Youtube drama 2021

Youtube drama 2021 DEFAULT

Harmless YouTube “drama” has evolved into seriously problematic behavior

POV: It’s You just got home from school and you’re feeling more frustrated than ever. Your language arts teacher told you ending your fiction story with “it was a dream” is not a strong (or good) ending. You decide to go on YouTube, and you see a new video titled“The ‘Boyfriend’ Tag (ft. Troye Sivan) | Tyler Oakley.” All is good.

Since those good old days, YouTube content has seen a massive cultural shift, and it&#;s seen an even bigger shift from the platform’s inception in Nowadays, it seems you can’t log onto the website without seeing a new apology video. But YouTube content wasn’t always like that. 

Something that has always been a part of YouTube was the drama. I have been an avid YouTube viewer since , and I&#;ve seen a lot of creators rise and fall from grace. I’ve seen lots of drama come up and guiltily watch drama recap channels so I can stay up to date with it. I’ve recently noticed the word “drama” is used too loosely, minimizing the issues at hand. 

It does not sit right with me that recent situations — including accusations that James Charles exchanged explicit photos with a minor and allegations that David Dobrik facilitated a situation where a young woman was sexually assaulted — have been referred to as “drama.&#;

[Celebrate spring at these College Park outdoor dining spots]

In , YouTube drama was actual drama, not genuinely criminal and heinous acts. I remember when rumors started to circulate about JennXPenn and Andrea Russett falling out or when Connor Franta left O2L — that was what we considered drama. 

Yes, there were instances of YouTubers of doing inappropriate things, like when Sam Pepper did his infamous butt-grabbing prank. But back then, those incidents were infrequent, and the creators were mercilessly held accountable. It now feels like these instances of criminal acts of “drama” are on a monthly basis.

By referring to these instances as drama, you minimize what is actually happening. By saying allegations that James Charles is talking to minors in a predatory way is just “drama,” you minimize the experience those people went through. To an outsider it’s just “drama,” but you forget actual people went through this; it wasn’t just a piece of content to consume, it was a real-life event.

When reflecting on this change in drama, you look at the content coming out during this original YouTube era and it’s starkly different than content made now. A lot of the videos made were different Pinterest or Tumblr challenges like “The Boyfriend Tag” or “Name that Tune.”

I would look at my recommended tab and could watch Grace Helbig do the bean-boozled challenge, then Joey Graceffa do it, then Ricky Dillon, then Amanda Steele — and still not get bored. I was falling in love with the person, not the content. It was so structured there was nothing you could really do wrong. 

And that’s also partially why big hitters at the time like Shane Dawson or Jenna Marbles were so successful. They were creators who made unique content where they, quite frankly, made a lot of poor taste jokes that people ignored. And it wasn’t mostly until this past year both Dawson and Marbles were held accountable for their actions. 

One creator who ushered in this new, more unique, era of YouTube with somewhat controversial content was Tana Mongeau. Her infamous “I GOT BANGED WITH A TOOTHBRUSH: STORYTIME,” stands out; I remember that video being hot gossip among YouTube fans. Her content was bold and raunchy and people ate it up as much as they were disgusted by it. 

[The RealReal’s upcycled collection reimagines luxury sustainability]

As time went on, more and more creators kept trying to create more new and unique content to get a rise out of people. As opposed to falling in love with the person, you were falling in love with the content — and that’s where things went wrong.

This shift created a culture where creators felt the need to push boundaries. It got to the point where creators (ahem, David Dobrik) would coerce their fans to do things for them. Whether it was providing content for them, or even self-gratification, people felt the need to serve their favorite content creator. 

This new era of content has created a toxic environment between fans and creators, in which people look for every wrong step the creator makes to call it drama — but then ignore the genuinely bad things they do because it’s just seen as minute drama. 

I think the saying “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck” is relevant to this situation. If it’s drama, then call it drama. But if it’s something with genuine trauma and serious consequences, then address it as such.

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6 YouTube commentary channel creators explain why spilling tea is harder than it used to be

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Rey Rahimi, Cherita Gaskin, Paige Christie, Shane Andrews, and Dustin Dailey on a purple background with youtube icons.
Rey Rahimi/Cherita Gaskin/Paige Christie/Shane Andrews/Dustin Dailey/Youtube; Shayanne Gal/Insider

This story is available exclusively to Insider subscribers. Become an Insider and start reading now.

  • The news on YouTube is spread by tea, commentary, and drama channels. 
  • They lay out the goings on, feuds, and controversies surrounding the platform's top creators.
  • Six creators spoke to Insider about the implications of covering increasingly serious stories.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Covering drama isn't as fun as it used to be.

Dustin Dailey
dustin dailey / YouTube

On YouTube, tea, commentary, and drama channels share goings-on, feuds, and debates surrounding the most famous creators on the platform. 

What started as covering the fun, petty drama that occurred between famous friendships has evolved, particularly in the past couple of years, as top creators have faced escalating allegations, ranging from grooming to assault. 

Dustin Dailey has been posting videos to his eponymous YouTube channel for about five years. 

His first "drama" video was his opinion on an argument between two other commentary YouTubers about whether they should make content about the controversial YouTuber Trisha Paytas

Things aren't like that anymore, Dailey, who has , subscribers, told Insider. The scene isn't as enjoyable as it used to be, he said, because it's become more serious as several of YouTube's biggest stars have faced major controveries, some with potential legal implications.

David Dobrik, for example, recently took a three-month break from the internet following allegations of sexual assault within his content collective known as the Vlog Squad, and the revelation his friend Jeff Wittek nearly died while taking part in a stunt for one of his famous videos. Jeffree Star and James Charles, two of the biggest beauty influencers in the world, have both faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

"It's kind of taxing," he said. "It used to be a lot of fun to just make videos because it used to be petty stuff."

