Is it really okay to do or say whatever you want?
When you’re relatively anonymous, you can probably get away with saying just about anything you want. You might find yourself appealing to a specific audience even, which helps you build your image in the public’s eye.
This is what people do to become identifiable personalities. They find their niche and capitalize on it. It’s what I’m trying to do with Falcon Game Reviews, and it’s what YouTube personalities do with their channels. Gaming content creators in particular do all manners of things to get people to pay attention, from doing reaction videos to destroying consoles.
Your personality becomes your image. It’s how people see you; and as a public figure, it becomes who you are. Your image becomes you, and who you are on a personal level gets drowned out.
YouTuber Noob-tubes Himself
That’s right, I’m talking about PewDiePie. He’s recently been in hot water for his actions on his YouTube Red show, where he paid two men to hold up signs with an anti-Semetic statement I won’t repeat here, and on multiple occasions featured Nazi rhetoric and statements about Hitler.
But was it wrong for him to do what he did? Well, that depends on your perspective. If you find irreverent and dark humor offensive, then yeah… it was wrong. Google and Disney cutting their ties with PewDiePie is ample evidence of that, because regardless of the intent of his sketches, those organizations didn’t want to be affiliated with him in light of the offensive nature of his work. He was getting reamed by the media for his comedy sketches, which were casting a negative image on him. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to be viewed as potentially enabling Nazi rhetoric. Google and Disney weren’t wrong to stop endorsing him because they were protecting their interests; they are trying to maintain their image in the public’s eye.
But his show’s content isn’t all that different from the likes of Louis CK or George Carlin (comics that I genuinely think are funny) though, comics whose sketches include jokes about all manners of controversial subjects. Where’s the difference though? Irreverent comics use similar material as a way to shock their audience and elicit laughs over how deplorable it is. Their target audiences were generally older folks, where PewDiePie built his empire on a viewer base of teenagers. That’s probably why Disney, a company aimed at capitalizing on young people, was so drawn to him.
PewDiePie’s subscribers might have thought his content was funny, because they appreciate his brand of humor, but Disney obviously didn’t want to get caught appearing to endorse a personality that can potentially draw in Nazi sympathizers (regardless of that actually being the case). Google followed suit once the public appeared to be turning on him.
Comics like Louis CK and George Carlin would not be the types of guys that would be approached by family-friendly or socially-conscious companies for sponsorship deals in the first place, nor would those comics likely accept sponsorship deals anyway. Irreverent and offensive humor can be lucrative for some, but only when you aren’t beholden to someone to maintain a certain level of marketing friendliness.
Biting The Hand That Feeds You
Imagine if Falcon Game Reviews took off and became a big deal in gaming media (one can dream). Picture that it cultivated a large and diverse audience of readers, ranging in ages from teens to older folks from different backgrounds. Say it was eventually endorsed by big companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony (which is something I’d never allow) and I began receiving funds and goods to advertise on here. Then with all that endorsement being pulled in, I started making extremely sexist jokes as a focal point of one of my pieces.
Those endorsements would dry up faster than a glass of water on the surface of the sun. Would some people think it’s funny? Probably. That doesn’t mean that a large corporation would want to be affiliated with me though, and I wouldn’t blame them for dropping me if that were the case, because they have their own public image to worry about.
What’s To Be Gained From This?
The fun thing about the internet is that you’re really able to express whatever opinion you want; the only restriction is how you want to be perceived. If you want to be seen as accessible to a diverse audience and reap the benefits of it, then your content has to be friendly to that audience. If you want to get sponsorship deals with a company, you need to do things that make the company want to do business with you. If you turn around and start saying and doing things that don’t reflect the type of behavior that your sponsor wants to be associated with, don’t be surprised when they part ways with you.
What’s to be taken from this recent debacle is that the things we (including myself) say and do have consequences, as they should. Being held accountable for our words and actions isn’t a bad thing. I’d actually like to think that being held accountable keeps me honest, personally. If you have an image to uphold in your audience and a certain reputation to maintain to keep your funding, then you need to live up to those standards. Otherwise, you need to be comfortable with the idea that things may not work out for you in the end. Eroding your own image for cheap laughs or shock value may work for some, but only when they aren’t being held to a standard by anyone funding them.
What do you think? Is what is happening to PewDiePie unfair? What do you think the threshold for appropriate and inappropriate content is for a content creator?
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