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The following is a partial transcript of a Morning Wire interview with Daily Wire co-founder Jeremy Boreing and culture reporter Megan Basham on the launch of Bentkey, a new Kids Entertainment platform.
Megan: So Jeremy, I am in the midst of the heavy mom years. All my friends are moms and we’re constantly talking about this problem of entertainment — especially the need to monitor our kids’ shows for content we don’t want them exposed to. It’s truly become a constant source of aggravation. So, the minute you announced the Bentkey app, my phone blew up. There has been nothing like this for my demographic and I’ve never seen this level of excitement and enthusiasm. The first question I want to ask you is, what was your inspiration for this particular venture? And when you were thinking about what you wanted this kids entertainment platform to offer, what kind of shows did you have in mind?
Jeremy: Well, I think one of the reasons that Daily Wire has been successful is because we don’t necessarily give people exactly what they think they want. We give them what we think they actually want. And so, at Daily Wire I’ve always said part of our job as lowercase “r” republicans is to represent our audience, never to betray our audience, but also to help lead our audience to the thing they actually want. If you watch many of the movies we’ve produced along the way, we try to make movies that are actually good, entertaining movies for adults and aren’t movies that pander to complete ideological purity, because I think it actually results in being unentertaining. But when we got the opportunity to make content for kids, I felt completely the opposite. Adults should be challenged, adults should be exposed to things that they don’t always agree with, so that adults can make good and informed decisions. Kids do not have the tools to make those kinds of decisions. You say you’re a mom and you’re in your core mom years — you’re on the front lines of the most important battle not only of our time, but of all time. And that’s inculcating values into children. It’s teaching children how to become the adults we want to see them become. And for that reason, when I started thinking about what kind of content we want to make in our kids entertainment operation, the answer was obvious to me: I want to make wonderful, beautiful, hilarious, highly entertaining content that is chock-full of goodness, that parents can trust implicitly. So when they put their kids in front of one piece of our content, they don’t have to worry about what it’s going to roll into as the next piece of content. Of course, parents should vet our content just like they do everything for their kids. You’re the most responsible person for your kids. But what if you don’t? If you didn’t, I want it to still be okay, because we’re vetting that content.
Megan: Is there a particular scene in one of the shows available on the Bentkey app right now that stands out to you as sort of emblematic of that kind of goodness that you’re talking about?
Jeremy: I think every single scene of “A Wonderful Day with Mabel Maclay” perfectly encapsulates what we’re trying to create.
Megan: Even though my kids are long past pre-school age, a friend of mine who has a 3-year-old watched several episodes and she told me she was really struck by the quality of the production that has gone into “Mabel Maclay.” She did wonder, though, how Daily Wire, a new player in this game, is going to be able to keep up the pace of that level of production.
Jeremy: We’ve launched 16 series, almost 150 episodes on the app with new episodes coming every single Saturday. We’re bringing back Saturday morning cartoons. But only four of those shows are original productions. It’ll take a long time before we’ve produced enough original content that everything on the app is ours. Now, that’s not to say that everything on the app hasn’t been vetted, it has been — every single minute of every single show. But obviously the shows we’re making best represent what our long-term vision is for the company.
Megan: When I was looking through the current offerings, it was very clear to me that there’s been an effort, right out of the gate, to serve all the different kids demographics, all at once. I have a 14-year-old, and a 9-year-old, and I often have nieces and nephews who range all the way from 2 to 10 years old over at my house. What I appreciated was that we went from “Mabel Maclay” and some other shows for the very youngest set to “Runes” and then to “How Ridiculous,” which appeal to older kids. “How Ridiculous” features the well-known trio of young Australian men doing their signature YouTube competitions. And I’ll tell you, Jeremy, there was an audible cheer from the 9- and 10-year-olds in our house when they saw that “How Ridiculous” was available. So, was it a deliberate decision? Why get something for all of these age ranges and release them all right out of the gate rather than release them one at a time? What was the thinking behind that?
Jeremy: I suppose it’s because we believe this is the most important work we have ever undertaken. The politics of the day are urgent, but the culture is important. And most of our Daily Wire efforts heretofore have been focused on the urgent problem. This is a turn to the important problem, the generational problem. And you can’t just say, “Well, let’s start with four-year-olds,” and, be on the hundred-year plan or the 20-year plan to raise them to adulthood, you’ve got to go meet all the needs. Where the needs exist. Doesn’t mean you can do all of that all at one time, all the time, but we certainly thought at launch we needed to be serving all kids and then you’ll learn over time which kids are reacting better to the kind of content that you’re making and you’ll make more investments in those areas. But right out of the gate, it was very important to us to serve all of the needs that a parent might have in this regard.
Megan: Are there shows from your childhood or, you know, as you were growing up over the years that you remember and you think that was a great show, that was a great film, that’s what I aspire to, that stick out in your mind today?
Jeremy: Oh, absolutely. The first one is “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I grew up with no cable, we had network television which was three channels back then, but we also had PBS. I loved “Mr. Rogers” for this very reason: “Mr. Rogers” was about goodness. I can’t tell you what Fred Rogers’ politics were, but I know that my politics were built on a foundation that Fred Rogers helped to create by loving and celebrating childhood, by inspiring me to use my imagination, to think about what was right and what was wrong. That show has sort of been my North Star as I’ve thought about the kind of content we want to create.
