Shane Dawson is finally seeing repercussions
Shane Dawson apologized for using blackface, anti-Semitic and racist language, as well as disturbing comments about children and animals on several occasions in the past – and the general public gave a pass. But after posting a new apology video on Friday that didn’t go well with some high-profile viewers, that suddenly started to change.
Target said it would stop carrying Dawson’s books. Makeup company Morphe reportedly cleaned its shelves of Dawson’s products. YouTube has temporarily suspended ads on Dawson’s three channels, including his main account, which has more than 22 million subscribers. And that account lost nearly a million subscribers last week.
Dawson is one of several white YouTube stars who attempt to address his past use of racist representations, characters and stereotypes in comedic videos this week. Excuses for racist videos also came from Jenna Marbles and David Dobrik, and viewers’ responses were mixed when fans tried to figure out how to hold the top creators accountable for their past actions. The moment comes amid ongoing anti-racism protests across the country.
Creators like Dawson benefited and built a career partly on videos that contained racist images, and even Dawson acknowledges that his behavior deserves punishment.
“I don’t even know how to apologize because it seems like something irredeemable,” Dawson said in his recent apology video. “It’s something I shouldn’t be able to get out of – I should lose everything for it.”
The video was titled “Taking Responsibility”, but several YouTubers and fans criticized Dawson for not committing to any anti-racist action or taking more responsibility for what he did. Opening with an explanation that he tried to ignore the criticism for years, unchecking the critical posts that appeared “show that making this video is not something you would like to do,” said YouTube creator Adam McIntyre in a video.
The reaction against Dawson was particularly focused on a video in which he pretends to masturbate with an image of Willow Smith, then 11 years old. Jaden and Jada Pinkett Smith condemned the videos on Twitter, leading to an influx of attention on him.
“Shane’s story has been mentioned before, but the moment seems to have had a different impact on this story here,” Roberto Blake, popular YouTube creator, told The Verge. “There is a big difference between that and what we are seeing happening with Jenna Marbles. It’s also probably the start of a wave of what we’ll see with established creators who have a controversial past. ”
Marbles, whose real surname is Mourey, apologized for two videos from 2011. In one, she wore a pink wig and darkened her skin to impress Nicki Minaj. In a new video addressing her choices and why she removed them, Mourey said that it didn’t matter what her intentions were when recording them initially, saying, “People were offended and it hurt them.”
“That’s why I’m so sorry,” said Mourey. “This is not well. And it has not been on the Internet for a long time, because it is not well.”
Mourey and Dawson are two of the oldest YouTube creators on the platform. They started their channels in 2010 and 2008, respectively, helping to establish YouTube as a platform for full-time creators.
As part of his effort to take responsibility, Mourey is taking an extended break on YouTube. She told viewers in the same video that she was not sure when – or if – she would return to the platform. His decision prompted other members of the YouTube community to talk about the situation and the difference between Mourey and Dawson.
YouTube commentator Stephen “Omni” Silver pointed to Mourey’s excuses and recent YouTube career in recent years as proof that Mourey is “trying to be a better person and trying to bring more positive energy into the world”. Silver spoke at length about Mourey and “canceled the culture” in a new video, saying that while it is good that people take responsibility and are important to having these conversations, it is clear in their videos that she has grown over the years. Commentator Tyrone Magnus defended Mourey while condemning the use of blackface.
Part of the problem is that YouTube has allowed these videos and promoted these creators in the past. YouTube managed to create its gigantic advertising revenue by highlighting creators like Dawson, Mourey and Colleen Ballinger, another YouTube creator who apologized for using racist depictions of people from Latinx in a comedy sketch 12 years ago. YouTube had content guidelines that prohibited the types of videos that creators are withdrawing, but did not apply. YouTube declined to comment when asked by The Verge why it took so long for action to be taken.
Many YouTube “back then looked like 4Chan,” Josh Pescatore, a former YouTube creator, told The Verge. “OG makers”, like Dawson, were “trying to do anything on camera at the time”.
“I wondered if they went unnoticed at the time or if it was accepted because there was no one to say ‘no’ otherwise,” “said Pescatore.
David Dobrik, easily one of the most important YouTube creators working today, spoke at length in a recent podcast episode about his use of racial stereotypes in several previous videos. Dobrik noted that “he is ashamed and ashamed for the things I did in some videos or videos or for whatever I was doing and I really feel terrible about it”.
Deleting videos and issuing statements does not erase that these creators created followers and profited from the content they were creating – content that YouTube shared and promoted. What is clear is that the YouTube creator community is going through a reckoning and an entire industry is trying to figure out what happens next.
The solution to the problem begins internally, said Blake. “See the YouTube organization chart, see the YouTube leadership tree. YouTube has a number of issues that they need to address to help with those issues in the future. We need to see a leadership on YouTube that can address this type of issue with the community.” Blake recommended a more active, diverse creative panel that has a direct line with executives who can help keep people on YouTube aware of what’s happening on YouTube, otherwise things will continue to be ignored until they can’t.