Yesterday VICE published an article on vloggers titled Vain And Inane: The Rise Of Britain’s Dickhead Vloggers. Real talk, TenEighty puts the world to rights and responds to comments from journalist Joe Bishop.
Like most people in the YouTube community, recently we’ve spent an increasing amount of time facepalming at poorly constructed arguments from digital immigrants of mainstream media. Sadly, the latest to jump on the vlog-shaming bandwagon is a lot closer to home.
21-year-old VICE UK journalist Joe Bishop is a YouTube content creator himself. But don’t be fooled, he doesn’t consider himself a YouTuber. Since his latest article went live, Bishop has gained over 40 new subscribers to his channel where he uploads commentaries of prominent vlogs. Charlie McDonnell Zoe Sugg and Sam Pepper are among YouTubers featured in his videos. (The videos of Charlie and Sam have since been taken down due to copyright infringement.)
Vain And Inane: The Rise Of Britain’s Dickhead Vloggers begins by looking at The Pointless Book, the debut publication by Alfie Deyes. However, the article that follows talks very little about the book, a reinvented Wreck This Journal for kids, but instead uses it as an excuse to highlight some harsh realities about a particular breed of YouTube vlogger.
Using Alfie’s YouTube career as a case study, Joe sets out to emphasise how dull and often pointless many YouTubers’ content is. He highlights Alfie’s subscriber count, speculates over the amount of money prominent YouTubers make and laments the fact these content creators are releasing books and picking up radio contracts.
Yet in his own words he asks “who am I to thwart their hustle? What does it mean for me? Nothing, right?” And here lies our point of contention, if it’s not for you then it’s not for you. The YouTube community and its creators can be a very baffling world, and there is a lot of content that is seemingly inane, but that is part of the charm.
YouTube provides diversion as its Use and Gratification; an emotional release. It’s the same reason people watch Jeremy Kyle. Viewers don’t watch Alfie to hear his intellectual opinions on world news, it’s a chance to forget routine and real-world problems while watching something pretty for four minutes. Nonetheless you shouldn’t tarnish all YouTubers with the same brush just because you take a particular disliking to one content creator’s output.
Is it really a problem that these same people are being picked up by mainstream media? Is it really a problem that the media’s intentions behind these deals may be to capture an untapped audience’s attention? Whether you’re a fan of the YouTube community or not, surely anyone with a following of over a million must be doing something right for their target demographic. Either way you don’t have to listen to them, or watch their videos, or tune in to their radio appearances. If it’s not for you then it’s not for you. That’s OK too.
The beauty of YouTube as a platform is that it can encompass everything and anything. While the community behind it may be arrogant enough to sometimes forget that they aren’t the only people using the website, it still includes a wealth of varied content creators.
Whether it’s the sketches of Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs, the short films of Bertie Gilbert, the charity work of Lindsay Atkin, the bizarre animations of Ed Stockham, the musical talent of Rebecca Need-Menear and her band Anavae or the fast-paced improvised comedy of The RH Experience, the YouTube community is vast and full of talented individuals. To write off all of those people (and many others unnamed), purely because Alfie Deyes has a book out and you think he’s boring, is unfair.
Making regular YouTube videos may not seem as taxing as being a bricklayer or appear to require as much talent as producing a live art exhibition in a dingy East London venue, but it still takes an awful lot of hard work and dedication. When you reach the level of popularity that Alfie is at YouTube becomes more than just a replacement for a full-time job, it’s a lifestyle that has been years in the making.
When most YouTubers start out they can barely edit a video or maintain an engaging on-screen presence. But through dedication to the medium they teach themselves how to become better at what they do. Whatever the subject of their videos YouTubers are a breed of people who are passionate, self taught and driven. Surely those are traits that should be encouraged, not demeaned.
Joe suggests that the rise of vloggers may be “the fault of our increasingly anodyne culture”, and while that has certainly played its role, being a YouTuber, maintaining a personal brand and gaining a following of millions can not simply be put down to the blandness of modern culture. In many ways it’s a reaction to it.
Alfie Deyes, Zoe Sugg and Tyler Oakley aren’t hungry for fame in the way that Joe perceives them to be. If they were they would be appearing on Big Brother or Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents, two TV programmes mentioned in his article. Instead they’ve spent years honing their own craft, teaching themselves video editing skills, perfecting an on-screen presence and promoting themselves through social media. And in all cases this career path started out as an unfunded hobby.
Ultimately Joe’s main concern is that these personalities he views as dull are making their way into mainstream culture. Well we think that’s great. YouTube is a part of modern culture and should be acknowledged and embraced further. Isn’t the whole point of VICE to put an end to vanilla journalism?
We should point out that these are the opinions of one journalist, who in many ways was completely aware that his article would shock and cause an uproar of responses from our community. VICE is actually a pretty cool publication that on the whole deliver well produced news and gripping documentaries that are far beyond its many contemporaries. They aren’t afraid to take the unpopular opinion and explore it. It’s just a shame that on this occasion they didn’t explore it with more depth.
The YouTube content creator invasion is not the abrasive cultural revolution that Joe is looking for, but it is an alternative to the prevailing mediums that our generation has mostly turned away from. Teenage and young adult programming have been getting it wrong for the last ten years and continue to struggle at engaging an increasingly apathetic youth audience. That’s because the kids are watching YouTube and scribbling in The Pointless Book. Popular and mainstream media would be stupid not to embrace it.
Want more from the UK YouTube community?
Then you may like the following articles:
- Jack and Dean: Jokers with Heart
- Bertie Gilbert: Wiser Than His Years
- Ben Cook: Becoming YouTube and Beyond
- Main Stage Sunday at Summer in the City 2014