s ire.
A few people honored at Sunday’s Shorty Awards include David Dobrik, a vlogger and DREAMer who has used his platform to speak out against repealing DACA, and Sophia Gall, a health and wellness vlogger who has used social media to chronicle her painful fight with bone cancer. The Creator of the Decade award went to Marques Brownlee (MKBHD), a black YouTuber who provides education about technology. Erica Garner was honored posthumously for her activism.
The Twitch Streamer of the Year was a woman—a message to an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. Miles McKenna, a young trans vlogger, was honored for his videos distributing LGBTQ+ advice.
Instead of hiring a hot woman or traditional “trophy girl,” the Shorty Awards chose a young, black YouTube comedian to present awards (which Pally said resembled “giant vaginas”). The “terrified woman” who finally put an end to Pally’s disastrous performance was Betty Who, a feminist pop star with a record of outspoken activism.
“Pally’s performance was punching down in the absolute worst way, and I lost a lot of respect for him,” said one creator who was at the ceremony.
“When I was bullied in school, my mom said, ‘being young is complicated. people are figuring themselves out. Sometimes they think they gain cool points by taking them away from others. When they mature, they learn the only way to gain cool points is to share your own,’” she said. “I stand with young people. Everything I do and have done for years is focused on making them feel seen and heard. Adam Pally is an adult bully who thought it would be funny to join last night as a wolf in sheep’s clothing to try and rob them of feeling acknowledged.
“He’s entitled to think internet content is silly, although it’s tremendously adjacent to the work that he does,” she continued. “But why would he show up at their awards show to insult them and bully them? did his own insecurity need a boost? did he need to take cool points away from others? Perhaps my mom’s take on bullies is simple way to view life, but in this era of mean tweets, racism, violence, suicide, and massive amounts of pain, I urge Adam Pally to consider taking that step towards maturity, and sharing rather than taking.”