Monday, April 18, 2016

Culture Corner 4.18.16



Not That There's Anything Wrong With That!

I'm going to say something that the YouTubers (especially those who vlog) I watch can't.

There's this almost reflexive impulse to apologize for any slightly opinionated statement. It brings me down every time I witness it. And I'm not talking about blatantly offensive or even microaggressive statements--a YouTuber could say something simple like "I'm not thinking about getting any tattoos for myself" and spend 5 extra minutes explaining why he or she is not against tattoos, people who get tattoos, and pretty much the entire metaphysical concept of tattoos itself.

This harkens back to me the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer followed anything they said that could have vaguely connected to gay-ness (even though nothing they were saying was particularly offensive) with "not that there's anything wrong with that." Here's the video, just in case you were curious:


Now, I'm not going to waste words on talk about political correctness, because I feel that that's an exhausted topic, especially by white people (who are usually trying to excuse actual hate and prejudice). This issue has more to do with the overwhelming demand for YouTubers to be perceived as 'regular' but especially entertaining, humble but DEFINITELY not self-deprecating (otherwise you get a whole swarm of superficial 'sympathetic' comments like "u r bootiful" or "pls dont say that about urself"), and a bunch of other really difficult combinations to achieve in a public image.

A lot of this expectation has to do with the general ignorance and entitled-ness of viewers/commenters. A YouTuber's commenters will explode with 'betrayal' and anger if he or she posts a sponsored video (especially Audible.com for some reason), saying things like "wow i didn't know u were a sellout, unsubscribing." Yet sometimes sponsoring videos is the only way for YouTubers to make any money off of what they're doing (ads don't produce very much if you don't have upwards of 5 million subscribers), which is easily a 40 hour work week if they're passionate about it (planning, recording, editing, publicizing, etc). Commenters will twist anything the YouTuber says that is tinged with opinion into something horribly offensive and ugly. Here are some examples from my memory:

YouTuber: [is responding to comments] I used to work out; I was pretty muscular.
Commenter: lol do think ppl care about urbody? loser
Commenter: Wow, [name]. I never saw this side of you before. I used to think you were funny, but this video turned me off. #unsubscribed

YouTuber: [playing game, commenting on character's general features] She's chubby.
Commenter: come on [name]. no body shaming here. #allbodiesarebeautiful
Commenter: I'm chubby are you saying i'm ugly? :( unsubscribing

Alright, two things here. To me, these narrow-minded commenters are actually delegitimizing the causes they're claiming to support here (in the 2nd example) by attaching the issues with something completely irrelevant. Body-shaming is a real issue, but if people keep misnaming instances of it, they're effectively watering down the potency and problem of the body-shaming to those who view their comments. The second thing I'd like to address is that commenters/viewers treat subscribing like currency; and they throw subscriptions out like pennies and retract them like diamonds. This is very scary to people who actually make a living out of this capriciousness; whether or not they eat that week is based off of these dense, easily offended people who change their views as much as Hillary Clinton changes her policies.

I'm sure you're wondering why anyone would choose to be a YouTuber at all, then. Well, this career phenomenon is a niche for some people. They genuinely love what they do, whether it be vlogging, gaming, or specialty shows. And there is a good percentage of viewer/commenters/subscribers who have the ability to think outside of their own selves; in fact, I believe these people are the majority. It's just that the other percentage of people hold enough weight to dramatically effect the present and future of these YouTube channels, and change the behavior of YouTubers to be these aggressively neutral apologizers. The YouTubers I'm basing this post off of are genuinely nice, progressive people who just like to talk about anything. It's just sad to know that when I click on a video, at least a quarter of it will be apologizing.

Again, I'm not condoning microaggressions or other types of offensive behavior. I'm just getting sick of Youtube comments. Not that that's a new phenomenon.

I don't know.

-Alex



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