The Rise and Fall of Youtube: The New Emergence of Accountability
By Natalie Daniels
It seems as though Twitter can never miss a day with a controversial scandal in the top trending spot. Social media users are beginning to call out celebrities, influencers, politicians, Youtubers, ect. for problematic things that they have said or done, promoting a new wave of accountability.
Recently, members of the Youtube beauty community, Tati Westbrook, Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star, came under fire regarding a feud. Here is a breakdown of the situation.
Last May, Tati Westbrook posted a video (now deleted) in which she accused another beauty influencer James Charles of betraying her. She also accused him of sexually harassing men who showed no interest in him. Jeffree Star followed with his own opinions, saying Charles was “a danger to society.” Charles fought back with a video arguing that all of those accusations were false. On June 30 of this year, Tati released another video titled “Breaking my Silence,” where she admitted that co-business partners Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson “used, coerced and manipulated” her into making the video about Charles trying to ruin his career.
The minute the video was posted, Youtube exploded with hashtags like #jeffreestarisover and #shanedawsonisover. As a result, Dawson and Star’s past was brought up as well. In past footage from Dawson’s videos, he participated in blackface as well as mocking people with disabilities. Star has had allegations of using racial slurs and racist jokes throughout his career.
Dawson had made a video prior, called “Taking Accountability,” attempting to apologize for his actions in the past. Then, more footage resurfaced in an uncomfortable video of him with a poster of 11-year-old Willow Smith. There has been no real comment from Dawson in response to this footage or Tati Westbrook’s video.
The emergence of canceled Youtube stars has caused some stars to leave the platform. Jenna Marbles announced that she was leaving Youtube in a video explaining she was ashamed of her past actions regarding blackface.
It’s important for these influencers to understand the harmful implications of past actions whether it’s through videos they’ve posted or comments they’ve made. They have large audiences where everything they say or do has a large influence on people who watch their videos. There is never enough time passed for an influencer to not apologize for what they've done in the past.
The idea of “cancel culture” is a large controversy in the internet world. Some believe the idea of canceling someone promotes a toxic mindset. Articles at outlets like Vox question whether cancel culture is “an important tool of social justice or a new form of merciless mob intimidation.” There have been multiple discussions all over twitter for the past couple years figuring out whether cancel culture genuinely works to help hold people accountable for their actions. Some argue for it and some argue that it doesn’t change anything, like Youtuber Amanda Elimian.
Like she states, there seems to be no real deep discussion on that person’s actions after the person is canceled. Either people move on from the issue, or the celebrity, influencer or Youtuber leaves their social media platforms for a couple weeks or months and then returns. No real lesson is learned and other people continue with the same mentality and perform the similar “problematic” actions. The problem with a cancel culture society is that it lacks a responsibility for growth.
Elimian speaks about the layers of cancel culture in a video titled “let’s talk about ‘cancel culture.’”
Her explanation is eye opening as she speaks on the difficulty with how society treats cancel culture. A quote of hers that stuck out for me was when she said, “people hate being racist but don’t hate racism.” She speaks about how social media allows white people to give forgiveness for a celebrity or influencer’s racist or discriminatory actions. In reality, they are not the community to be giving this forgiveness, it is up to the people who these actions directly harmed. And these different groups of people have the right to refrain from giving forgiveness if they feel as though the person has not genuinely taken accountability.
She also explains how cancel culture is treated as a joke. There is a societal mindset that “you’re not famous and successful until you’ve been canceled.” Youtubers like Tana Mongeau have created “cancelled” merch to capitalize on harmful actions.
On the other hand, for people who are “anti-cancel culture,” there is a misstep in their thought process where they believe people do not know any better. Faith Andrews-O’Neil, opinion editor of Dart News Online, knows from her experience growing up in a predominantly white school that people are aware that using racial slurs is wrong. She explains it’s not her job to educate people on why the things they said or did were wrong, and that “Google is a readily available tool to help you understand why it’s wrong.”
While cancel culture proves to be a gray area, accountability is not. There is a need for people to take responsibility for their actions and learn why certain things are wrong, on their own doing. Youtubers like Jenna Marbles are gradually taking a step in the right direction by understanding that what they’ve done in the past proves harmful to their audience as well as taking action to right it. More Youtubers (specifically Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star) need to work harder on owning up to their mistakes. The only way for society to progress is for the willingness to hold people accountable.
Natalie Daniels is an editorial intern for Dreamlette. She is a journalism major at Emerson College with a love of storytelling. Her favorite topics include entertainment, fashion, lifestyle, social issues, and music.