A new documentary series on Youtube has everyone talking.
It features one of the platform’s most self-centered, ego-driven, annoying, whiney characters. At this stage I am genuinely not sure whether or not that description best applies to Shane Dawson, the guy who made the series, or the guy the whole series is about: Jake Paul.
Dawson is a pioneer of Youtube. He started his channel in 2008 and clocked up over half a billion views by 2010, before the likes of modern day Youtube megastars like Pewdiepie had ever uploaded a video.
Shane was the first Youtuber to break into the mainstream too. Seeing as he was the first massive Youtube vlogger, anyone using the site to watch music videos or that cat playing the piano would inevitably see one of his vlogs down the side.
In recent years he moved into the space of making documentary series about Youtubers and internet culture, most famously about TanaCon. He’s not new to the doco scene, but his latest deep-dive into the mind of Jake Paul is certainly his most highly anticipated.
Jake Paul and his gang ‘Team 10’ have been hard to avoid online for about 18 months now. He’s Disney-Channel-alumni-turned-amateur-stunt-man, uploading daily vlogs of him generally behaving like an idiot.
You’re not missing out on much. Nothing innovative or clever, just a guy and his mates acting like idiots on a massive budget.
Unlike most other people that see Jake Paul as a pain-in-the-arse larrikin, Dawson has turned his investigative gaze beneath the jovial veneer to ask whether there is something sinister to some of the more concerning elements of the Team 10 act.
Remember, we’re talking about a Youtube Channel for pre-teens. The mainstream comparison to Jake Paul is like Jackass with tonnes of money to burn on stunts (I remember thinking Jackass was hilarious when I was, like, 15. These days, not so much).
The question Shane Dawson seeks to answer is: “Is Jake Paul a sociopath?”
He chats with his old friends and girlfriends, psychologists, and so-called experts in an attempt to find an answer.
Is he? Of course he isn’t. Is Shane Dawson? No (although watching his docos it seems more likely he is than Jake Paul).
‘Sociopath’ is one of those words, so diluted from its original meaning that it is actually redundant in describing someone who actually is a sociopath.
We’re talking about a serious psychiatric disorder which requires a lifetime of treatment to manage. When I think ‘sociopath’, I think serial killers and despots, not Youtubers. It was pretty hard to stomach such a flippant take on what disorders someone might or might not have in the same week as World Mental Health Day.
So if Jake Paul isn’t a sociopath – what is he?
I think the pretty obvious answer is that he is an attention seeker.
So is Shane Dawson.
In fact, so are all Youtube vloggers.
It takes a certain thirst for attention to put yourself out there doing things that run the gamut from degrading to thoughtless and harmful and everything in-between.
Sure, money is a motivator. Youtubers are quick to dispel the claims that they are just mercenaries, but some of them make an extraordinary amount of money. Jake Paul’s Youtube channel makes him over $5 million a year, and Shane Dawson’s nets him more than $10 million a year.
But only a very select few make it big. Money can’t be a motivator for the thousands upon thousands of people doing it that don’t make the big time.
This wasn’t a documentary series as much as it was a parody of one. It didn’t explore any serious issues at all, and it has exposed millions to a warped view of what makes a sociopath.
My main take away was that it drew further attention to whiny Youtubers’ motivations, and the lengths people will go to for the attention they crave. For me, what Shane Dawson did here is a far more debased attention grab than anything Jake Paul has ever done.