Dailey thinks things started to shift around May , in what is now known as Dramageddon 2 — when beauty YouTuber James Charles was accused of "manipulating" straight men by his former friend and mentor Tati Westbrook. Charles has since faced allegations of grooming from several underage boys. He has denied those claims, saying he did not verify the ages of some of the boys he was speaking to, because he was "desperate," and he was deceived by others.

Dailey said it's almost scary to cover these kinds of stories because there's a chance commentary channels could get sued for what they say, or face backlash from aggressively loyal fanbases.

"You have to dodge bullets and dodge landmines," he said. "It's also the people — the amount of like replies and hate that you get for it. Like, if you have an unpopular opinion, you're automatically public enemy number one."

Self-censoring makes it challenging to provide all the context.

Spill Sesh
Spill Sesh / YouTube

Spill Sesh, also known as Spilly, is an anonymous creator who is part of the "tea" genre of news reporting on YouTube. She uploads multiple videos a week, cataloging every move the biggest influencers on the platform make, and has built a following of , subscribers over two years. 

Spilly told Insider the hardest part about navigating the increasingly dark stories plaguing the platform is making sure she doesn't miss any context when she has to work around YouTube's terms and conditions.

"With how censored we have to be on YouTube and the fact that we're dealing with extremely triggering topics now, it's a challenge," she said. 

One of the stories she's struggled with is the allegations surrounding Jeffree Star, which were first reported by Insider last year. Spilly said it was the first serious topic she'd handled, and there was a lot she had to censor out to ensure the video wasn't taken down or demonetized by YouTube.

While at the start of her career, tea channels were widely regarded as a lighthearted way to follow what was going on in the community, she now has to address the news with more rigor.

"As topics have had to shift to a more serious tone the response has been a bit more intense," she said. "Obviously if we are talking about someone's favorite creator having been accused of doing something near criminal, there's going to be a lot of different opinions in the comments. I think some people look at some of our channels as the villains. When in reality I try to keep my opinions out of it — I don't have a burning hatred for people I make videos on, I really just say what's public."

One creator says she has to filter out performative activism.

Cherita Gaskin
Cherita Explains It All / YouTube

Cherita Gaskin has been making videos on her channel Cherita Explains It All for over three years. She's grown a following of 16, subscribers, making her a microinfluencer, but is highly regarded.

She told Insider she has struggled with hypocrisy in the commentary community, where fellow YouTubers will message her privately with support and praise, but never show solidarity publicly.

"I get treated way different than the bigger drama channels, and that's just based on the fact that I'm one of the only Black creators," she said. "Because I'm so outspoken about certain topics, I get treated different."

Gaskin says she's gotten tired of what she calls performativity on social media— YouTubers simply jumping on the trend of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, while not putting the effort into helping people of color in their communities.

"A lot of people just aren't willing to learn unless it's from a white person," Gaskin said.

It can be tough to stay objective with more severe topics.

Repzilla / YouTube

Shane Andrews, who has gone by his YouTube alias of Repzilla for the past five years, told Insider the main challenge he encounters with being a commentary channel is staying objective. 

Andrews, who has , subscribers, said he tries to ensure his emotions don't get in the way when reporting stories because this can lead to bias. He says he's seen a subculture on YouTube grow in recent months where commentary channels call each other out for not being neutral and impartial enough.

"I think this in itself symbolizes the challenges of covering more serious topics and the legal implications of that," he said. 

Andrews said issues arise when YouTubers are not transparent when they've shared incorrect information. This happens, he said, because many YouTubers work as individuals and don't necessarily have teams to help them navigate the increasingly complex details of the controversies they comment on.

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Welcome to the Circus

Left to Right: Jeffree Star, D’Angelo Wallace, Logan Paul, Shane Dawson, Tati Westbrook, James Charles, and Tana Mongeau. Photo-Illustration: by Vulture; Photos by Youtube

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It was only a matter of time before the drama channels came for each other. Since YouTube invaded our screens 16 years ago — big, medium, and little — the platform’s beauty community has run things with an aspirational Regina George–like charm. “Gurus” such as a young woman from Florida named Jaclyn Hill could have viewers wearing Champagne glitter as an everyday look and spending their paychecks on her exact lipstick shade … until they watch a minute video revealing her lip products are allegedly full of hairs. Then, beginning in the mids,all the glamour of the beauty community began to be overshadowed by its ugly stepsisters, the drama channels. Known for exposés, spreading rumors, and clickbait, drama channelsemerged to expose the unblended underbelly of the picture-perfect beauty community, and they’ve overtaken the space at a dizzying rate.

Such was the dynamic that when a veteran vlogger, the perennially canceled Shane Dawson, found himself ensnared in Dramageddon — the latest career-ending installment of online chaos in which he and former Myspace star-turned-villainous beauty guru Jeffree Star were implicated in the cancellation of beauty influencer James Charles — Dawson blamed it on the beauty community in a wildly dismissive, infamous iPhone note titled “Welcome to the Circus.” What Dawson missed, presumably while he was filming oversize commercials disguised as investigative documentaries about Jeffree Star and his cosmetics empire, is that fans have already moved on from the unreliable web of rumors drama channels and YouTube creators spent years spinning.

For the better part of a decade, Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star, and many other savvy creators used the internet’s predisposition to sensationalism to deny and start drama.If your clickbait is shocking enough, “exposing” people boosts your channel while tearing down a competitor. Tattoo artist-turned-cosmetics mogul Kat Von D’s attempt to call out Jeffree Star’s racism in ,which ended both their friendship and business relationship, was a defining moment for drama channels that had been accustomed to averting their gaze to anything beyond affiliate links. The contentious history between the two beauty-brand owners gave channels something to dig into, and they’ve been poking holes in major YouTuber controversies ever since.

(Accountability came back to haunt Von D, who sold her beauty brand in after being called out for an anti-vaxx Instagram post.)

