By Bryanna McDermott | Asst. Photo Editor
Editor’s Note: This article discusses racial hate and references derogatory and harmful slurs.
It has not been Felix Kjellberg’s year.
The YouTuber, better known as Pewdiepie on the video-sharing platform, has garnered 57.3 million followers, making Kjellberg YouTube’s most subscribed to channel. However, he is anything but YouTube’s posterboy for positive behavior.
On Sept. 10, Kjellberg called another gamer the n-word while live streaming the game PlayerUnknown’s Battleground. The video was seen by approximately 2.7 million viewers before Kjellberg removed the stream.
Back in February, Kjellberg was dropped by his network Disney’s Maker Studios and his YouTube Red show was canceled after he paid two men on the website Fiverr to hold a sign that said, “Death to All Jews.”
The 27-year-old frequently made Nazi jokes in his videos, even going as far as wearing a replica Nazi uniform. However, after the events in Charlottesville last month, Kjellberg stated that he’s no longer going to joke about Nazism because he wants to distance himself from white supremacists who could use his comedy to spread hate.
But Kjellberg’s racial slur cannot be passed off as a misguided joke that didn’t land with his audience. It’s not edgy humor, and it’s surely not acceptable.
He didn’t use the word as a joke; he said it in anger toward another person.
“What a f*****g n****r! … What a f*****g asshole! I don’t mean that in a bad way,” Kjellberg said after his opponent in the game made a mistake. “Sometimes I forget I’m streaming,” he laughed after realizing what he said.
The way Kjellberg used the word, without hesitation, accompanied by another insult and followed by laughter, showed that this wasn’t simply a slip of the tongue. This is a word he uses in everyday life. His claim that he forgot that he was streaming, implies that this is the language he uses when the camera is off, and that is not okay.
In Kjellberg’s minute and a half long apology video, he claimed he was disappointed in himself for using the same language that he often criticizes other gamers for using and that there were no excuses for his actions.
He also went on to say, “I’m really sorry if I offended, hurt or disappointed anyone with all of this. Being in the position I am, I should know better.” He wasn’t sorry for using the word, just that people were offended by it.
Kjellberg immediately knew he had made a mistake during the stream, laughing it off and correcting himself with a lesser insult. However, it took public outrage to get him to fully respond. It’s safe to assume that if the incident hadn’t become a headline, he wouldn’t have felt the need to apologize at all for using a word that has deeply-seeded roots in hate, bigotry and racism.
However, I don’t think that Kjellberg is racist or a bad person. I just think he needs to grow up.
I’ve spent countless hours laughing at his videos since subscribing to his channel as a 16 year old. He has used his massive following to raise over $3 million for various charities since starting his channel in 2010, but doing good deeds doesn’t exempt a person from negative consequences.
“I’m disappointed in myself, because it seems like I’ve learned nothing from all these past controversies,” Kjellberg said in the apology video. “And it’s not that I think I can say or do whatever I want and get away with it. I’m just an idiot.”
While Kjellberg’s words seem sincere, they don’t match his actions.
When he was criticized for Nazi references in his videos, Kjellberg chose to play the victim and whined about how the media took his jokes out of context.
Instead of accepting his mistakes and cutting the Nazi jokes, Kjellberg chose to continue exactly what he was doing, while launching a personal war against the Wall Street Journal through a series of videos condemning the publication.
It wasn’t until actual white supremacists were marching through the streets in 2017 that Kjellberg decided it was time to put an end to his ill-advised comedy.
Kjellberg is no longer a 20-year-old kid playing video games in a run-down apartment in Sweden. He has a following nearly the size of Italy’s population, and his words hold more weight than the average creator.
But Kjellberg’s audience, which is primarily 18-34 year olds according to demographics from his video “YouTube Made a Mistake” posted on April 25, have flooded the comment sections in support of his actions.
One commenter wrote, “Say whatever you want everyone is way [too] butthurt in 2017. We need to soften [up] the human race.”
If you sift through the 132,000-plus comments on Kjellberg’s response video, you’ll find this same sentiment reworded thousands of time. These commenters are not upset that Kjellberg said a racial slur. Instead, they believe that those who are hurt or offended by such a word are in the wrong, and that Kjellberg doesn’t need to refrain from slurs because he is an entertainer.
Just because you find a person entertaining, doesn’t mean you allow them to get away with wrong-doings. We as an audience should want our favorite creators to grow as people and become better human beings.
I respect Kjellberg in that he used his boisterous personality and creativity to become wildly successful in this fast-changing digital age for seven years. However, I can’t support someone who ignorantly promotes hatred and bigotry.
They’re not jokes and they’re not edgy comedy. They’re mistakes, and it’s time to learn from them.