Shane Dawson’s eight-part Jake Paul documentary series is two episodes in, but backlash surrounding the second episode and its discussions of mental health has led Dawson to issue a statement.
“I’m sorry if I offended anybody,” Dawson said in a lengthy Snapchat video Thursday night. “If you are offended for someone who has this or thinks they have this, I am sorry, but just know my intentions were not bad. My intentions were to make something interesting, to show a side of personality disorders that nobody talks about because they’re too afraid to. It’s something that people don’t talk about, and I wanted to talk about it. I’m personally connected to it for so many reasons that I haven’t even talked about.
“I’m sorry if anyone was offended, and it wasn’t even that many people but I’m the type of person that if one person is offended I feel gross and shitty and my stomach hurts...so the fact that there were hundreds of comments made me feel like I had to say something.”
“The Dark Side of Jake Paul” is the second episode, and sees Dawson talking to therapist and popular YouTuber, Kati Morton, about sociopaths. The running theme in Dawson’s series so far is trying to determine if Paul is a sociopath. Dawson and Morton spend the entire episode discussing antisocial personality disorder, a term used within the psychological field to discuss someone who fits into a sociopathic diagnosis.
The episode is edited like a horror movie. Everything is over-the-top. The episode works as a parody of traditional crime docuseries — think American Vandal but with less dick jokes — but it’s impossible to know if that’s how Dawson’s viewers see it. Many viewers take the series at face value, especially considering his previous work with YouTubers Tana Mongeau and Jeffree Star, which came off less performative on Dawson’s end.
Still, Dawson alluded to the entertainment value of the series on Twitter, adding that he didn’t think it was “that deep.”
“I genuinely think people are just having fun on Twitter,” Dawson said. “I don’t think it’s that deep. I mean, I used clips of Tana Mongeau. It ain’t that deep. Haha but I also do think people should be more aware. Even if it’s just them joking ... at least they won’t be so easy to manipulate.”
Since people are watching it as a documentary, the over-sensationalized approach to discussing mental health, and effectively teaching young viewers how to tell if their friend’s a sociopath, led to backlash from people within the community and cultural critics.
“I need to voice a concern, Shane Dawson,” cultural critic Peter Coffin tweeted. “This isn’t a call out, but how much thought was put into the idea that after a video like your latest, that any awkward kid (including ones with disabilities) could be labeled a ‘sociopath,’ due to your audience’s youthful inexperience? It prompts the viewer to consider folks around them may be sociopaths, after so much talk about gut feeling. This creates a context for the younger segments of the audience in their developing lives. What suspicions might eat at one’s insides when one has gut feelings about the weird folks?”
Others, like songwriter Jesse St. John, echoed similar concerns about Dawson’s approach to talking about mental health.
“Ok I stan Shane Dawson but this new series creates a dangerous dynamic of unqualified people wrongly diagnosing mental disorders & dehumanizing [and] stigmatizing people with mental disorders,” St. John tweeted. “Take this as entertainment [and] nothing more.”
Still, Dawson defended his direction for the series on Twitter, arguing that people who were most likely to be offended — sociopaths, or people diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder — wouldn’t be offended by definition.
“People with severe antisocial personality disorders don’t have empathy and don’t care,” Dawson tweeted. “At all. So for anyone to be offended is so confusing to me considering they actually literally don’t care. Like. At all. And its something that is rarely even discussed and it can affect lives.”
Paul hasn’t responded to the series so far, aside from a six-minute video he published a few days ago asking people to go into the series with an open mind. Paul said he trusts Dawson, adding the series is “up to him to craft this narrative.”
“Even though it’s about the sociopath thing, I know I’m not a sociopath.”