Mindfully Controversial

Youtuber releases documentary, transforms platform


Photo courtesy of YouTube

Thumbnail for the first episode of YouTuber Shane Dawson's eight-part documentary series on Jake Paul.

by Saifiyah Zaki, Digital Media Editor

Popular YouTuber Shane Dawson released the last episode of his eight-part documentary titled “The Mind of Jake Paul” on Oct. 18, but from the premiere of the series, critics have chided him for giving a platform to the infamous YouTube star. While the controversy surrounding Paul and his friends is undoubtedly plausible, Dawson’s series serves as an example of accountability, communication and kindness the Youtube community desperately needs.

By approaching the series with neither hate nor loyalty, Dawson is able to appeal to fans and critics alike. He began the first video with a disclaimer acknowledging Paul’s past actions and concerns about associating with such a publicly disliked figure, but he went on to explain that he wants to give Paul a chance to explain himself and his decisions. The choice not to blindly hate Paul based solely on his online presence encouraged many of Dawson’s viewers to take a step back and reconsider their own feelings towards the star. In the third episode, “The World of Jake Paul,” Dawson visits Paul’s home and reveals who he is when the cameras turn off. He takes viewers through Paul’s actual life and gives them an idea of what they don’t see: the behind-the-scenes of his content, as well as a mellow and calm side to his personality.

While this prompts reevaluation from Paul’s opposers, interviews with his former manager Nick Crompton and ex-girlfriend Alissa Violet revisit his shortcomings and expose the deceitful nature of his content. This was a much-needed revelation for Paul’s young and impressionable fanbase, which is generally comprised of eight to 14-year-olds. The most common criticism he receives is how irresponsibly he handles their viewership by exploiting them when he continuously reminds them to buy his merchandise. However, Dawson reveals much of Paul’s crazy content is staged, causing many of his fans to become less interested and place less trust in him after watching the documentary. For worried parents, this was most certainly a positive impact.

The most revolutionary aspect of this venture, however, is the format of the series. Dawson made each installation 40 to 45 minutes long, the average length of an episode from a professionally-produced TV series, and still managed to get more than 120 million views in total. Most YouTube videos are only four to five minutes long and typically very fast paced to appeal to increasingly shorter attention spans. Despite the documentary format, the entire series was not pre-produced; Dawson was still filming for later episodes when he published the first. This made it so that he was able to build upon and address the controversies stirred by each episode in the following one. Also, keeping in mind this short time span, the production quality of each episode was impressive. The end result encourages other creators to follow suit and pursue more inventive and thought-out videos rather than clickbait.

To many, the negative impacts of this series still outweigh the positives. The main argument against the documentary is the increased attention it places on Paul, whom critics regard as undeserving of any. While Paul certainly benefited financially from increased publicity, the series was a necessary step in dismantling the capitalization on drama surrounding him and his friends by bringing the truth in rumor-enveloped situations to light.

Dawson took a huge risk to his career in pursuing the truth behind such a contentious figure, but it was a risk worth taking. This unprecedented new content is pushing the YouTube platform in a much more positive and creative direction that could regain the interest of disenchanted older teens and young adults.