Student video series to continue despite complaint


Photo courtesy Calvin College Media Production

Last week, students in CAS 250, a film directing and editing class, posted “Calvin College News” online. Written, directed by and starring Calvin students, the satirical video received over a thousand views on facebook and vimeo before it was pulled in response to a complaint.

Calvin alumna Lauren Spoelhof, after watching the video, objected to the use of her last name for the name of one of the fake news anchors.

“It just wasn’t something I wanted my name attached to,” said Spoelhof. “I asked if they would respect my privacy and not use my name.”

Junior Michael Ribbens, who produced the video, admits he and his class were surprised by the complaint, explaining that he and his co-writers, who included contributors from the class and from the popular Calvin spoof site “Calvin Chives,” chose the last names of their news anchors almost “out of a hat.”

“We chose what we thought were the most common Dutch names that we could think of,” said Ribbens. “We didn’t intend to take aim at any particular family.”

Spoelhof felt the name referred specifically to her family as there are currently no other Spoelhofs at Calvin. She messaged the Chives Facebook page requesting that the video be taken down soon after the Chives shared the video on social media.

“I was so surprised that someone was offended about it, I wasn’t prepared to deal with it,” said Ribbens. “Especially with the first episode, we didn’t want someone coming out and destroying that work.”

“We don’t want to set a precedent where any time someone is offended we take our video down,” Ribbens said, but admitted that for the first video, they were concerned that a complaint could escalate and that it could threaten the future of their show.

Ribbens says the goal of the students is not to create controversy, but to share funny stories.

“Our goal is just to make something funny that members of the Calvin community can enjoy,” said Ribbens.

Christian Becker, who acted in the video as a second news anchor, thought that, aside from the complaint, the overall student feedback had been largely positive.

“People were saying good things about it,” said Becker. “People said ‘this is fun;’ they wanted to see more.”

The video was edited to remove the name and has been re-posted online. It will be followed by nine more videos, created by the same students.

The video’s anchors now have names that are more “exaggerated.” One of them —  “Vanvanvan” — spoofs many Dutch names, while the other, as Ribbens put it, will just be a string of random letters.

“We don’t set out to offend or shock anyone,” said Ribbens. “In the future, we’re going to have a disclaimer that makes it very clear that it’s satire. We want everyone to have a good time watching it.”

“In a weird way it was a little flattering,” he continued. “I actually thought our satire was too tame.”

At least, Becker added, the small controversy proved “people actually watched it.”

“I wish it could have gone differently,” Ribbens said, “but we’re moving forward.”

Ribbens said the incident has taught him something going forward: “You can’t please everyone, but we’re just going to try to make the best show we can.”