As YouTubers face increasing legal scrutiny, they’ve been hit with a tidal wave of accountability, giving way to the rise of the watchful commentary genre and altering the way we consume influencers.More conscientious “commentary” channels like D’Angelo Wallace, DefNoodles, ItzKeisha, and more are flourishing, and the notorious drama community is lost without mess. As that evolution has occurred, we’ve witnessed a transference of control among YouTube’s influencer economy, from creators to consumers. Calling out influencers is a team sport now; last summer’s Drama Olympicssaw Twitter sleuths and commentary channels converge to try and cancel Star and Dawson for good. Meanwhile, the internet battled its own virus: influencers’ complete disregard of the pandemic in favor of flexing on their followers. Audiences needed researched, fact-checked, and fair reporting on influencers. And so, a new kind of clout chaser, one who cared more about the story than the subject, logged on.With no effective way to address harmful creators besides demonetizing their content, which doesn’t stop them from continuing to share, YouTube as a company lets its viewers handle deplatforming … and they’ve gotten good at it.

Drama doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Feuds happening today are rewriting internet history. Niche drama from years ago has helped set up the next generation of watchdogs. The sea change came from millions of dedicated fans, undeniably passionate creators, and in spite of more than a few narcissists.Below, we track the biggest drama (and drama-channel drama) that’s led to the end of the genre and the beginning of accountability culture.

Fans had to turn on beauty queen Jackie Aina during her extended feud with British drama channel Petty Paige, run by Paige Christie. In April , their tensions came to a head when Aina issued a DMCA takedown against one of Paige’s videos, titled “Jackie Aina: When Beauty Has 2 Faces But Only One Bank Account.” In her video, Paige had used clips of one of Aina’s recent videos but with significant editorialization so that the video fell under “fair use,” a copyright-law permission slip that all commentary channels have had to become familiar with. “My, my, how the mighty have fallen,” Petty said at the time. Later that year, Aina insinuated in a since-deleted video that Petty Paige was behind an email hack and stole money from her bank account, an accusation Paige and many in the beauty community found “slanderous” to the point that Aina eventually apologized on her Instagram Story. A YouTuber’s response to criticism, especially when it comes from a smaller creator, is an immediate identifier of when they’ve gotten out of pocket. It’s easiest for influencers to deflect and let the internet’s short attention span latch onto something else. But when other fan bases — and sometimes members of their own — demand a response, it becomes an issue larger than just creator versus creator. Refusing to handle it personally becomes the public’s business. Drama channels had the power of the people backing them up, butunlike here, they didn’t always have the people’s best intentions in mind.

Beauty YouTuber KathleenLights mostly flew under the radar until Jaclyn Hill posted a Snapchat where she could be heard saying the N-word. Kathleen, whose real last name is Fuentes, later posted a lackluster iPhone notes apology, and the controversy was swept under the rug, overshadowed by those who questioned Hill’s intentions in publicly sharing Fuentes’s use of the slur (questions fueled by none other than Jeffree Star). “She went out of her way to contact every single drama channel, including myself, and basically said, ‘Hey, just to let you know, this is not the situation,’” Petty Paige told Vox in “She used us effectively, and essentially she silenced the entire community by telling us her side of the story.” Beauty influencers were able to influence their way out of major scandals with relationships and PR packages. Fuentes largely avoided accountability until recently, when the supporters of her nail-polish brand resurfaced the controversy, leading her to issue a formal video apology three years later.

Jake Paul’s YouTube presence is just one of the many downsides to Vine’s death. After that app closed up shop, several of its stars migrated to YouTube for either slightly better or much, much worse. In the fall of , two other less-obnoxious Vine creators, Noel Miller and Cody Ko, made a video reacting to a medley of Jake Paul’s awful attempts at fame, earning 17 million views. Up until that point, commentary on YouTube existed mostly as a subsection of reaction videos. Cody Ko and Noel, whose YouTube fame eventually surpassed their Vine fame and kick-started their career as a rap duo, put a spotlight on popular creators outside the beauty community. Fellow former Viners Danny Gonzalez, Drew Gooden, Kurtis Conner, and more instilled comedy into commentary while calling out everyone from kids creators to life hacks to pick-up artists. Jake Paul saturated video titles, creating his own little economy off angering his neighbors and off-beat diss tracks. Inspired by Shane Dawson, Jake Paul actually confronted Cody Ko in a very poorly received vlog (over , dislikes) that the commentary community ate up. Ultimately, Cody Ko’s impact on drama trends circled back to assist him and the never-ending cancellation of Jake Paul.

Jeffree Star’s reputation got a face-lift with the release of Dawson’s documentary vlog “The Secret World of Jeffree Star.” Batting away several racism and abuse scandals, the video series gave Star the redemptive and sympathetic origin story that only he (and his stans) were asking for. Shortly after its release, Dramageddon erupted, leading to the “cancellation” of his competitors and former friends in the beauty-guru space, Manny MUA and Laura Lee. Star used the king of YouTube to absolve himself of any part in the drama, and Dawson used Star as a way into the highly profitable beauty world. The monetary stakes were raised higher than ever. Polygon estimates Laura Lee lost around $25, a year in income along with , subscribers, not to mention lost endorsements and sponsorships, when Star’s fans exposed a series of old racist tweets. The events here made the financial and career repercussions, on top of social consequences, much more real. And the chaos only brought more views to both Star and Dawson, ultimately providing them the blueprint for manipulating the internet’s attention span. By this point, even Shane Dawson’s loyalists were realizing the good PR he was creating for controversial YouTubers.

(He’d already done it once that same summer with “The Truth About Tana Mongeau,” a docuseries on the scandal-driven thenyear-old’s Fyre Festian influencer convention TanaCon, launched to spite Hank and John Green’s long-running YouTuber festival VidCon for deciding not to feature her on its creator lineup; instead of selfies, her guests walked away with condoms, dehydration, and sunburns.)

