Another week, another PewDiePie controversy. For a man that claimed he was going to tone down his less than impressive ways – dropping an N-bomb mid stream seems like an awkward way of achieving that. The controversy around Felix is seemingly never ending – but I don’t think he truly understands that his actions are only harming those who look up to him.
Not that PewDiePie’s actions haven’t already harmed his community. While not the sole cause of this year’s YouTube ad revenue issues – he did help to bring attention to the issue of as placement. YouTube’s biggest Superstar lost his prized YouTube Red series in the process, a lucrative deal with Disney and who knows how much in ad revenue on his own channel. For most people, that would enough of a wake-up call to change one’s habits.
As I wrote earlier this year, the YouTube superstar really is a cult of personality. His negative ways are defended with great fury by fans. Critique of the man is hard to land because his 50+ million YouTube subscribers don’t want to hear it. To those loyal fans (Many of whom are teens) it’s his word that rules supreme. The problem is that many of those users don’t fully appreciate just how negative a situation they’re contributing to. That by insulating Felix from critique, they’re creating a one way issue with no return.
The sad reality is that no matter how hard the punches from the wider media are, PewDiePie can thrive and survive. Even as we speak right now, his subscriber numbers continue to climb on YouTube. His audience approves of that behaviour, even as the rest of us shake our heads. But it’s not PewDiePie that suffers for his actions – it’s the wider YouTube community. And that community is fast running out of patience.
It’s the emerging gamers who are scratching and clawing for numbers that his actions hurt the most. It’s the people who want to make their name just like PewDiePie, except they can’t. Where Felix emerged into the wild west of new media, those following in his footsteps have to conform. YouTube demands certain expectations, raises the bar of entry enough to force hard work. The path to the top is long and arduous – and it’s only made harder when those at the top show disregard. When those at the top stop caring about those beneath them, it only causes problems all the way down the chain.
The best example of this came earlier his year. The fallout from the spat between the New York Times and Felix scared advertiser’s from YouTube, crashing the earning potential for those who earn their living on the platform. For months, it’s been a huge slog to get decent returns for smaller YouTubers. The actions of one man (and his Nazi ramblings) almost single.handily destroyed the livelihood of an entire platform. This weekends actions only seem to underline that PewDiePie hasn’t learned anything from that entire fiasco.
Should that news go mainstream again, it could cause the same sequence of events to repeat. It could scare advertiser’s away once more – putting smaller YouTubers in a hugely unfavorable hole. It won’t hurt PewDiePie, he already has his millions in the bank. That’s little comfort to those who stand to lose everything because of one man’s ceaseless obsession with ego. He isn’t thinking of what his actions will do to the community around him. All he cares about is extending his brand at all costs.
PewDiePie isn’t the worst YouTuber. It’s been a bad year for YouTube on the whole – which is why the website has become such a political hot potato. But when someone at the top show so little regard for those who need him to be on his best behaviour, it only provides a disservice to the overall cause.
Of course, PewDiePie will only say that it’s unfair to him, that he’s one man and the focus on him is unfair. But as was said by Uncle Ben “With great power comes great responsibility”. The power to wield almost 60 million followers on YouTube means Felix has to stop pretending he isn’t a role model. Not just to those fans, but the community he heads. For those YouTubers, hat relies on him to keep them relevant. None of them are served by Felix going into business for himself.
Given the strong negative reaction from prominent YouTubers today, it seems that patience for Felix is finally running out. Eventually, the YouTube community have to ask themselves if Felix is the kind of man they want to be helming heir ship. The flag bearer for everything they’re working towards. If they don’t start demanding he reign himself in, Felix could ultimately spoil the party for everyone.
There has to be a breaking point for everyone involved because when a man goes into business for himself like Felix does, the only winner is brand PewDiePie. That’s no good when the only attention he brings is negative.