If you somehow haven’t already heard of online celebrity Logan Paul, his YouTube bio is a bit misleading: “22-year-old kid in Hollywood making crazy daily Vlogs!” While this is factually accurate, it heavily underplays the scope of his reach and the depth of his wallet. He is by far one of the most successful YouTubers on the platform, with almost three billion views and an estimated annual income of $13 million. He’s also a moron.
Over this past weekend, Paul posted a vlog (video blog) with the title: “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest…” Unfortunately for the millions of viewers who saw it before Paul took it down (although you can still find it online), this video was not clickbait. The footage actually showed a hanging body along with Paul and his crew’s disturbing reaction to it. He not only laughed in the face of death, he recorded and uploaded that laughter.
Needless to say, the Internet did not respond well. Everyone from former fans to actor Aaron Paul (no relation) bashed the entertainer for making light of suicide. Paul apologized with a humble-brag filled statement and now says he is taking a break from YouTube. But the damage has already been done, in more ways than one. In a world where YouTube celebrities often fail to cross over, Paul’s scandal made mainstream news. Your grandma might not know what a vlog is, but chances are she now knows who Logan Paul is. And that’s a big problem. Because despite what his views and income suggest, he is not and should not ever become the face of YouTube.
Your grandma might not know what a vlog is, but chances are she now knows who Logan Paul is.
I started a YouTube channel with my best friend, Gaby Dunn, in April of 2014. Since then we have made over 300 videos and obtained over 130,00,000 views. With more than 757,000 subscribers, we are considered a medium-sized channel. Through sketch comedy and a fake advice show, we talk about mental illness, the LGBTQ community, sex positivity and a variety of other topics that YouTube has recently deemed “unsuitable for most advertisers.” Logan Paul, a straight, white male who films stunts with his friends, had no problem maintaining advertisers until he showed an actual dead body. To his small credit, Paul never monetized the video in question (creators can choose whether or not to apply for ads), but his well-watched and monetized apology video certainly made him money.
As is still common across Hollywood, the odds continue to be stacked against creators who do not fit a certain mold. But unlike the rest of Hollywood, these molds will not break us. You can take our ad money, but you can’t take our freedom to upload.
I never understood the importance of representation until I was an adult. I grew up a white Jewish girl from an affluent part of New York. I saw and identified with aspects of myself on TV and in movies all the time. In a lot of ways I felt so represented I was almost a living stereotype. But then Gaby and I started “Just Between Us” and I was shocked by the response. People from all over the world reached out and thanked me for being so open about my struggle with mental illness. Even more people reached out to Gaby to thank her for representing bisexuality in a positive way. We’ve received dozens of messages saying that watching us made people feel more comfortable in their own skin. One girl said she watched my videos with her therapist.
You can take our ad money, but you can’t take our freedom to upload.
For someone who started cognitive behavior therapy at age four, it really doesn’t get better than that. Until JBU, I had always taken my openness about my obsessive-compulsive disorder for granted and assumed everyone else operated the same way. It continues to surprise me just how much people not only desire but crave honest depictions of these somewhat taboo topics. The youth doesn’t want unattainable perfection. They want flawed relatability. (And, to be clear, uploading a stranger’s suicide to your massively large and young audience does not fall into this category.)
And yet, our channel is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast representation YouTube has to offer. This has a lot to do with the platform’s low barrier for entry. Every single gender, race, orientation, religion and socioeconomic bracket has a place on the platform. You can be alone in your room and still feel completely understood by a stranger thousands of miles away. It’s a medium for the masses by the masses. Logan Paul might be one of us, but he does not represent us. Even if he is the only YouTuber you know by name.
Right now, if you’re anything like me and haven’t already done so, you probably want to Google Logan Paul and read all about his fall from grace. You want to scroll through Twitter to see his reactions to this scandal in real time. You want to soak up the drama and maybe write an angry comment. That’s okay. It’s human nature. It’s virtual rubbernecking. But instead of clicking on his apology video and giving him yet another view, I’m going to ask you to go to YouTube and type something else into the search bar. Type in your greatest fear. Type in your biggest flaw. Type in something you’re too afraid to talk about out loud. I guarantee you will find someone else out there talking about it for you. And for however long you watch, that person will be the face of your YouTube.
So, yes. You can go online and watch Logan Paul or people like Logan Paul. But with all YouTube has to offer, why would you want to?
Allison Raskin is a New York Times bestselling co-author of "I Hate Everyone But You" and co-creator of the YouTube comedy channel, "Just Between Us," both of which she shares with her best friend and comedy partner, Gaby Dunn. The channel has amassed over 130 million total views and over 750,000 subscribers. Raskin has co-created and starred in a pilot for MTV and developed original half-hour pilots with 20th Century Fox, FX and YouTube Red.