Shane Dawson and NYT team up to destroy my faith in humanity
Dear readers, I have to preemptively apologize. I have just spent the first part of my afternoon watching the videos of Shane Dawson, Youtube phenomenon and darling of the New York Times. As a result, I feel slightly sick to my stomach, and I’m having trouble forming thoughts and structuring coherant sentences. So if my writing sounds a little bit like I’m hungover from downing a bottle of Tanqueray by myself last night, I apologize. Save yourselves, dear readers, and know that spending an afternoon with the Tanqueray would be a much more effective use of your time.
Professional douchebag Shane Dawson really has it figured out. He’s part of the endless litany of jackasses out there who figured out how to upload videos to Youtube (I, too, join the ranks of these jackasses!), and he knows the secret to getting an ass-ton of followers. Be racist, be misogynist, be homophobic, be disgusting, and appeal to angsty young kids. Justin Bieber got famous on Youtube by only doing the last one– and for anyone who was disappointed in me for defending Bieber a while back, my tragic discovery of Dawson only reaffirms my feelings. If you believe, as I do, that Bieber is talented, then you could argue that Youtube’s ability to make people like him famous is valuable. It brings a level of democracy and accessibility to the entertainment world.
Then, you see someone like Dawson, and your Bieber-inspired euphoria deflates, and you are left to contemplate with despair the collective absence of humanity’s emotional intelligence. What’s even worse, though, than Dawson’s shitty videos, and the fact that over a million people subscribe to them, is when an institution like the New York Times decides to unquestioningly praise this asshole as some sort of nouveau entrepreneurial comic genius. The Times lovefest describes the outrage Dawson has stirred, the demands for his suspension from Youtube, then in a painfully play-outrageous, “yeah I said it!” style quips: “Clearly Shane Dawson is doing something right.”
No. No he’s not, New York Times, and neither are you. To assume that Dawson is interesting or talented JUST because he’s outrageous demonstrates a profoundly shallow understanding of humor, specifically of outrageous humor. Being controversial for saying something of substance (i.e. Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin) is completely and qualitatively different that being controversial just for the sake of being controversial. One is artistic expression, the other is self-important masturbation. Dawson’s outrageousness is unfocused and exists for no purpose other than to put the word “Boobs” or “Blowjob” in the title of his video. And the Times congratulates him, completely uncritically, asking “could millions of Shane Dawson fans be wrong?”
A better question might be: What does it mean that a white suburban Christian kid can get famous by performing in virtual blackface, using anti-gay slurs, and violently dehumanizing women, and all the New York Times wants to write about is how great he is? The Times should be ashamed of itself. Stupid humor is one thing (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is maybe my favorite movie of all time), gross humor is one thing (Monty Python, SNL, Ren and Stimpy are all masters), but humor that relies on and perpetuates hateful, bigoted stereotypes is not only not funny, it’s damaging. Even Dave Chappelle, whose intelligent and critical racial satire could certainly be described as outrageous, was hyper aware of his responsibility for how that satire was consumed. To push the envelope with no idea of why you’re pushing it, or where you’re pushing it to, is not only pointless, its irresponsible.
The way the Times article celebrates Dawson’s abstinence is also infuriating. Oh, he’s a virgin who has never had a drink or smoked! HOW CHARMING! Then it’s especially funny how his videos simulate aggressive sex with women, with one character screaming “Get back here and fuck me,” and that he challenges his viewers to show them their “rape face.”
“I’m just an innocent guy with a dirty mouth,”
he told the Times. Dawson may be Christian, but he’s also hypocritical, hateful, and profoundly unfunny (not unlike a number of other Christians who make headlines). And the Times should issue a letter of apology to all women, gays, and non-whites in the world for endorsing this shit.