By Vincent Gullo III | Staff Columnist
From the innumerable amount of internet stars, there have been few that have been more difficult to embrace than Vine-star-turned-YouTube-sensation Logan Paul. At just the age of 22, Paul has amassed over 3 billion views on his videos, along with a whopping 15 million subscribers. Creating content for an audience consisting of mainly young teenagers, Paul earned nearly $13 million dollars last year. His almost overnight fame, obnoxious vlogs and extravagant lifestyle has caused him to become a controversial figure. You either love or you hate Logan Paul, and if you’re older than 17 with half a brain you probably already hate him.
Recently, he has become a source of controversy not only from enviously-broke college kids, but the whole world. A couple days after the New Year began, Paul, who was on a vlogging trip in Japan, decided to spend a night in the famed Aokigahara, or “Suicide Forest.” This forest, located at the foot of Mount Fuji, is infamous for being a popular location for people to commit suicide. Roughly one hundred bodies are found there every year. In Paul’s lighthearted vlog, he and his friends happen to come across a recently dead body hanging from a tree. Instead of stopping the video, Paul continues to record the body swinging. Eventually the video ceases, but it soon comes back with more joking as if the footage of a corpse was never shown. The thumbnail for the uploaded video was Paul posing with the hanging body, and it was categorized into the comedy section of the popular video-sharing site.
The video sparked immediate controversy for obvious reasons. Not only does showing a dead body on YouTube violate the Terms and Conditions of uploading, it’s upsetting to many people that the video was quickly viewed millions of times by children ranging from children to teenagers. In an age where YouTube vloggers have begun to replace young teen TV shows, being so easily exposed to such graphic images is totally inappropriate.
And that isn’t even touching on the most disgusting part of the video, which is Paul’s irreverence towards the heavyweight topic that is suicide. Paul, who trekked Aokigahara wearing a $5,000 Gucci jean jacket and a hat that resembled the head of the aliens from Toy Story, constantly joked throughout the video. Comments like “Dude, don’t say ‘dead’ in the Suicide Forest,” and “Want me to stand next to the dead guy,” showed his indifference to the severity of the situation.
Although Paul prefaced the vlog with showing the suicide hotline number and, in the middle of the video, gave the tired “Everyone’s going through something” speil. Neither comments appeared very genuine, as they were always followed up by a joke or a quick change in voice tone. The video was quickly taken down, but it was up long enough to become a national controversy.
Celebrities from all corners of fame quickly spoke out in criticism of Paul. Actor Aaron Paul tweeted at Paul, telling him to “rot in hell” for his insensitivity. Fellow youtuber Anna Akana encapsulated the feelings of many critics with a personal touch, tweeting: “Dear @LoganPaul, When my brother found my sister’s body, he screamed with horror & confusion & grief & tried to save her. That body was a person someone loved. You do not walk into a suicide forest with a camera and claim mental health awareness.”
Although YouTube responded aggressively, removing Paul from Google Preferred, a site that lets advertisers see the top YouTube pages in order to advertise their products on the best channels, they have come under fire for not replying quickly enough. A statement wasn’t released until days after the incident broke, with Paul’s ramifications not coming until days after that. The video wasn’t even removed by YouTube; Paul took it down himself. In fact, YouTube allowed the video to reach #6 on their trending list, allowing it to be seen by over 6 million people before its removal.
Even though the video has been deleted and Paul has publicly apologized numerous times, claiming he truly posted the video to raise suicide awareness, the degree to which he missed his mark was astonishing.
Paul’s attempt at raising awareness is similar to a toddler drawing on the walls thinking they’re helping paint. They believe they’re lending a hand ,but really they’re just making it way worse. The fact that Paul truly believed that showing a freshly dead body to his millions of preteen and teen viewers would in any way raise awareness for mental health and suicide is about as asinine as it is indecent.
With 15 million impressionable subscribers, Paul had a great opportunity to create a positive message and he blew it in the most insensitive way possible. If anything, hopefully this debacle will start a conversation on the proper ways to talk about mental health and suicide to preteens.