Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg may have helped hone and popularize the YouTube style of “screeching kid freaking out while playing video games,” but he’s now seen where the next generation of YouTubers has taken that trend.
On the strength of their complete lack of shame and common decency, brothers Logan and Jake Paul have risen to the heights of YouTube fame. Deemed two of the most influential YouTubers in 2017, the Paul brothers share close to 30 million subscribers between their two channels. Their daily content is built on personalized vlogs targeted toward young kids and Jackass-style pranks that both entertain their viewers and torment their own neighbors. Theirs is the sort of fame that seems invisible to anyone over the age of 25, palatable only by kids who may not know enough to cringe at behavior this self-absorbed.
It’s a career path that PewDiePie knows very well. The good news is that PewDiePie may be at his best when he decides to dunk on other YouTubers, and his explanation of why the Paul brothers’ videos are uniquely horrible has been enlightening for those of us who haven’t been keeping up with this whole debacle.
It officially feels like we’re in a bizarro world, where Skrillex suddenly sounds like U2. But PewDiePie is really just doing what YouTubers at this level of fame do best: openly react to drama and controversy, squeezing them for views as a way to turn the attention back on themselves.
What is even going on?
To his credit, PewDiePie seems to recognize that criticizing other YouTubers is a surreal turn of events for him, but he can’t seem to help himself. He knows what it’s like when the media and the internet come for you, especially after his repeated issues with anti-semitic humor and his use of a racial slur during a livestream. The “get popular, mess up, apologize, blame the media, get more popular” loop is now almost a cliche.
But even he finds the Paul brothers to be insufferable, and the loathing that PewDiePie exhibits during his videos doesn’t seem to be purely for show.
And that was before the latest round of controversy that took place after Logan Paul published a video about finding the body of man who appeared to have recently committed suicide in Japan. PewDiePie’s latest video shows, in stupefying detail, how shitty Paul’s behavior was even before that moment.
“‘But Pewd, you said bad word so you’re not allowed to criticize him,’” PewDiePie says at the beginning of his latest reaction video, imitating the criticism he’s expecting to hear. “Shit, I forgot. Dammit.”
But PewDiePie at least tries to explain why his mistakes were different than those of the Paul brothers. Unlike him, PewDiePie says, Logan and Jake Paul are out in the world disrespecting people and their culture directly to their faces.
This is how he tries to draw a line around his work before heaping scorn on Logan Paul. PewDiePie may have made some offensive jokes and let a racial slur slip, but he wasn’t out there actually rubbing it in people’s faces. PewDiePie was being immature, but he argues that he at least had the common sense to do that in the privacy of his own home. Logan Paul was making his narcissism a problem for everyone who came into contact with him on the streets of Japan. Or, at least, that’s what PewDiePie hopes to convince you to believe.
Paul’s entitled, narcissistic behavior is hard to ignore after PewDiePie lays out just how bad Paul’s Japanese travel vlogs had been even before the incident with the dead body.
But PewDiePie is also using his react videos as a way — joking or not — to argue that he should be granted the same level of immunity that he feels Logan Paul has been given.
“It seemed like I got in a lot more shit for a lot less,” he said. “And like I said, I don’t think he should have any sort of repercussion or whatever from YouTube, but at the same time, hashtag ‘bring back Scare PewDiePie,’” referring to his YouTube Red show. “Season 2. That’s right. If nothing is going to happen, at least bring back Scare PewDiePie season 2. We shot the whole damned thing, alright. It’s there. It’s waiting.”
This string of videos may be cathartic — PewDiePie knows how to argue his way out of positions that often seem contradictory — but that doesn’t change the fact that a serious controversy is turning into more grist for the mill of YouTube’s view machine.
If you need to keep your audience numbers up, you do something ridiculous — or participate in the drama. If you want to avoid getting involved, you react or comment on someone else doing something ridiculous. As PewDiePie continues to help YouTube profit from the worst behavior of its biggest stars, he keeps the cycle of fame that got us, and him, here in the first place.