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April 15, 2024

Bumble -- The Site for Fans

By Dan Mulhollen

Kit Klienman founded Bumble during his junior year of college, his idea as a way to make a million dollars doing as little work possible. "Bumble, the Site For Fans," screamed the garish black and yellow bumblebee color scheme. But it worked: within two years Klienman was a millionaire.

The rapidly-growing clientele quickly revealed all of the concept's shortcomings. Copyright infringement was a key problem and came to a head with a nasty flame war between two David Bowie fans who both posted links to the video for the song "Starman" and then attacked the other, each claiming ownership of the song.

"U can drink bleach and die!!!" one of the pseudo-Ziggys roared. "I'll drink it with your mom," the other countered. "Oh that'll be after I F--- YOUR'S in the A--" was the reply. This was followed by a dozen or so similar posts.

The site's not entirely intuitive layout gave users the main reason for using it at all: "My folks don't use it." The truth being that they did not want their parents seeing what immature, foul-mouthed brats their "sweet angels" actually were.

Most users were fairly liberal, but not the classic liberals of the 1960s; but one that subscribed to the worst notions of political correctness, where heterosexual white males were positively the worst things on earth. It was also their notion that nature gets it wrong 100 percent of the time and humans are all born transgendered. They even promoted the term "cisgendered" largely as an insult to those daring to disagree with them. "Stupid cis F---S," was the typical reply to criticism, such as mentioning statistics.

"You have privilege you oppressive piece of S---!!" (Something totally confusing to anyone working a 9 to 5 job.) "So what if my fan-fic was taken from an episode of Star Trek? That's's ancient history, from the 1960s and written by a privileged white male. It's my right to use as I see fit. Check the TOS!" While Bumble did have a Terms of Service agreement, Klienman preferred running the site as if it did not. Better for profits that way, without pesky lawsuits to worry about.

"Found material" means Your material, regardless of copyrights was the sentiment. So you had recycled videos such as the shower scene from Psycho merged with Janis Joplin's "Piece of my Heart." Fan-art, looking frighteningly like famous paintings, including "feminist" versions of "Dogs Playing Cards." And songs with bizarrely Christian lyrics: "It was twenty years ago today, Reverend Pepper taught the band to pray," and worse. Much, much worse.

The biggest, nastiest controversy came with a well-written TV series about a serial killer. Alec Hasdrubal was played by an "up and coming" English actor named Mick Madison. The whole of the fandom wanted to see Mick hook up with either MariBeth Calvin, an unstable teenage girl or a tall, boyish police investigator, Todd Keebler. After MariBeth was killed off by falling in a 50 gallon vat of peanut oil, her fans were in denial for months, ignoring the lunch of "deep fried MariBeth," as her killer quipped under his breath. "Oh, he'll bring her back ... he has to!" her fans (largely unstable teenage age girls themselves) insisted. "You F-----s! She needs to be with Dr. Hasdrubal, Her love can cure him!!! A--H---, producer!!!" (Vulgar afterthoughts and over-punctuation being a common feature of Bumble.)

But the fans' biggest gripe was with Madison, himself. "I'm from a small town in Norfolk," the happily married 40-year-old would tell interviewers. "I was raised to consider flash something in poor taste. When in America, I drive a Ford, for God's sake!" These facts were ignored by people who wanted to see him with hot pink hair and wearing a silver spandex jumpsuit. By the middle of the second season it was clear the fan fantasies of a gay (except for messed up 17-year-olds) Alec Hasdrubal would never come true, and viewership, at least the among the show's most fervent fans, suffered. Those who admired the show's witty writing or dazzling cinematography were in the minority. The show was canceled at the end of that season.

"Bumble kills the killer!" one tabloid headline shouted. Entertainment shows talked about "the website Hollywood fears."

From this notoriety, people started looking at Bumble, and parents started reading what their children said about anyone they disagreed with, the obscenity and the death threats. "You killed the F------ show Die you racist pig!!!!"

As the cast deliberately integrated, ethnically and sexually, this simply furthered the lack of rationality Bumble had become famous for.

Most dinner table conversations about it went sadly unrecorded. But it was over for Bumble. Kit Klienman took his millions, his Bugatti Veryon, his 75-foot yacht, and his three acres on Maui, and went home.

Article © Dan Mulhollen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2014-03-17
Image(s) © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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