This week we finally saw the premiere of BBC Three’s Rise Of The Superstar Vloggers documentary. Fronted by Jim Chapman, the show was announced way back last year and we even saw the team filming at Summer In The City.
However, you’d forgive us for being a little skeptical. In all honesty, we expected the show to feature the bright rainbows side of YouTube with a bunch of our faves and perhaps a mention of money… In truth, it’s what we’ve seen mainstream media do before. But Rise Of The Superstar Vloggers was refreshingly different.
After we stopped screaming like mad at seeing a ton of people we love on an actual TV screen, we were stuck straight in to the deep end with Jim explaining how and why he started YouTube and the effect his success has had on his confidence, his career and his life in general.
Megababe and boss of Gleam, Dom Smales – who manages the likes of Jim, Zoe, Alfie and Tanya- spoke about what makes a successful web star and the phenomenon of YouTube as a whole.
We then moved on to Alfie Deyes chatting to host Jim Chapman on what it means to be a YouTuber in 2016. Here at Unicorns, we’ve spoken about the shift of YouTubers that go from “normal people” to celebrities and we were surprised at Alfie’s intelligent view on the matter. As weird as Alfie clearly finds the fact he has merchandise and a wax figure immortalised forever, he clearly holds authenticity at the heart of everything he does: “I like to just try and be completely real” Alfie told Jim.
With everyone from fans to creators and media questioning the authenticity of today’s YouTubers, it was interesting to hear a high profile vlogger speak with passion about the need to be as real on camera as possible.
And at around 18 minutes in we spotted Unicorns HQ and learned that Jim loves bubble. So that was exciting.
Back to the serious stuff, it was the latter half of the documentary was where we felt every emotion under the sun and felt exceptionally proud of YouTube as a whole. If you had even the smallest idea that this show would be as light as air then you were about to be proved wrong.
Jim then took to chatting to sisters Sam and Nic (aka Pixiwoo) about the video they made with their mum about her experience of domestic violence. This would be the first point where we basically sobbed our eyes out. Whilst Pixiwoo might be a channel focussing on beauty, the domestic violence video really opened viewers up to what the family had been through but also gave viewers an opportunity to share their stories and messages of hope and encourage them to seek help.
“The creator to viewer relationship is intimate and intense” said Jim, highlighting the impact YouTubers and their videos have on the lives of fans.
But the show didn’t just cover physical and emotional violence, it covered some of the most thought-provoking and challenging issues humans face and the impact YouTube has since had on raising awareness on everything from sexuality and sex to depression and suicide. This section of the show blew us away with its sensitivity and professionalism to issues. This was the point of the show which saw Tyler Oakley discuss his sexuality, Ingrid Nilsen speak to fans who she had helped when she came out as gay and Jonny Benjamin speak about how he use YouTube to talk about his mental health problems.
To date, Jonny has just over 8,000 subscribers. But despite having a “low” number of subscribers compared to Zoella, Alfie and the like, it was his appearance on the show that had the biggest effect on us. Jonny’s heartbreaking tale of mental illness and his subsequent suicidal thoughts really showed what an outstanding platform YouTube is- Jonny opening up not only helped him on his journey but thousands of others who were suffering similar/the same things.
The final triumph for the documentary came when it- rather surprisingly- featured the very dark side of YouTube. Sam Pepper was the main focus as the documentary discussed how some YouTubers have manipulated fans and ended up in trouble with the law. It would have been so easy for programme makers to shy away from this but we’re pleased they didn’t. While we wish this side of YouTube didn’t exist, it does sadly.
The show ended on a high and a huge celebration for #TeamInternet: “Vlogging can make us laugh and it can make us cry. It has the power to change minds. Even save lives. With more of us sharing more of ourselves than ever before, vlogging is making stars of us all.”