By Kat Mokrynski
Born Shane Lee Yaw, Shane Dawson has been creating videos on YouTube since 2008 and has only risen in popularity over the past ten years. Originally publishing short skits and music videos, he has now moved over to conspiracy theories and long documentary-style youtube episodes. Shane’s three “docu-series” have gained the most attention both on social media and the news.
The first was a three-part series dedicated to the failure of youtuber Tana Mongeau’s convention, TanaCon. The convention was created as a response to the fact that Tana was not invited to YouTube’s convention, an event that allows creators to partake in different panels and also meet fans in an event called “VidCon”. Shane and a few other YouTubers who were snubbed by VidCon were set to attend. At the day of the event, however, the convention was cancelled and things quickly dissolved into chaos. Thousands who had waited outside for hours in the hot LA sun for the event expressed disapproval on social media of the handling of the situation, posting pictures of their burnt and angry faces. After Shane met with Tana, her management, and her YouTube fans to discuss the event for his docu-series, many began to sympathize with Tana instead of resent her.
Two months later, “The Secret World of Jeffree Star”, a five-part series, was released on Shane’s channel focusing on the behind-the-scenes life of the controversial beauty guru. Jeffree rose to fame during the early 2000s on MySpace before moving over to YouTube. Many have criticized him for the racist comments he has made in the past, but others argue his apology videos show that he’s become a better person. Towards the end of the series Shane pulled back the curtains on Jeffree’s seemingly glamorous life, revealing his troubled past with self-harm and financial struggles. After watching the series, many in the YouTube community declared that their opinion on Jeffree had changed and that they saw him in a better light.
The most recent docu-series by Shane Dawson focuses on Jake Paul and is, in the words of Shane, “an in depth look at one of the fastest growing YouTubers of all time”. Jake Paul and his brother Logan Paul came into the social media world through Vine. They quickly rose through the ranks and, like many popular Viners, moved to YouTube once Vine shut down. Jake created a group called “Team 10” for YouTube. Ten teenagers, including Jake, lived in the same house in Los Angeles, pulling pranks on each other. However he became a controversial figure in July of 2017 when neighbors of Jake and the “Team 10” complained about the disturbances the group caused. Jake was then sued by the company who owned the “Team 10” house, Cobra Acquisitions. Many older YouTubers and parents of Jake’s fans see Jake Paul as a bad influence who is using the easily-influenced minds of young children to sell merchandise and get famous. In his third docu-series, Shane Dawson looks into Jake’s life within and beyond the “Team 10” home.
At first, fans were upset at the idea of Jake Paul being the next subject. Why should Shane be giving attention to an annoying YouTuber that no one over the age of twelve likes? Why didn’t Shane focus on Jake’s older brother Logan, who has bigger controversies? Fans of Shane argued back, reminding everyone that many of the same complaints had been made before Shane’s previous docu-series about Jeffree Star, but that the series had successfully changed many minds about the YouTuber.
When the first episode was released on September 25, Shane admitted on twitter that the project took a toll on him and those involved. He insisted that “there’s way more than two sides to every story. In this case, there was 100.” In the series, Shane consults YouTube critic iNabber, who has been following Jake Paul’s “drama” for years and believes Jake has evolved from “cringey” to “hated” in the YouTube community.
“The Mind of Jake Paul” has brought more controversy than Shane’s previous series especially due to the dramatization of mental illness. In the second part of the series, Kati Morton, a YouTuber and licensed therapist specializing in marriage and family, was interviewed by Shane to discuss sociopaths. While not directly mentioning Jake Paul, it is clear that Shane seeks to discover if Jake’s actions can be considered “sociopathic” in the eyes of a professional. While Morton describes traits of those with the mental illness, creepy music is played as images of emotionless people wearing masks are seen on the screen.
Though it is heavily criticized, what makes Shane’s YouTube docu-series different from classic documentaries on television or Netflix is that they are created and produced in real time, allowing him to hear the reactions of the world and respond to them by making relevant edits to the videos. After the controversy surrounding his handling of mental health, Shane responded by shifting the focus from mental illness like sociopathy, to the more human aspect of Jake Paul’s life: his family, friends, and enemies.
Throughout the series, Shane interviewed many involved with Jake Paul, including the man himself in parts 5 and 6. In part 4, “The Enemies of Jake Paul”, Shane interviewed Nick Crompton, a former member of Jake Paul’s “Team 10”. Many have left the team, some even claiming they were abused by Jake and other members. When at the “Team 10 House”, Shane had discussions with some of the current members, who proclaimed their loyalty to Jake and denounced the former members.
Quite a few viewers have criticized Shane for not teaching the audience more about Jake Paul than they already know. Despite promising not to hold back, Shane cuts most of the interviews he has in the series, telling his cameraman, Andrew Siwicki, to stop filming. Some believe that much like Jake Paul’s pranks, the entire series is scripted and the audience is unable to see the truth behind the screen.
One thing is certain: Shane Dawson is establishing himself as a YouTuber with influence in mainstream media. More news websites are beginning to take the video platform seriously due to the sheer amount of fans Shane has garnered since he began creating the series. Shane Dawson’s ability to take a controversial figure and make their critics sympathetic has been praised by many. Commentators have sent in hundreds, if not thousands, of suggestions for new subjects. Perhaps a Netflix documentary is in his future?
Kat Mokrynski is a first-year Euram student writing for the Culture section of The Sundial Press. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, the land of cheesesteaks and crazy sports fans. Her previous experiences with journalism include interviews with Javier Muñoz (Hamilton), Kendra Kassebaum (Come From Away), Stephanie Styles (Newsies), and even the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens. When she’s not studying, Kat can be found petting dogs, listening to Broadway soundtracks, or exploring Disneyland Paris.