In , two big-league drama channels, Tea Spill and Here for the Tea, canceled their multipart Jaclyn Hill collaboration after episode one, saying that “no video or series is worth risking someone’s mental health.” According to Here for the Tea, Tea Spill allegedly received “an alarming DM from Jeffree Star which honestly left us with no choice but to cancel the series.” Fans were disappointed in the tea channels for bending to Star’s will, especially those who were distrustful of him. Influencers reaching out to major drama channels was now an open secret, and it was becoming increasingly clear who might really be deciding the stories and subjects those channels cover. The drama community as a whole became more and more saturated in the wake of Dramageddon, putting the pressure on beauty gurus to be flawless and on drama channels to stand out.

How does anyone come back after losing 3 million subscribers overnight?Veteran beauty guru Tati Westbrook’s now-infamous video “Bye Sister,” where she ended her friendship with the thenyear-old beauty influencer James Charles over hair gummy vitamins and accused him of sexually harassing a straight guy, led to a record-breaking loss and a heartbreaking response. Charles’s first reply, a since-deleted teary vertical video titled “tati,” earned him no support. But eight days later, the teen absolved himself in a minute-long video titled “No More Lies.” Laying out “receipts,” just like a tea video would, he refuted Tati Westbrook’s claim and asked for no sympathy. Charles won fans over with his fact-based, professional approach to addressing the situation; his response contributed to a shift in the tone and aesthetic of major influencer responses going forward. Rather than address fans with raw emotions and a stream of consciousness while wearing the stereotypical YouTuber apology drag, Charles’s video respectfully and professionally breaks what he needs to say into points, sticking to what people have said publicly. Succinct apologies like this happen on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram Live far too often nowadays.

With fans back on his side, the threat of real-life repercussions from Westbrook’s video reverberated throughout the LGBTQIA+ community; many argued that the allegedly false accusations about James propagated a harmful homophobic stereotype. And that if he could get canceled for that, then the apparently more legitimate accusations of sexual misconduct and assault against other major YouTubers could be called out too.

After the drama community started getting suspicious of a new anonymous channel on a meteoric rise, Petty Paige uncovered that the animated drama channel Spill and its universe of sister channels was actually a project by Canadian media corporation AWED. A month prior, they had released a video addressing the rumors, claiming to be started by two people “as a side job” who registered as a corporation when Spill took off. The corporatization of drama channels came as a shock to no one, given the growing sponsorship opportunities. In , Spill was estimated to be earning over half a million dollars a year by Social Blade, a website that tracks online metrics.Fast-food franchises like Wendy’s and Burger King were already using social media to appear more humanlike and relatable; Spill tried to mimic the idea and instead ruined the reputation of well-run-and-researched independent drama and commentary channels before them. Ultimately, Spill’s entrance proved that anyone can adopt an educational tone to their videos and pass off whatever information they want.

Step one of being a clown? Apply your clown makeup. For Shane Dawson’s eight-part follow-up doc to “The Secret World of Jeffree Star,” he actually followed his own journey scamming people into believing he had any business creating a makeup palette with cosmetics brand and influencer magnet Morphe. This time, rather than selling us an idea of Jeffree Star, they literally sold crap (see a makeup palette curated by someone with no makeup experience). The series included generally favorable coverage of Dawson from drama channels, like Angelika Oles and Smokey Glow, an inclusion outed years later as a conflict of interest when it was alleged that Shane Dawson would regularly DM several drama channels, “love-bombing” them or sharing his opinions of other YouTubers.

Inevitably, drama channels start their own drama. For Thanksgiving , drama and beauty YouTuber Smokey Glow (real name Hannah) made a video saying she no longer wanted to go to the holiday party of another drama channel, The Viewers Voice’s Nick Snider, because she did not feel that his then-close-friend, walking scandal and fellow tea-sipper Rich Lux, had properly apologized for past offensive language. The party ultimately kicked off drama between … all of the other drama channels, like Snider and Rich Lux, who continue to use Smokey Glow’s video as an excuse to call her problematic. There’s a reason why drama channels have built a messy reputation of their own: Snider and Lux are two of the most popular with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and billions of channel views eachyet two of the most problematic drama channels, both of which are regularly called out for offensive or tone-deaf language, like when Snider called guru MannyMUA’s father a “reformed homophobe.”If they can’t hold themselves accountable, how can they hold other channels accountable?

A year later, in December , Smokey Glow put another drama channel in the hot seat and released a statement condemning fellow beauty-commentary-channel creator Angelika Oles for her allegedly racist and transphobic past. Twenty-four hours earlier,Smokey Glow had defended her friend against those accusations when they first surfaced, but said she was now apologizing and retracting support for Oles once she learned more information after they collaborated for a video that month. The same drama channels Smokey Glow first distanced herself from — those by Rich Lux and Nick Snider — proceeded to make video responses calling her out for being a “bad friend,” making Oles the victim in this situation. It was at this moment it became clear that certain parts of the community are more interested in preserving cliques than reporting on potentially harmful creators whose alleged actions have implications offline, too.

