I hadn’t heard of Logan Paul until the vlogger was being condemned all over the media for filming a corpse he’d stumbled across in a forest and posting the footage on his YouTube channel. Not to my taste – I’m more of a “videos of baby pandas” type of gal. The forest was in Aokigahara in Japan and nicknamed “Suicide Forest” because many people, like the non-consenting star of Paul’s video, have killed themselves there.
It’s time we take the job of “YouTuber” seriously. It’s not a quirky, underground thing. The most popular ones are huge with millions of subscribers, making serious beans from internet hits and merchandise. The kids who are into them hang on their every over-enthusiastic word; they have devotees the way The Cure did in my generation. Yup. These guys are modern rock stars.
My son is 10 and adores watching his favourite YouTubers. I vet them; for a while I was totally neurotic about his obsession.
One of the videos I saw during this vetting process was done by a man named Dan TDM, who is a young millionaire gamer. He recorded an animated “story of my life” which my son showed me. It quelled my shrieks of: “It’s all utter nonsense! WHY ARE YOU WATCHING THIS DRIVEL? GO AND READ A BOOK!”
Dan tells the story of how his parents separated and his mum moved them away. That was it. He had me at “I was sad because I missed my dad”. My heart melted. This fine young man was not going to lead my child to a life of locking himself in his bedroom playing computer games for the rest of his life, emerging only to hear my will being read.
I decided Dan was a lovely, sensitive guy and I should move with the times and allow my boy to watch hours and hours of him getting rich by recording himself playing video games in his bedroom. I have to remind myself sometimes that I do not have to be into the same stuff as my 10-year-old child, just as my parents weren’t into TV shows where kids from around the country called in to swap their belongings (though how they could fail to be mesmerised by a show which allowed a kid to ring up and say, “Who would like to swap my brand new Millennium Falcon for a bobbin?”, I will never know.)
But Logan Paul is a different type of YouTuber. He took his gruesome instalment down after the worldwide furore following “Suicide Forest” and seemingly had to be educated on the fact that filming someone who had taken their own life wasn’t in the same “goofy” category as losing 15 per cent of his testicle when jumping off a table in a prank. A difficult differentiation to make, perhaps, if you’re wrapped up in a (very wealthy) hugely popular “idiot” persona.
It’s hard to gauge how sincere the apologies which saved Paul from getting removed from YouTube really were. They could have been seen as “I was in such shock, I didn’t know what I was doing so I giggled nervously and carried on filming the dead guy” or, on the other side of the spectrum, “Oh my god! They’re on to what a d**khead I am! This will seriously affect my merch sales!” Whatever opinion you may or may not have had about his actions and subsequent reaction, he weathered the storm.
Like anyone living in a bubble, Paul had misjudged the reactions of the outside world – and now, it seems like he has done it again. It’s been barely a month since he returned to YouTube and he’s filmed himself tasering dead rats. He’s like the kid at school who murdered ants with a magnifying glass and the sun. You can’t help but feel there is something deeply wrong with him.
“But the rats were already dead!” some might say. Yes, so bury it. Get rid of it with some kind of respect for a mammal who once foraged for their babies. I don’t want to go all Morrissey on you but those who treat animals with respect are much more likely to do the same to humans.
I’m not saying you should invite a rat to dinner and have him crash on the sofa rather than get a night bus home; I’m just saying don’t taser it for laughs when you know for a fact that your audience are either very young or very stupid – two groups of people prone to copying another’s actions and adopting their ideals.
It’s quite right that Paul’s actions are being touted as unacceptable viewing. His work is mainstream. Parents need to get on it, know what kind of weirdo their kids are getting into and buy them Laurel and Hardy DVDs instead.
He’s an engaging man, that Logan Paul – but, as my mother always told me, never trust a man who has a first name for a surname and a surname for a first.