Do Online Stars NEED To Be Role Models?
These days it seems to be taken as a given that an online star who reaches a certain level of influence should act in a way that provides at least something of a good example to their followers. They can be rude or controversial but they shouldn’t actively encourage damaging behaviours. There are many who would disagree with this. While a lot of creators are flattered by the idea of being a role model and embrace it, there are some – particularly the really crazy YouTubers like, say, Filthy Frank – who would most likely argue that they never started YouTubing to be a life coach and are just there for entertainment. An endless debate then rages on about how much a YouTuber should be conscious of their influence, or of the influence their fans can have.
I would argue, from my experience reporting YouTube news on this site and from meeting YouTubers and fans, that online stars, like any stars, are role models no matter what they say. They may not be Literal Life Goalz OMG, but the fact that they have influence over other people instantly means that they have a responsible to excerice that influence in a relatively resposible way. When people who are looked up to do not act as good role models, the effects are depressing for their fans
Why Wouldn’t Nash Be A Good Role Model?
The reason I’ve centred this piece around Nash is because he is a figure who has been controversial, yet continues to enjoy great success. For the those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, Nash has made a number of (sometimes quite extreme) mistakes since his sudden rise to online fame. I’ll touch on two of the worst. First, he posted a video called ‘What Guys Look For In Girls’ in which he and some other Vine Boys chatted away about what they look for in a girl. It turned out what they look for is a girl who is physically perfect in every way and most of the video consisted of them basically alienating their entire audience, while also managing to be just simply sexist. Hank Green summed up the issues with the video in this excellent YouTube comment (that eventually caused Nash and Co to take down the video):
The second incident was even more serious. Nash, in a now deleted vine, made a very dangerous and offensive comment about gay people and HIV (yes, you read that right), which then ended with him screaming the F Word – and not the normal F word, the other F word. I don’t really want to share it here but if you have a burning desire to see it, you can click here to see a re-upload.
What This Means For Nash
When presented with these incidents, Nash fans run to the usual defences: ‘it was a mistake’, ‘he’s said sorry’, ‘move on it was ages ago’. The problem is that none of these excuses really work. You can call the vine he made a ‘mistake’ but the fact that he even made it in the first is worrying. It seems to represent a quite deep-rooted and violent hatred towards gay people. People may say ‘we all make mistakes when we’re young’ and that’s true – but I never screamed ‘F*GS’ at the top of my voice when I was young. I never had that kind of hatred at any age. It’s troubling. But now Nash is a huge star, who is apparently about to release a brand new series on his channel – and we still don’t know if those negative feelings were indeed somehow a kind of ‘phase’ or still there inside him. He might still be that person, and that’s pretty scary.
The Bottom Line
All stars who reach a certain level of influence need to accept their responsibility not to spread hatred or at the very least to repress hateful feelings they have. There’s questions for us, the fans, as well though. Why do we elevate and forgive people who demonstrate that they are inherently negative? Do we really forgive people for what they do (no matter what they do) just because we think they’re fun, or have really really blue eyes? I ask especially because Toby Turner is making a return to YouTube soon, shortly after the controversy blew up around him and I have a sneaking suspicion that many fans will simply forgive him and move on, despite the fact that it has basically been proven that he is, at the very least, a negative person and at worst an alleged criminal. All of us in this community need to look carefully at who we decide to put on a pedestal; who we decide to give a mouth-piece, because that influence will give that person power and they could use that power for good, or to spread hatred. Note this tweet from Tyler (aimed at Nash):
I’ve talked about a bunch of things here today, but I’d love to hear what you guys think about this. Do you think that stars are a role model no matter what? How do you feel about Nash’s mistakes? How do you feel about the attitudes of our community as a whole? Let us know in the comments below, or in the Facebook comments of this post. Either way – thanks for reading and have a lovely day.