PewDiePie: The N Word, Apology and His Responsibility
Once again, the most famous YouTuber out there finds himself in hot water; of course, we are talking about PewDiePie. As you surely remember, he found himself in hot water when The Wall Street Journal went all in on him finding every single piece of “damning” content that portrayed him as a nazi, or a nazi sympathizer at best. I felt that that instance was apples and oranges to this one due to one fact: context!
I know many don’t believe that he should be given a pass from the previous WSJ takedown, but it was clear through each video that he was joking. Is it in poor taste? 100%. Did he do it because he knew his fans would get a kick out of it? Of course. You don’t become and continue to be the largest YouTuber out there by not completely understanding your fan base and catering to them, that is, for better or for worse. Having said that, the latest incident doesn’t really leave any room for interpretation.
Just a few days ago (or the video surfaced then anyway) is PewDiePie playing PUBG and dropped the “N-word” with not an ounce of hesitation. He immediately apologizes after, but it was clear as day and, as I said, no interpretation needed here.
A couple days ago, he released an apology video, and he hit the usual beats. “Sorry for what I said, I shouldn’t have said it…” He’s become those people he hates hearing online saying it, I seemingly haven’t learned from past mistakes, and if that was it, it would be pretty candid and a far cry from his “apology” about the Nazi stuff. In that apology video, he strictly poured fuel on the fire, but he seemingly undermined this video with one sentence. “I apologize if I upset anyone…” It was a fine apology up until there. That sentence makes it appear as if he is the victim for others being outraged. Any apology video that has taken this turn doesn’t end well. Yes, his user base seems to have fully accepted it, as I’d imagine they would no matter the content, but it remains to be seen if we will be talking about another PewDiePie controversy in the months to come.
I know the defense is that, “it’s just a word and we are giving it meaning.” While true, full-fledged slavery isn’t an old concept, and we are certainly still feeling the ramifications of slavery and will for the foreseeable future. As much as it would be nice if the word didn’t carry any negative connotations, it does, and we all must accept that and understand that is a pejorative. There are a million other expletives out there that could have been said, but deciding to say one of the worst shows his ignorance at best, and his thinly veiled racist ideals at worst. Do I personally think he is racist? I doubt it, but it is impossible to know for sure. But, he has to understand that, whether he wants to be or not, he is shaping teens in their most malleable years. Saying the word is legitimizing it to his user base. Whether he is actually racist or not, he has the responsibility to understand that he is okay-ing these actions to his viewers. He may not necessarily want to be a role model for his more than 50 million subs, but it comes with the territory of being the biggest Youtuber out there.