Over the past week, it’s been hard to miss the firestorm sweeping up around one of Youtubes biggest stars PewDiePie. The man who’s become the face of new media and one of the largest alternative voices within the industry has found himself at the center of an almighty storm. Partners have been abandoning him, while his credibility has been called into question. The reality though is that as damaging as this might be for PewDiePie in the short-term – Youtubers are increasingly proving that mud doesn’t stick when your audience is so willing to forgive.
Some websites have speculated that PewDiePie’s ability to drive revenue will be damaged by this. Both Google and Disney have moved to put as much distance between themselves, cancelling projects and ejecting him from lucrative advertising streams. It also means other large brands will likely give him a wide berth in the medium term. For many this would be a problem – yet for PewDiePie – it’s very likely to embolden him further.
The reality is that none of this will damage PewDiePie in the long-term. He’s a man who’s built a brand on being outlandish and pushing boundaries, it’s why he’s currently sitting on 53 million subscribers. His audience love him for it and all this controvery will only drive his more hardcore fans to circle the wagon and protect their leader. Ultimately that’s what he is to them, he’s a cult of personality more endearing and more striking to his audience than the thousands of media outlets trying to tear him down.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the way he addresses such outlets. PewDiePie has made no secret over the years for his dislike of the media in general, mocking outlets openly and encouraging his fans to distrust gaming outlets for their lies. When Youtubers were found to be failing in disclosing their associations with gaming company’s, PewDiePie openly scolded the media coverage of this. He subverted the discussion away from the issue at hand and instead spun it to one of how traditional gaming media was no longer serving its purpose, but openly attacking for clicks.
To his audience PewDiePie isn’t just a man who plays video games, he’s an uncorrupted source of gaming news and opinions. His actions might appear horrifying to the outside world but to those within his bubble – he’s just doing what he does best. To them, the dirt being kicked up by media outlets is yet more reason to ignore them, they’re the jealous party’s trying to tear down a man who’s fighting the system. This isn’t exclusive to Felix, many other Youtubers have managed to create similar followings.
You don’t even have to dig far into the past to see this. Nepenthez, a FIFA Youtuber, was fined over £100,000 by UK courts for his part in allowing underage children to gamble money. The courts described it as;
“This was one of the most serious cases that has been investigated and prosecuted by the Commission,” said chief executive Sarah Harrison.
“Its gravity is reflected in the significant financial penalties imposed by the Judge.”
The effect on children of online gambling was described as “horrific” and “serious” in court, she added.
Yet within hours, Nepenthez had a video up on his Youtube channel where his fans were not only forgiving him – they were attacking those who had come to offer their negative feedback to the story. If people were expecting his Youtube channel to suffer in the wake of this judgement – they were sorely mistaken. It serves to underline just how loyal Youtube viewers become to the brand surrounding their favourite Youtubers.
I personally don’t think Felix is racist, not in the slightest. I don’t he’s antisemitic or any of those things; he’s just a businessman who made a bad decision. I don’t think it’ll take long for those advertisers and groups who’ve kicked him into touch to come crawling back as his channel grows – because they want those 53 million subscribers. To any indie development team, those kind of numbers can make or break success. The platform he wields isn’t just monumental, its substantial.
To those media outlets saying this is the end of PewDiePie, you fail to grasp just how impassioned his fans are. How their loyalty is unquestioned, because they see him as something more. He is a cult of personality and sadly for those who dislike him, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.