Eighteen-year-old Adam McIntyre made his pivot to commentary by airing out his own drama. McIntyre had to make a video to get established YouTuberColleen Ballinger (best known for her narcissistic YouTube character Miranda Sings) to address the allegedly inappropriate way he claimed she’d interacted with him and other fans when he was “between the ages of 13 to ” Ballinger crossed the line in multiple ways, he said, by sending him lingerie as a joke and briefly hiring him to run her Miranda Sings Twitter. Ballinger ended up quietly and quickly uploading a video to her vlog channel, titled “Addressing Everything,” providing screenshots and footage from the time. McIntyre’s own experience as a fan, a creator, and someone who’s been through drama himself has since added credibility to his own commentary. Rather than casting accusations or starting petty drama, he and other creators have been trusted to report based on facts. Previously, drama channels would gather their tea from tabloid-style blogs like Guru Gossip, Lipstick Alley, or reader submissions, but now exposés straight from the source are predominant. During Dramageddon , some of Jeffree Star’s closest friends spoke out against him in videos not unlike “No More Lies.” Several alleged victims have also made their own videos accusing James Charles of sending unsolicited nudes to minors as recently as February

Out of nowhere, Star reignites Dramageddon by alleging in an interview with unfailing shit-starter Keemstar on his now-defunct Spotify drama podcast Mom’s Basement, co-hosted with gaming influencer FaZe Banks, that he has a voice memo corroborating Tati Westbook’s previous accusations against James Charles. Keemstar, 38, has inserted himself into every incident he can on his DramaAlert YouTube channel. An interview with him is an invitation to a free-for-all, sowing chaos and conflict among YouTube pariahs Gabbie Hanna, Trisha Paytas, and so, so many more. No one is safe. In general, podcasts have become a lucrative next step for those who want to monetize their drama. Logan Paul, Trisha Paytas, Ryland Adams, and more have capitalized on their internet popularity by starting a podcast. Star let the machine work for him, inadvertently (if you wanna believe that) kick-starting Dramageddon , a.k.a. Karmageddon.

It was absolutely no shock to anyone that drama channels were profiting off beauty guru scandals. But even so, when drama channels Ashlye Kyle, Sanders Kennedy, and The Viewer’s Voice (Nick Snider) each made videos admitting that Jeffree Star gave them info under the table that helped them rake in that AdSense money, it was seen as a major betrayal. Until then, close relationships between drama channels and beauty influencers were an open secret; Jeffree Star had manipulated most of the community that was supposed to be protecting audiences. In his wake, tea channels were “canceled,” reputations were ruined, and he profited.

Shane Dawson started his own #ShaneDawsonIsOverParty;his since-deleted Twittermanifesto attempting to rid himself of the drama in the community he’d just spent two years kissing up to and milking was the final straw. Dawson attempted to use beauty YouTube’s bad reputation as protection against exposing his alleged involvement in James Charles’s cancellation, but he must have forgotten his own track record was worse. It was way too easy for scandalized fans to compile Dawson’s worst offenses on Twitter from minstrelsy to slurs to sexualizing children. There was only one clown at this circus. From that point forward, criticism of Dawson became as mainstream as the Red Table Talk (even Jada Pinkett-Smith tried to cancel him) and as notorious as his BFF Star’s own villainy had long been. Drama and commentary channels were inspired to go harder on him, leading Dawson to lose his contract with Morphe. After his follow-up response, a YouTube video titled “Taking Accountability,” YouTube demonetized all three of his channels. According to its advertiser-friendly content policies, YouTube has the power to suspend monetization when the company is made aware of content that violates its community guidelines. So although Black users had been shedding light on Dawson’s content for years (see comedian and former YouTuber Franchesa Ramsey), it took a beauty-community controversy to force action from YouTube. No matter how many hashtag parties fans make on Twitter, they still had to capture the entire YouTube community’s attention before getting real change. Commentary channels now routinely amplify this power to round up receipts and get at creators’ ethical violations.

Comedian turned YouTube watchdog DefNoodles, real name Dennis Feitosa, has made his name monitoring influencer parties during the COVID pandemic. He exposed the social media of TikTok stars Bryce Hall and Blake Gray’s house parties in violation of California’s coronavirus safety measures; each were packed with influencers, and DefNoodles made sure the world (or at least the one that exists online) knew about it. In the replies to his near-constant tweets, he’ll often link to California’s updated coronavirus safety measures, case rates, or to CDC guidelines, educating followers as they gossip while Jason Derulo and Charli D’Amelio continue living their best lives. It shouldn’t be up to satirical YouTubers to call out health and safety disrespect, but it’s become a drama genre in itself — from racist pandemic jokes to superspreader parties to unsafe collaborations. Viral tweets calling out TikTokers and their COVID parties are treated like public-service announcements, small forms of vigilantism against the bourgeois Gen Z. Bryce Hall and Blake Gray were both charged with misdemeanors for their hazardousparties.

YouTube drama’s biggest new star D’Angelo Wallace’s over-one-hour-long Shane Dawson video essay was actually his second video to go crazy viral. The first in the extensivethree-part seriesindividually covering Star, Dawson, and Westbrook around the Dramageddons, in that order, had come out the week before, earning him over , subscribers in less than two weeks. The meticulously edited middle installmentused detailed, fact-based research on Dawson’s year career on YouTubeto bring awareness to the extent of Dawson’s racism and sexualization of minors. As a result, Wallace gained over , subs in one week; the video now has over 18 million views. Its viral success spoke to the hunger for more thoughtful takes on events dismissed as low-brow drama. Wallace and other commentary channels, like DefNoodles, itzKeisha, Adam McIntyre, and more, provide a crash course in ethics and moral dilemmas with each news update, tasked with defining terms like manipulation, gaslighting, and grooming to their young audiences. Wallace went so far as to turn off the ads for his documentary so he wouldn’t be profiting from reposting some of Dawson’s most disturbing content. It’s a complete from Dramageddon , where drama channels like Ashlye Kyle made tens of thousands of dollars off the attempted cancellation of James Charles.

Tati Westbrook ignites a lawsuit against drama channel Without a Crystal a Ball (real name Katie Joy). Originally, Joy rose to fame for going after Westbrook following “Bye Sister” and gained even more fame when Westbrook sued her for defamation, trade libel, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, per court documents, in October. Legal action from influencers is a serious threat to commentary channels — often outmatched financially and in follower count by the people they’re critiquing — and the genre has responded by attempting to report fairly with creative twists. A personal favorite? Adam McIntyre’s “allegedly” bear, who chimes in whenever he needs to make that important qualification. By now, it’s clear that the reputation of a bigger creator could wipe out a small commentary channel with ease. Do we really need another Gawker situation?

