Realizing My Old Favorite YouTubers Are...Controversial

In middle school, everyone had phases where they were fanatics about a certain thing that basically became an aspect of their life. This could mean being a hardcore Swiftie, being in love with One Direction, or for me, YouTubers.

YouTuber culture was so fascinating to me back in the day. Collabs were the best thing that they could possibly bless us with, challenges were to die for, and I felt like I was part of their inner circle whenever they took us along in their vlog-style videos with their friends. My favorite YouTuber was Tyler Oakley (who's probably the only creator who hasn't had a scandal that I followed), but I still had an entire umbrella of others who I realized with age are...pretty problematic.

For example, my second favorite YouTuber was the infamous Shane Dawson. I started watching Shane Dawson's videos in 2010 when he did sketch comedy, and I watched his channel grow into vlogs, theories and finally his docuseries. I hated the darker humor but still loved how he felt like a real person that I could relate to. As someone who's always struggled with weight, I resonated with the same way he'd open up about his own weight issues and didn't let fame get to him.

YouTube logo on a phone Photo by Sara Kurfeß from Unsplash

Unless you live under a rock, you'd know that being a fan of Shane Dawson now entails being complicit in a wide variety of problematic behavior, such as joking about sexual assault on minors, blackface, manipulation, and just not being the person who you thought he was before this all came to light. It was really weird coming to terms with the fact that he actually isn't a good person and that supporting him would be going against all of my values.

The weird thing about celebrities is the fact that so many of them argue that the reason why they all make sexist, racist and inhumane jokes is that we lived in a different world back then. But that was only 10-15 years ago — how could you say that as if racism was simply okay back then? I used to just skip those videos, read past those tweets, and simply ignore the content that I didn't find entertaining. 

With YouTube culture, it seems as if all YouTubers go through some sort of scandal. For some, these scandals are semi-annual. They make their own self-deprecating jokes about posting apology videos and people seem to forgive them right away. They lose their huge following, but for the most part, these problematic YouTubers end up regaining their following, get publicity, and profit off of it.

I never watched James Charles, but he always stood out to me. He's my age, my friends feel represented by him in the LGBTQ+ community, and he just felt more real than other celebrities. Now it feels like there's always something coming to light about James Charles, whether it's Tati Westbrook and the whole Dramageddon that happened in the past, being accused of being a straight man, and now several minors stating that James Charles has been trying to make sexual advances on them. It feels like it has become a weekly thing that someone speaks out with screenshots and proof of James Charles being predatory and he releases an apology video. If it's like anything in the past, he will simply bounce back and still be successful. 

David Dobrik has been in several scandals lately regarding unfair power dynamics and enabling sexual assault for the sake of his YouTube videos. He posted an insincere apology video that was so off that he posted a second one that felt more real. Lots of fans will never watch David Dobrik again and several companies have retracted sponsorships with him, but honestly, David Dobrik will eventually be okay. 

YouTubers used to feel like really genuine and wholesome people that I could relate to. Not all content creators on the platform are bad — some bring a lot of good and spread good in the world. But ultimately, it's time to hold people who we support and follow accountable for their actions.