Shane Dawson: adopting controversy and reinventing YouTube
Shane Dawson is dominating the internet, shedding the title of YouTube veteran in favour of YouTube giant.
Since its birth in 2008, Shane Dawson’s channel has received over 4 billion views, 150,000,000 of which were in the past thirty days alone. He has gone from blowtorching Barbie dolls, and cringe-worthy thumbnails, to producing full-blown documentary series with viewing figures rivaling those of popular Netflix shows. It is this latest phase of his channel that is garnering serious attention, not only from those on the platform but all over the internet. People across the world are watching as Shane, along with cameraman Andrew, reinvents YouTube.
Shane hasn’t always enjoyed such positive attention. Controversy has been a constant part of his life since he emerged into the public eye. However, he has worn these scandals gracefully, learning from his past mistakes and demonstrating both a strong sense of remorse and greater sensitivity.
But he hasn’t left it all behind, in fact, in the latest reinvention of his channel, he seems to actively pursue controversy. Shane’s recent videos have featured other YouTube creators, all of whom, whether deserved or not, come accompanied by a barrage of relentless criticism. The success of these videos doesn’t lie in the controversy alone, it is Shane’s treatment of those he follows that makes them so compelling.
His videos work because he shows people the same faith and forgiveness that his fans have shown him.
The documentary style that Shane has become known for began much more innocently. His first video centered on another creator was a three-part series featuring Bobby Burns, Shane’s ‘hater’. It had many of the elements that reemerged in the latest videos: a redemptive storyline with a Shane Dawson spin. He has bought Bobby a car, made a video surprising his ‘sister’ with her ultimate crush, Josh Peck, and produced a series bringing YouTuber Bunny Meyer‘s channel back from the brink. The phrase ‘Oprah of YouTube’ began to float about in his comments section.
It was when the horrific mess of Tanacon hit the YouTube community that Shane’s videos took on a new tone. He sat down and held the hand of a girl the internet was relentlessly attacking. Criticism of Tana Mongeau was very much in order; for eight hours, fans queued under the Californian sun for the recklessly organised convention meant to rival VidCon. Nothing could adequately fix the mess, so Shane did what he knows best and turned on the camera.
Shane’s series saved Tana. He saw that below the face of the event was a foolish young woman terrified of what she had done.
Many people criticised Shane for going easy on Tana. A similar point was raised when he filmed with Jeffree Star who has come under fire in the past for racist comments. When the internet is angry, it wants blood, but Shane isn’t interested in that.
What makes his documentaries so compelling is that he engages with a side of these figures that everyone else refuses to see. We don’t want to imagine Tana crying in her room, devastated about all the people she’s hurt, or Jeffree regretting his old comments. We don’t want to forgive them.
It is much easier and much more satisfying to watch on as they fall.
Therefore, it is no surprise that his latest project, featuring the guy the internet loves to hate, has been plagued with people begging him not to humanise another YouTube villain. That was never going to stop Shane. While his Jake Paul series began with his own suspicions that Jake may be a sociopath, he is certainly engaging with a softer side, almost crying over his ‘Draw my life’.
As always, there have been mixed responses. Shane’s choice of guest was not the only criticism that he faced. Many people disagreed with his editing; talking about sociopathy against a backdrop of horror music did not sit well with some. Shane, as always, took the feedback on board.
i understand why people are upset. i definetly went overboard with the horror movie editing but that’s cause i got excited & love editing horror. but i’m going to be more sensitive with the editing going forward. the last thing i want it to hurt anyone. :(its never my intention. https://t.co/aNcXkJo5eI
— Shane Dawson (@shanedawson) September 28, 2018
— Nicola (@Nicola_xxooxxoo) October 5, 2018
Nowadays, a growing ego seems to be a side effect of running a YouTube channel, but somehow Shane has stayed humble. He still takes criticism onboard and has made constant revisions to the series, with episodes being delayed to re-edit in line with fan’s concerns. Clearly, it is not just his willingness to approach controversial figures that has made him so successful; no other YouTuber could get away with what he is doing without alienating large amounts of their audience.
Fans feel respected; Shane takes the time to sort between genuine concerns and mindless hate.
Whether or not you are one of these fans, it is undeniable that Shane is reinventing the YouTube game. He has proved that, while controversy and drama have their place on the platform, they shouldn’t stand in the way of creators who want to produce quality content. As his channel shows no sign of slowing down, he remains to inspire yet another generation of fans, as he has done for the past ten years.