Older YouTubers are distancing themselves from videos that made them big names ten years ago – it’s a vital step toward genuine progress for racial representation.
YouTube will turn fifteen years old this year.
Back in 2005 the site was full of snappy videos of cats, quirky millennials making cringy loud-mouth content, and funny dance crazes that are horrendously dated now. It was not the Gen Z content powerhouse that it has steadily become and creators did not need to take accountability for outrageous or offensive humour in the same way as they do today.
It’s for this reason that many original YouTubers from yesteryear are having to retrospectively clear up their channels and apologise for old content. Most of it was never acceptable – black face, paedophilia references, and mean spirited jokes – but until recently many of them never had to openly address their problematic roots.
Jenna Marbles and Shane Dawson are two of the latest examples. Both have had extensive careers as vloggers, comedians, beauty personalities, and musicians, and they’ve been consistently present on the platform for over a decade. Today they’re considered progressive, championing the LGBTQ+ community and routinely expressing their passion for inclusivity and acceptance. Look back at either of their work from 2011 and 2012, however, and you’ll find a ton of outwardly offensive racist jokes and questionable black face impressions that are gaining renewed traction in the midst of recent Black Lives Matter protests in the US.
Jenna has released an apology video directly referencing this old content and has said she may never return to her YouTube channel, while Shane also dropped a video titled ‘Taking Accountability’ that acknowledges his past mistakes. Both Shane and Jenna’s videos have been met with mixed responses, sparking debate over the contentious issue of ‘cancel culture’.