A lot of the folks writing reports and op-ed pieces about Pewds or other youtubers often haven’t watched any more than a handful of their videos (if any – giving them at least some benefit of doubt). Pewds was the first proper youtuber let’s player that I watched.
I found him in 2011, during a down point in my life when I was drowning myself in a lot of youtube to cope with some hard times. Pewds played horror games like I did, but he seemed to hate them and play them anyway. He was quite Swedish and endearing in his enthusiasm. He calls his fans “bros” and that always seemed to sit appropriately with me. He’s a bro in many senses of the word, or at least he played up being one on camera enough for it to stick. His comedy was always “edgy” or whatever word people use to describe offensive humor.
A lot of his jokes pointlessly insulted religion, race, gender, you name it. When pointed out, his usual refrain was that he was “obviously joking”. People can get offended by anything these days.
I always felt off about his comedy. The remarks would make me uncomfortable, but my straight white cis-ness was always enough to let me sort of brush it aside. I enjoyed his content all the rest of the time when he wasn’t making jokes like that. About three years ago I stopped watching him. My subscription to his account remained, hovering lower and lower toward the bottom of my sub list.
“you’re missing the context.”
I generally think people should be nice to each other. When people aren’t nice to each other it puts me off, and that includes comedy just as much as anything else. Ellen Degeneres was always one of my favourite comedians for that reason – she’s often self-deprecating, but she didn’t make jokes at the expense of somebody else (I’m sure there’s a couple in her history but I never came across them). I think if your comedy is mostly centered around cutting down someone else, it’s lazy, sloppy comedy. Wit is always more rewarding/much more difficult, and a lot of people who can’t come up with a clever joke will just fall back on a well-struck insult to get a laugh.
Everyone does it – I sure have – and I get the compulsion to to it, and pretty much everyone does, so I can’t hold that against people. In that case the punching up/down rules become critically important (if you’re not familiar, punching up = attacking those with more power/privilege than you, punching down is the opposite). Always punch up.
If you think Pewds is punching up or even across by being jokingly anti-Semitic, you’re wrong. Just the other day the president of the united states told a Jewish reporter to sit down and shut up when he asked about the growing anti-Semitic threat in the US, with more and more bomb threats, violence, and targeted hate speech. The Pewds joke is at best, demonstrably and categorically not funny. At worst it adds to the negative discourse that we’re trying to fight against, and by nature of that becomes just as hateful as anything said with real malice.
“but he’s obviously joking.”
It gets me even more uncomfortable when people repeat his own refrain. I understand where it comes from – every circle of friends has their own in-jokes once they know how to not upset each other, and that can include pretty much any sort of raunchy stuff. It’s why CAH managed to succeed as well as it did – any group got to work out collectively which jokes played well with everyone present, and which were off limits, and let them dig hard into the ones that were acceptable. Every game of it almost works like an annonymous joke-pitch roundtable, with bad ones getting clearly identified and rejected and the accepted ones perpetuated through awarding acknowledgement and points.
I believe what you do behind closed doors with yours is your own business, and I also believe the minute you take any one of those awful jokes outside of your circle, you can make someone feel like shit. Felix and his fans share jokes, but in the form of public videos everyone can see. Some people just watch a couple videos and go on about their way.
On Youtube you don’t get a chance to add context. You don’t get to add an addendum that you’re obviously joking. Maybe you do, in a followup video days later, and apologize, but there’s no guarantee people will see that and understand. They just get upset.
I think it just comes down to what sort of person you want to be. Some folks that are as privileged as me will go on about free speech for as long as they live, no holds barred. If anyone gets offended, let them.
Pewdiepie is very good at not acknowledging the weight that his words and actions have on the world. “I’m just some guy” is yet another usual line he brings out very often. He certainly is just some guy, but he doesn’t perform live; he has the benefit of a video editor and a few moments to reflect and use common sense. He deliberately chooses to toe the line, because it’s the comedy he knows, and it’s comfortable and works for the channel.
The most sad thing about Pewdiepie is that his heart is in the right place. I spent enough time watching him to know he’s a decent person in there somewhere. He isn’t most of the terrible things that people accuse him of being.
But he is guilty of bad, lazy comedy, and the sort that attacks the disadvantaged. Our world is getting more and more dangerous by the day, and for those that are in the line of fire, the last thing they need is even more of this bullshit to contend with.
He’s in a unique enough position that he could really be a voice of reason for millions of people if he wanted to. I wish he would try to be another sort of person – the one who at least tries not to use attack humor, at the very least. Just for starters. One step at a time.