A few weeks ago, I quoted the YouTuber ProJared in my Gaming in American Culture essay.
The crux of my research has been the effects of Japanese Role-Playing Games on the West. In his Final Fantasy Mystic Quest video, ProJared argues that Japanese developers questioned the competence of the outside world, which led to fewer localizations.
It was a valuable insight for my piece, and I was proud to include his video alongside The Geek Critique in my research material.
YouTube has been a huge part of my life, and I try to promote creators. They don’t have near the notoriety of television and movie stars, yet there is great content worth sharing.
It’s a parasocial interaction at heart. I wouldn’t say I idolized him or any other YouTuber in an unhealthy way, but the respect and support I show toward those pseudo-celebrities help inspire me to create, and keep the often dreary day-to-day bearable.
This is all to say that I started from an inherently biased position in this conversation.
If you’ve been on Twitter, you already know about how ProJared’s life imploded in a matter of hours. It’s been the #1 trending topic for almost a full day.
If you’re reading this in the future, you can catch up with this Kotaku article.
In spite of how public the issue has become thanks to the people involved, it’s a very private affair that I honestly have no right involving myself with.
The only place I can speak from is that of a former fan whose respect for an online figure has evaporated in an unexpected instant.
A philosophical concern has been weighing heavy on me since late last night:
How much joy are you able to retain from a figure you used to respect — and followed for years — in the time before their skeletons were out of the closet?
This issues with parasocial interactions aren’t new. Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson are two relatively recent examples of celebrities whose actions have begged the question, “how much we should separate the artist from their art?”
But YouTubers are more prominent for me, and tend to be “famous” in smaller communities that they interact with more to create relationships.
I’ve grappled with the recent downfalls of a few people I followed actively.
Just a month before ProJared, TheKingNappy (a Pokémon YouTuber of some acclaim) also received accusations that dampened my enthusiastic support and led to his disappearance from the Internet.
In each of those cases, I’m plenty willing to move on and continue supporting other wonderful creators. But that doesn’t mean their removal is painless.
My immediate reaction to each scandal was almost exactly the same:
- “What will happen to Nappy’s current Soul Link with ShadyPenguinn?”
- “There goes the rest of Jared’s Super Metroid/Link to the Past randomizer.”
The thoughts of a spurred fan seem uncalled for, even selfish considering the people who have been genuinely hurt in real life.
And I by no means hope to disparage the victims in these stories because “they took my favorite YouTubers away.”
Yet I believe the reason these thoughts spring to mind are important.
I have given years to some of these personalities, and their current endeavors thrive because of the respect and trust they’ve engendered in this parasocial interaction.
ProJared’s videos have meant enough to me that I thought to quote him in an academic capacity. Plus, he’s also one of the main reasons I started playing Monster Hunter.
All of the times I’ve enjoyed their work and respected their opinions are still there. But now, they seem tainted — it’s hard to come to terms with that.
How much can I still appreciate the time invested in retrospect?
How much can one separate the art from the artist in light of new, changed opinions?
I don’t have an answer to this question. But I think it’s worth posing, because my mindset has honestly contributed to the stressful situation of my last semester at college.
If anyone out there has any insight into this dilemma, I’d love to field some ideas.