Kat Tenbarge of Insider reports that Jeffree Star allegedly paid a sexual-assault accuser to retract their claims. In the big leagues now, Star has a lawyer issue a denial where they say Star is “considering all of his legal options”; he has not commented on the accusations since. This time, though, Star can’t seem to run from thealleged facts. He’s used to denying and deflecting accusations — is it a coincidence that he made a donation to a children’s charity around this time? — but anti-fans and reporters don’t let up. The old model of handling drama has no leverage now. And yet, unlike his former “friend” Dawson, Star remains uncanceled. Karma, huh.

Inspired by Trisha Paytas, Ethan and Hila Klein of the H3H3 podcast interviewed Seth François and Big Nik, two creators who were formerly part of David Dobrik’s ultrapopular Vlog Squad. All you need to know about them is that Dobrik has generated enough wealth and clout to get them to do anything. (Like riding-a-moped-into-a-pool anything; like letting him post a video of someone performing oral sex in a car full of people, which has almost 16 million views.) François accuses Dobrik and his sidekick, year-old comedian Jason Nash, of sexual assault for two videos where Nash made out with him without his consent. Big Nik claims he was subjected to years of ableist jokes and abuse about his dwarfism. The seemingly impossiblerevolt against David Dobrik was actually spearheaded by Paytas, who was briefly in the Vlog Squad while she dated Nash. She alleges her consent was violated during a “prank” where Dobrik hid in the shower while Nash had sex with her. Paytas herself has a long history of her own controversies (and often playing up those controversies for views), but in recent months has pivoted from crying on the kitchen floor to coming with receipts and sticking up for alleged victims of fellow YouTubers.

While Jeffree Star continues to play the avoiding game and Trisha Paytas evolves into accountability, where does that leave Shane Dawson and the state of the drama union? Right now, his presence is felt solely through his fiancé Ryland Adams, who’s borne the brunt of Paytas’s glow-up. Recently, Adams and Dawson, who’d publicly been Trisha’s supposed best friend for more than a decade, took Jeffree Star’s side in a feud between Trisha and Jeffree that’s not worth getting into. (Just know that, for once, Paytas was completely right.) One apology later, Adams announced that his YouTube drama podcast, The Sip, with co-host actress Lizze Gordon, was going to step away from … drama. “If we’re gonna talk about hot topics, the hot topics inside of YouTube are the community in which I’m involved in which is YouTube drama,” he said, saying that reporting on his world would essentially make him a drama channel which he “never wanted to do.” It’s an attempt at controlling the narrative that’s spun wildly away from him, likely pushing back whatever return date Shane Dawson has planned.

It’s a full-circle moment: There’s no longer space on the internet for creators who prefer chaos to transparency. Our new way of observing and critiquing influencers positions audiences not as kids at the circus but as the ringmasters. As Gen Z becomes ethics autodidacts, the expectations for all creators will get higher, pushing the community to even greater measures of accountability. When powerful influencers inevitably wage war in Dramageddon (*shudder*), they won’t be the ones deciding the victor.

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Bulbulay Season 2 Episode 124 - 17th October 2021 - ARY Digital Drama

'Tea' and drama YouTubers go after some of the internet's biggest celebrities. It's not as easy as it used to be.

  • Commentary has existed on YouTube almost as long as the platform has been around.
  • Tea, commentary, and drama channels help shape the narrative about the internet's superstars.
  • But as the designated critics of the platform's biggest stars, commentary YouTubers have a special set of worries and considerations. 

A famous friendship fell apart in May , sending shockwaves through the YouTube community and leading to the biggest drop in subscriber count in influencer history. Beauty YouTuber James Charles lost 1 million followers in 24 hours and 3 million in total after his fellow beauty guru mentor Tati Westbrook accused him of inappropriate behavior and being a bad friend, among other things.

That feud occurred in what Taylor Lorenz described in The Atlantic as "an ecosystem of drama" made up of "tea" and commentary YouTube channels, which were already becoming a staple of YouTube culture. These channels post videos breaking down influencer news, talking about creators, their alliances and enemies, and controversies.

They are integral to shaping the narrative about the internet's superstars. Some of the biggest influencers are powerful celebrities now, many of whom have successful businesses. Without anyone critically discussing them, that power would be totally unbridled, according to journalist Kelsey Weekman, who covers internet culture for In The Know. Commentary channels can "hold influencers accountable," she said.

The architects of this scene, who used to be perceived as untrustworthy gossip-spreaders, have become respected creators on the platform. But new challenges these channels are facing make it hard for them to do their jobs of informing viewers of the news they rely on.

With hundreds of thousands of followers themselves, they also have a lot of power, which can lead to its own pitfalls: some creators have been accused of bullying and found themselves in legal trouble.

Several commentary and drama YouTubers spoke to Insider about how the community has grown and evolved on YouTube.

Commentary has existed on YouTube since its very early days

In the early days of YouTube, between and , an anonymous figure in a crude dog mask with a distorted voice posted his musings about fellow creators on a channel called YT Watchdog, where he had 23, subscribers. While the rest of YouTube was intent on collaborating with each other and building up fanbases, YT Watchdog called them out for their behavior, in a way that could be considered an early iteration of a commentary channel.

There weren't so many dramas and controversies on YouTube back then, so much of YT Watchdog's coverage was very niche. In a video that has 75, views, YT Watchdog mocked YouTuber Shane Dawson for using a secondary YouTube account to try to inflate views on a video he appeared in.

YT Watchdog hasn't posted for 6 years, but the community he helped build lives on.

