The AV Club has gone through a lot of. . .changes in the last several years, from the departure of its key staff members to found a certain movie website, to its sale to Univision and conversion of its comments to Kinja, to, currently, Univision putting the entire Gizmodo Media Group (including the AVC and the Onion) up for sale. All of these saw corresponding changes in the style and content of the AVC: an increase in the number of ads, a decrease in the kind of thoughtful pieces that drew many of us to it. None of these seem quite as definitive as the departure, announced today, of Sean O’Neal.
O’Neal’s tone–endlessly but never thoughtlessly snarky–was so much of what made the AVC unique. If O’Neal took a shot at something in pop culture, he would make sure to do it right, working in real humor, doing way more than “this thing, amirite everyone?” In his longer-form works, particularly writing about music, he was the AVC at its best: exploring his passions in a way that was personal, complex, and accessible all at once.
His departure will be a dividing line; it’s here, I think, that we can say that the old version of the AV Club has finally died. It will now become one more pop-culture “vertical,” something along the lines of Vox and Mashable, providing short articles that rewrite someone else’s short articles, the cultural equivalent of candy corn. What made the AVC so much a part of our lives was also what was preserved for a while in the Dissolve, the sense that criticism mattered, that it had an importance beyond its ability to direct us to the ads on the page. We’ve been seeing, in the last ten years or so, site after site of this kind disappear and get consumed by the juggernaut-type websites, and this process may be irreversible by now.
It seems like the best way to honor O’Neal and the AVC in our little community (think about this: if the AVC was then what it is now, would any of us had met each other?) to reminisce about our favorite works of his. Farewell and godspeed, you magnificent bastard.