I would like to bring your attention to something I stumbled upon on YouTube the other day that really got me thinking. In fact I would say it sparked a powerful bout of defensiveness for the realm of YouTube. I had never known I harboured so many sentimental values for the space and its members. For the first time in my life I felt as if I were part of a brotherhood, camaraderie, a revolution, if you may. Allow me to elaborate.
The video that got me all riled up was an interview of one of the most popular (and one of my personal favourites) YouTubers at the moment: Jenna Marbles (her real name is Jenna Mourey, Marbles is what she named her Chihuahua) conducted on Good Morning America. Jenna Marbles posts weekly videos on YouTube that are mostly comments on mundane day-to-day activities, parodies of celebrities and she plays on the dominant discourses and asocial constructs in society.
Her videos include How To Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking, Pumpkin Carving With Miley Cyrus and How Guys Take A Shower. Jenna Marbles is an extremely successful YouTuber and content creator; she has “more Facebook fans than Jennifer Lawrence, more Twitter followers than Fox News and more Instagram followers than Oprah”.
I was minding my own merry business, binge-watching Jenna Marbles’ videos when something caught my eye. I looked at the side bar and I noticed a video entitled Jenna Marbles Interview – Queen of YouTube Reaches Billionth Click… posted by DAILY BEAST last year. I clicked on the video and was delighted to discover her on Good Morning America; traditional mainstream media, which I, up until that point, thought every YouTuber dreamt of doing. My glee was short-lived. The clip consisted of the interviewer—Celia Vega—patronising Jenna by asking condescending questions such as “do you think you deserve to have as many fans as you do?”. Jenna was also described as “the most famous person you never heard of” …according to who? Her 13 million subscribers would beg to differ. Good Morning America proceeded to turn the interview into a game of “how many times did Jenna say the word ‘ridiculous’?” when Cecilia Vega made a jibe on how often Jenna used that word in their hour-long interview. This was a clear attempt to ridicule Jenna, and in doing so, making a mockery of the entire YouTube community.
By disrespecting one of the most successful members of what Jenna (and the general youth) refers to as the “new media”, old media is looking down upon them. This makes sense, because members of old media in America, such as Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News are struggling to grasp the youth’s attention as younger people are moving away from watching TV and buying newspapers.
This interview brought many Jenna Marbles’ fans as well as supporters of new media together in the reaction to this instance. Many were offended (and rightly so). There were a few video responses, and one that stuck out for me was one by Ana Kasparian entitled Jenna Marbles vs. GMA. Ana Kasparian has a history in both television and the YouTube workplace Kasparian seems to agree with me and the rest of the community of YouTube (at least the fans of Jenna Marbles), and goes into detail about how most news stations are not as free to cover the stories they want to cover, they are restricted to present themselves in a certain way, and the bear the weight of higher powers (such as advertisers) on their shoulders.This is why they might behave coldly towards YouTubers or media groups based online because those groups are much more liberated in that they have the freedom to cover the stories they want to. They can conduct themselves the way feel (using swear words and racy skits) without worrying about their bosses terminating them. Ultimately, social media moguls and YouTubers have complete control over their content. Sadly, this is something the employees of mainstream media will never have, at least not in the near future. What is worse is that stunts like these will deter young people from fully embracing old media.
A valuable thing to note about the culture of YouTube is that there are a multitude of niches that are relevant to certain demographics. The founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, created a platform that opened many doors for everyone who has a decent internet connection, a computer and a camera.
One must acknowledge that we are living in changing times and that techniques that used to work for the media are becoming out dated. This is not to say that YouTube will one day rule the entire sphere of mainstream media, but it is simply a suggestion that the old media make room for newer forms of media to thrive.
As always, stay fresh.