Various types of channels now make up this genre, including so-called commentary channels, tea channels, and drama channels. Many tea channels are anonymous, focusing on the screenshots and evidence — or "receipts" — they gather from social media and place into straightforward videos that give viewers a timeline of events.

Drama and commentary channels tend to have a central character, whose opinions and personality are the allure. They act as YouTube's anchors, each having a different reason their audience tunes in.

Humans have always been interested in gossiping about celebrities

According to Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor at Cornell University who studies social media culture, humans have always been interested in gossip. Commentary, tea, and drama YouTube is just the latest iteration of it.

"This tea community is all about the production of drama and that's certainly not new," she told Insider. Traditional tabloids and noughties bloggers like Perez Hilton remain successful, mostly because as a society, we love peeking into the private lives of people we see as untouchable. With YouTubers, there's even more of "an investment in their personalities," Duffy said, because of the parasocial bond many fans have with them.

This can also mean some of the most vehement hatred is often directed towards them. "We feel like we know these people, and so we want to see their flaws," she said.

In recent years, drama around major influencer has heated up

Several tea channels, such as Here For The Tea and Tea By Ali (now Truth Sleuth) popped up or grew considerably in the summer of after a friendship war known as "Dramageddon," where a rift split a group of five major beauty YouTubers. Every step of the alliances made and broken were documented by channels who saved every screenshot and repurposed them into neat timelines.

A year later, Westbrook and Charles satiated the audience's desire for another feud. Along with that came more channels that are now staples in the community, such as TeaSpill. Now, there are hundreds of channels with names referring to "spilling tea" on YouTube, each with its own eccentricities, catchphrases, and fanbases.

The severity in Westbrook's claims foreshadowed commentary as a genre moving away from the trivial tittle-tattle it was originally known for.

Severity has overtaken pettiness on commentary YouTube, which can be taxing for the people involved

Reporting the drama isn't as fun as it once was, according to several YouTubers who spoke to Insider. The news used to be lighthearted and focus on petty drama like bad makeup launches and friendship breakups.

Now, Charles has been accused of sexting underage boys. Other popular influencers such as David Dobrik and Shane Dawson have had their past content dredged up and widely criticized — Dawson for racism and sexual jokes about children and animals, and Dobrik for filming a skit during which a woman later said she had been raped by his friend.

Dustin Dailey, a drama YouTuber who has been making videos for about five years, told Insider it can be scary because he faces backlash from aggressively loyal fanbases. He said if he criticizes a big creator, "people say nasty, horrible things about me for months."

Rey Rahimi runs the channel Hot Tea, where she has , subscribers and condenses lengthier videos from some of YouTube's biggest and controversial figures into short summaries. She told Insider viewers have increasingly intense demands, expecting creators to be as unbiased, objective, and thorough as reporters despite rarely being trained in journalism.

"There's a duty to hold these ethical standards or just standards in general," Rahimi said. "But at the end of the day, with the resources that we're given, it's tough to reach that."

There is an ongoing content dilemma for many creators

Commentary channels took a hit when there was a flurry of advertiser withdrawals on YouTube in known as "The Adpocalypse," with adverts only being placed on content that was deemed "family-friendly" by the platform, excluding anything that included adult content such as inappropriate language, violence, harmful or dangerous acts, or references to drugs.

Rahimi said there's now a "constant dilemma" of whether to cover stories that involve more serious topics such as sexual assault, eating disorders, or abuse, because they often get demonetized. In order to ensure that they get paid, channels mute words like "sex," "abuse," and "drugs" to avoid demonetization. But this can make the video difficult for the audience to understand, leading to frustration among creators.

"Why should we censor ourselves and only talk about happy things and block everything that's going on in the world around us?" Rahimi said.

Copyright is another concern. Many commentary channels will use clips of the content they're referencing. This isn't necessarily a copyright violation as long as the videos fall under the "fair use" clause, which allows creators to republish other people's content without permission or payment as long as it is being used for criticism, news reporting, teaching, or research.

However, the copyright owner can "copyright strike" a video regardless, and after three strikes channels can be terminated. To avoid this, creators may take down videos subject to strikes to keep their channels alive. The subjects of commentary videos, who are typically big influencers, can use this system to hit back at smaller tea and commentary YouTubers. Some believe using copyright strikes to take down videos is a practice that amounts to a form of censorship by YouTube's most powerful influencers.

Some drama channels face valid criticism and legal action

Recently, drama and commentary channels have faced legal action.

In October , Tati Westbrook filed a lawsuit against a creator named Katie Joy, who runs the channel Without A Crystal Ball, arguing that her coverage of Westbrook was defamatory.

Legal commentary YouTuber, and former district attorney Emily D. Baker, told Insider suing for defamation can be difficult because malicious intent has to be proven. Still, Westbrook's lawsuit was a wake-up call for many drama and commentary channels.

More stringent rules have also been placed on YouTubers since the adpocalypse, particularly regarding harassment policies.

One former YouTuber Calvin Lee Vail, better known as LeafyIsHere, was permanently banned from the platform in August for repeatedly violating YouTube's harassment policies — including mocking fellow creators' appearances and name-calling.

Commentary channels have also been accused of harassment by their videos' subjects when they focus many of them on a single person, such as Angelika Oles' coverage of controversial creator Gabbie Hanna.

They are also increasingly called out for behavior and language that some viewers see as insensitive or "problematic." Paige Christie, who started reporting on drama on her channel Petty Paige in , said drama channels are particularly at risk because they have been turned into a kind of "moral compass" of YouTube that they didn't really sign up for.

"We're holding people to certain standards that are sometimes impossible for us to uphold ourselves," she said.

Still, drama and commentary channels remain hugely popular on YouTube, with new ones popping up every day and more drama emerging as newer influencers enter the space. They will likely be considered indispensable for some time, as long as they are forgiven for mistakes they make along the way.

