As the younger generation comes of age, the problematic past of the entertainment industry they grew up with is facing immense backlash. The latest target is Shane Dawson, a YouTuber, whose comedy should not only be questioned but disavowed entirely.
The latest drama taking the beauty community by storm involves none other than Shane Dawson himself. The long-time YouTuber first infiltrated this community on Nov. 1, 2019, with the launch of his Conspiracy Palette with Jeffree Star.
This newest drama aside, Dawson is no stranger to controversy. He gained his rise on YouTube through problematic humor, at the expense of children, individuals with disabilities, transgender people, gay people and people of color.
Of his troublesome attempts at ‘comedy’, Dawson’s jokes about the sexualization of children have received the most attention and public criticism.
One of these ‘jokes’ is a video which depicts Dawson pretending to masturbate in front of a poster of a then 11-year-old Willow Smith. Jada Pinkett Smith, the mother of Willow, responded to this video with a tweet calling Dawson out for the pattern of excuses for his actions.
When faced with criticism, Dawson’s main defense is his poor mental health. An apology video Dawson released on YouTube in response utilizes this exact defense. A simple glance at the comments reveals an endless thread of people stating, “depression and anxiety isn’t an excuse to sexualize children, Shane.”
Recently, several of his ‘dark humor’ videos have resurfaced. In addition to shedding a light on Dawson’s character, their popularity and mere existence speaks to a larger problem of the marketability of jokes at the expense of minority groups.
At the age of 19, Dawson joined the YouTube community in 2008. By 2010, Dawson had received over half a billion views on his channel and has since been labeled the “King of YouTube.” Dawson’s entire personal brand was built on the platform of racism, sexism and ableism. His social climb proves the continued pervasive nature of these issues within our society.
As videos resurfaced this year surrounding his problematic humor, backlash ensued. Since the fallout, Dawson’s Conspiracy Palette was dropped from Morphe, a popular beauty brand, and his YouTube has been demonetized, causing a projected loss of income over $5 million.
This is not the first time Dawson has come under fire for his poor taste in humor. Released in 2014, Dawson’s movie “Not Cool” was obliterated in the film landscape. While longtime fans of Dawson praised the film, critics tore it to shreds; the audience combated the 14 percent rating critique with a 73 percent average score.
A review by Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times brought the film back to reality and off of the pedestal Dawson’s fans had placed it on.
“A stab — no, a frantic machete swipe — at comedy that only date-rapists, racists and sociopaths could love,” Abele said. “The persistently ugly ‘Not Cool’ begins with rapid-fire gags about overweight, undersexed losers; coitus with vegetables; loose bowels, rivers of puke and slut-shaming. And the film finds a way to tumble downhill from there.”
Infused with every “-ism” known to mankind, the film was and continues to be abhorrent and, quite frankly, disgusting.
Widely consumed by younger audiences, Dawson’s videos normalize racism, sexism and ableism within our society — so long as they’re made under the guise of ‘humor.’
Many of Dawson’s viewers are growing up, and they have a responsibility to speak out against their consumption and support of this brand of humor. In times of racial strife, we cannot continually perpetuate these tasteless jokes and stereotypes while simultaneously fighting for the cause of ending racism.
Demonetizing Dawson is not enough. We need to deal with the aftermath of his era of comedy and the internalized bias his viewers have unknowingly developed.
Take classes and do research on intrinsic bias. Stop supporting creators with such an extensive and undeniable problematic past. Not only do we vote with our dollars, we vote with our time and attention. Don’t give it where it hasn’t been earned.