YouTubers are, at their very core, entertainers. In an era where the audience for cable television is dwindling and more companies work toward streaming services, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that, much like one who plays a lovable character from a television show or movie, celebrities are created within this new format, too. And with celebrities, comes drama.
If one hopes to make a legitimate living in the video-sharing industry, one typically has to come into the field with consistent creativity, and produce engaging content on a daily basis. It’s not easy. And when someone makes it big, their audience has expectations that have to be met.
One of the most important qualities for a YouTube star is likeability — you have to have personality. Enter YouTube personalities. In short, these are YouTubers who also exaggerate themselves. It’s almost like acting. When one is able to receive so much feedback from the Internet, one tends to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, is a 27-year-old Swedish You-Tube personality who got his start playing video games in 2010. Before he rose to fame and had more than 53 million subscribers, he faced a lot of rejection, and wasn’t supported. He’s easily a walking success story. Being just six years older than me, he has an incredible amount of influence and, much like celebrities do, he raises money for charities he believes in.
As a comedian, PewDiePie delivers content that is humorous, but also pushes the boundaries between what is and isn’t appropriate. In order to appreciate it, you have to understand his occasional crude sense of humor.
Earlier this month, one joke got out of hand. To the point where the star was accused of anti-semitism, despite immediately apologizing after the joke had unfolded.
Shortly after, his ties with Disney were cut, and the second season of his YouTube Red series was canceled.
I’m not here to defend an offensive joke, but rather come at this from another perspective. Remember how I said YouTubers are often more exaggerated versions of themselves? That’s PewDiePie.
News sources, many of which I respect, don’t understand the YouTube personality. Whenever controversy like this happens, there’s an incredible sweep of headlines and misconceptions that all seem to forget that this was just a bad joke.
It gets worse when mainstream news organizations fumble through past videos intended for his viewers, and short clips or sound bites are taken to support ridiculous claims made in an article.
As a member of the media, you have to genuinely know what you’re talking about, and spend some time actually researching in order to understand the facts. Peoples’ lives and reputations are on the line.
I’m bothered by the effect this is having on the life of Felix, the actual man, not the character PewDiePie. I’ve seen both of them. They have thick skin and a good sense of humor, but to put a comedian under 30 with a crude sense of humor in the international spotlight — a comparable stage to that of politics — concerns me.
When it pushes someone to point of tears and damages their reputation, especially someone who’s job is making people laugh, I don’t see justice. I see the media taking a story too far. After all, he is an entertainer, not a Nazi.