"I think drama will always be popular because people love to monitor other people's business," Dailey said. "We didn't go to school for this. We're just loudmouths with cameras and opinions."

Read more stories from Insider's Digital Culture desk.


Drama 2021 youtube

Over the last few rounds of YouTuber drama, something finally became clear. A few weeks back, there were two perennially controversial creators fighting over the handling of their respective controversies. About a month later, there was a thing about a popular beauty vlogger who’d disappeared from the internet a year ago following a different feud. Finally, there was breaking news about a beekeeper on TikTok — she’d caused some kind of kerfuffle within the beekeepers-on-TikTok community, and every news publicationin the entire worldcovered itas thoughit were the most rivetingstory of the day, even though the whole thing amounted to basically one person’s criticisms, which turned out to be pretty mild and possibly inaccurate in the first place.

The thing that had started to become clear was that none of this was actually all that interesting. In each case, the drama seemed to take the shape of something compelling, but at its core, it simply wasn’t made up of anything real. I read as much as my brain could stand about Trisha Paytas and Gabbie Hanna and why they were arguing with each other, or what the deal was with Tati Westbrook making videos again, and yet no amount of knowledge about the situation made me care about any of it because ultimately what this was all about was people who were just doing their jobs, and their jobs are creating drama. At a certain point, it all starts to feel like when little kids perform the dance they choreographed in the basement for a room full of adults. After the fifth or sixth time, you kind of just want to go back to polite conversation.

Creator drama, for the most part, falls into one of two categories. The first is when someone is accused of doing or saying something despicable and then either addresses or doesn’t address it, which then spurs on a predictable cycle of familiar reactions. The other category is simply too confusing to even begin to understand, and the beef between a network of influencers goes so far back in time and is so in the weeds that in order to unravel the byzantine network of he-said-she-said one must submit to the PhD-level research of watching mostly uninteresting hour-long videos in which maybe one important piece of context is revealed by everyone who was even tangentially involved. Neither category is much fun to digest.

It’s obvious that many people actually do continue to care about the endless cycle of alliances between the major players of the digital economy; there is now an entire industry devoted to describing it in excruciating detail, from tea channels to blind item Instagram accounts. Articles explaining creator drama tend to skyrocket to the top of media companies’ websites (including this one), providing valuable traffic simply because people are searching for something who will tell the story in a narrative that makes some amount of sense. There have, of course, been genuinely intriguing and actually scandalous scandals in the world of YouTube (I find anything related to the career of conspiracy theorist-slash-”documentarian” Shane Dawson absolutely riveting), but for the most part, it’s exhausting.

One of the major problems within this system is that both creator drama and the coverage of it tend to unfold like horse race journalism. Horse race journalism, a term used mostly in the context of politics, means that the media narrative focuses more on optics rather than the actual meat of what’s going on; so, for instance, writing about the fact that Candidate A is pulling ahead of Candidate B in the polls instead of explaining either candidate’s policies or agendas. In the world of celebrity and influencer beef, that’s essentially all we’re getting: Celebrity A Slams Celebrity B; Celebrity B Claps Back! Either side can pull out whatever they see fit to push their narratives and feel like they’ve won. No one is ever asked to question their biases or engage in any sort of critical thinking, and nothing ever really changes.

It’s something I’ve thought about a lot after reading EJ Dickson’s fantastic Rolling Stone profile of David Dobrik, the unfathomably successful year-old YouTuber recently accused of perpetuating a toxic work environment in which peoples’ race, gender, and abilities were exploited for content. Earlier this spring, an anonymous woman came forwardand accused one of the members of his Vlog Squad of a rape that took place while filming a “threesome plot” video.

In the story, Dickson wonders whether all the backlash to Dobrik and his ilk will ultimately end up mattering. “All the HR systems and appearance releases in the world will not solve the central problem of Dobrik and others like him making money off a platform that rewards those who are motivated by the central question of how to make something bigger and better than the last thing,” she writes. “Not even the cancellation of David Dobrik can change the fact that his brand of content — the pranks, the stunts, the thrill of knowing someone is going to be genuinely surprised, or the schadenfreude that comes with knowing someone is genuinely uncomfortable — is one of the motors that keeps YouTube up and running.”

Kids, who unlike adults have grown up with and idolize YouTubers even more so than traditional celebrities, have an innate knowledge of how this culture operates; they know it is based on competing desires for views at the expense of pretty much anything else. Older kids know social media isn’t necessarily real life, and they understand that often their favorite creators are in on the joke. Even as one YouTuber or another gets supposedly canceled every few weeks, they know that they’ll likely be able to resurrect their career anyway, that standoms are willing to forgive even the worst behavior.

And yet many children and teenagers — the primary audience for this sort of clickbaity, outlandish content — don’t yet understand what has to happen behind the scenes in order for videos like these to get made and shared. It’s why providing this necessary context is so crucial to covering influencers, who make their living off of presenting an idealized version of their own lives and actions. Audiences already get to see the highlight reels of their favorite creators; it’s up to the people who cover them to tell the whole story — and crucially, it should come from people who don’t also have a stake in the YouTuber influencer circus, people who have an obligation to the truth over, say, video views. (A YouTuber might argue that journalists too are out only for page views, which is certainly true in some circumstances, but in order to be taken seriously as a journalist, you also have to, y’know, be good at your job.)

Human beings are inherently messy bitches who live for drama, me most of all. But like any good Real Housewivesviewer, I know that the most interesting feuds are the ones the characters don’t want out there, the meta narrative taking shape behind the curtain. When creators know they can bank on controversy, the bar of what counts as good gossip gets far higher. If we’re all going to participate in this problematic merry-go-round, we should at least get to enjoy the ride.

This column first published in The Goods newsletter. Sign up here so you don’t miss the next one, plus get newsletter exclusives.

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