By Melvin Taylor, Staff Writer
Felix Kjellberg (better known by his pseudonym, PewDiePie) is a professional YouTuber with over 53 million subscribers and 14 billion views. Since 2010, PewDiePie has produced comedic content in the form of video game playthroughs, video blogs (vlogs), and reaction videos. It is hard to browse YouTube without hearing about his sometimes outrageous content.
PewDiePie’s content has earned him around $15 million in 2016. Recently, however, some of his jokes have gotten him into trouble. These jokes involved anti-Semitic comments that prompted his YouTube network to drop his contract, pull him from Google’s premium advertising service, and have the second season of his original show canceled.
Disney’s Maker Studios has had PewDiePie under contract since 2014. As PewDiePie’s anti-Semitic comments gained notoriety, the Wall Street Journal became involved and made a story on PewDiePie. This prompted Maker Studios to release a statement saying, “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate. Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.” It is odd that Maker Studios waited so long to let PewDiePie go since he has been making content like this since August 2016. With the Wall Street Journal bringing more attention to PewDiePie’s comments, it is likely that Disney/Maker Studios did not want to be associated with this story. They are more concerned with saving their brand name than the creator working and making money for them.
PewDiePie was a part of Google Preferred, a premium program that allows YouTubers to reach a broader audience. PewDiePie’s live action show, “Scare PewDiePie”, is hosted on YouTube’s subscription service, YouTube Red. YouTube also released a statement concerning the PewDiePie controversy saying, “We’ve decided to cancel the release of ‘Scare PewDiePie: Season 2’ and we’re removing the PewDiePie channel from Google Preferred.” Season 2 of “Scare PewDiePie” would have launched on March 9, 2017. Cancelling his show before release was harsh on YouTube’s part. You would think they would give one of their biggest channels a smaller punishment considering the traffic he brings to the site.
This controversy revolves around a series of videos posted by PewDiePie in January. In a video titled “Death to All Jews,” PewDiePie used a website called Fiverr that allows people to ask others to perform actions in exchange for money. In the video, two Indian men known as the “Funnyguys” respond to PewDiePie’s request to hold up a sign saying “Death to All Jews.” PewDiePie’s video led to the “Funnyguys” being banned from Fiverr. Their account was later reinstated, but PewDiePie was banned from the site. PewDiePie later filmed a response to the reaction to the video from the Internet and news sites. He justified his usage of the service by saying, “The response to the video initially was really great. I knew people would be offended and I knew people wouldn’t like it. But I also knew people would see the joke in it and would find it funny.” I can understand if people do not find this type of dark humor to be funny. That is fine. But there are articles out there destroying PewDiePie’s name for the sake of clicks and misinformation. After watching the videos, I can obviously tell that he is joking. Clips in his videos may have been purposely misinterpreted.
PewDiePie is not anti-Semitic; in fact, he is far from it. The only thing he can be accused of is, perhaps, being a comedian of questionable talent. Comedy is very subjective, but I have nothing but respect for someone who does not shy away from controversial jokes. Taking difficult topics and making them funny is exactly what comedy is about.
It seems that the influence of the Wall Street Journal put Maker Studios and Google in a tough position. PewDiePie represents their businesses whether he likes it or not. His popularity also makes his comments more relevant to a large audience. It is obvious that PewDiePie was joking with these anti-Semitic comments. The media has taken these silly scenes as serious endorsements of hateful ideologies. The story spread around, promoting the creation of more articles. Some of the research from these articles seems to be taken from the Wall Street Journal instead of from PewDiePie himself. Although PewDiePie has lost some perks, he still produces content, and if anything, this controversy has caused him to produce even more.
PewDiePie has only been judged so harshly because he is PewDiePie. If I were to make jokes in a similar fashion as PewDiePie, it would be assumed that I were joking. The same should hold for comedians like PewDiePie, and although he joked about a sensitive topic, I think PewDiePie did nothing wrong.