Megan: Well, it’s interesting then because when I was watching “Mabel Maclay,” I thought we don’t really have this kind of thing anymore and she brought me back to Fred Rogers in a way I didn’t really remember for years.
Jeremy: Absolutely. You know, I’ve known Ryan and Katie Chase, who created “Mabel Maclay,” for two decades. They ran a kids improv school in L.A. They love children, they understand children and they know the power of childhood. I think they were in many ways put on earth to make this show. And in our earliest conversations, I kept saying, “Mr. Rogers, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Rogers.” I think what they created, though, is in no way derivative. If anything, it’s sort of like one part “Mr. Rogers,” one part “Mary Poppins.” It has this whimsy and magic that “Mr. Rogers” didn’t have, but it has all the goodness and all of the relating to kids and “meeting kids where they are” aspect of what Fred Rogers was able to create with “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” So that was very much on their mind and on my mind as that show was developed.
Megan: You mentioned what you’re not trying to do here is create entirely ideologically driven entertainment, that it’s something that kids will really enjoy. But to do that, you need really talented artists potentially across the ideological spectrum themselves. So, how do you recruit talented artists who aren’t afraid of being associated with a conservative company?
Jeremy: Well, it’s always challenging in our part of the ideological world to recruit great artists. For one thing, artists tend to be liberal. It’s a very natural thing that occurs — that conservatives tend to forsake the arts across all of history and liberals tend to engage in the arts across all of history. Then you run into the problem of, if they come work for us, they are in some ways risking their career. And it’s a lot to ask someone to risk their career for a job. What I will say, though, is that it has been much, much easier to recruit with our kids entertainment program than it has been with our general entertainment program. And I think the reason is this: If you risked it all; you left your home and your family; you “went west, young man;” you waited tables, even after law school, and you went to work in the mailroom at one of the big agencies, all of that to try to get your foot in the door in Hollywood. And you had the opportunity to write on some HBO show that’s one of the most high quality shows ever made, but a lot of what’s in it you don’t necessarily approve of. There’s a high probability you’ll take that opportunity, because you’ll rationalize, and probably not altogether incorrectly, “Yes, I don’t agree with everything about this show, but the opportunity to work at this high level can’t be denied and adults can make their own decisions.” But when you ask people to do that with content that is aimed at 7-year-olds, they simply cannot live with themselves. You’re now not asking them to do something where people can make rational choices, you’re asking them to treat children like they’re specimens in a petri dish and to experiment on them with all of these radical new ideas. The kinds of people who are drawn to children’s entertainment love children and so they simply can’t sleep at night. And for that reason, we have an embarrassment of riches in this department. People want this to work. They want to come work for this company. They want to see it succeed because they don’t want to do evil.
Megan: Yeah, it’s been interesting to me to hear the buzz from people that I know in some of these studios, particularly Disney, who quietly have reached out to me and to others I know and said,“Hey, what’s going on over there? Do you have room for someone like me for someone, you know, with my talents?” But part of what I’ve noticed, and obviously you leaned into this a little bit in the announcement, is the dichotomy between what your vision is and where a company like Disney is now. And one of the things you announced along with the app launch is that you’re working on a live-action adaptation of “Snow White” and here’s a little clip from that first teaser:
Megan: So, how do you respond to headlines like the one at The Hollywood Reporter that said that The Daily Wire is trolling Disney with this new “Snow White and the Evil Queen” adaptation? Do you think that’s a fair characterization?
Jeremy: Well, yes, it’s an accurate characterization. We are political. The Daily Wire is political. Launching Bentkey is a political act. The content at Bentkey, however, is not political. It’s pre-political. It’s for children. I don’t believe that children should be cogs in our, sort of, political war machine. I believe children should be children. But of course launching the company is political and of course making “Snow White and the Evil Queen” is political. It’s a reaction to the political move by Disney to remake their own animated classic, a tale of timeless truth, a fairy tale that was probably centuries old before it was ever written down by the Brothers Grimm that contains the kind of wisdom that generation after generation after generation after generation benefited from. To say, as Rachel Zegler did, “Yeah, it’s not 1937 anymore.” Rachel, the story wasn’t written in 1937. Those truths existed in that story long before Disney was born or Disney’s parents or his grandparents or his great-grandparents were born. To throw that out as though you know best, because you have imbibed the du jour woke politics — the crazy radical ideas of this fleeting moment — that’s the very reason Benkey exists. And so, responding to that is, yes, a troll of Disney. It’s a rebuke of Disney. It’s saying to Disney, “If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, we wouldn’t have to do what we’re doing.” But we do have to do what we’re doing. Because, as I said at the top, I think this is the most important fight that Ben Shapiro or Caleb Robinson or Jeremy Boreing or The Daily Wire have ever engaged in. This is what I most hope is our legacy.
Megan: Well, thanks so much, Jeremy. As I said, as a mom, finding entertainment for our kids that not only doesn’t undermine our values, but in fact actually can help establish them, is a constant source of concern. So, more and better options in this area are really welcome. We very much appreciate it.
Jeremy: Thank you.