If you look at the numbers behind the world’s most successful YouTubers, a pattern will emerge. A YouTuber’s audience is typically young (10-20) and, at least in the mainstream, female. These young female fans – or ‘fangirls’ as they have come to be known, are the key to the success of most YouTubers – and most celebrities in general. Yet despite the loyalty (and spending power) of this group, YouTubers have a bad history of disrespecting this (large) group – and that needs to change.
There appears to be a strange disconnect in the mind of YouTubers between the concept of their ‘fans’ and the reality of who their fans actually are. That is the only way it’s possible for YouTubers to insult ‘fangirls’ and then gush ‘thank you for watching and supporting me guys!’ in the same video. I’m not going to name tons of examples because the aim of this article isn’t to name and shame or condemn, it’s just to get us thinking about this topic. I will however, name one example, just to make things super clear: Becca Hodgekins. Now please understand: I love Chris Kendall’s videos. I think the man is a comic genius and he seems like a great person. I wish him nothing but goodness in the world. Yet when he introduced a new character onto the scene – a ‘fangirl’ named Becca Hodgekins, things became uncomfortable:
Sure, the character is not outwardly offensive and it may well be pretty accurate – but dude, that’s your audience you’re mocking. Not all of your audience, of course, but a significant and powerful portion. Those ‘crazy fangirls’ that you’re impersonating? They’re the people who buy your merchandise, they’re the people that watch your video 100 times in a row, they’re the people that turn up to your meet-ups – they are the people that pay your rent. I know that Becca Hodgekins is meant to be a fun parody, but it still stems from genuine resentment, and that makes the whole thing a little unsavoury. I get that a YouTuber may be freaked out by the obsessiveness of some fans – heck, I get that you might even simply give no F’s at all about their feelings, but here’s the thing:
You Can’t Mock Your Fans AND Take Their Money
If a YouTuber really wants to hate on ‘crazy fangirls’ then go right ahead – just give back all the money, video views and general support that they give you on a daily basis.
You may think I’m being overdramatic here, but think about it. Fame is fandom and fandom is fame. If you want fame you need fans. If you mock your fans they will leave and you will lose your fame. Sure, not all fans fall directly into the ‘fangirl’ stereotype, but the most obsessive, most loyal and most generally useful fans absolutely will, to at least some degree. Are you seriously going to watch a load of 14 year old girls queue for three hours to buy an autograph off you – and then have the audacity to make a video directly mocking them? Making fun of them for doing things that directly benefit you…. BECAUSE THEY LOVE YOU?
Is It Really That Bad?
There’s obviously nothing wrong with having a laugh with the idea of fangirls, and fans themselves seem to have had few problems with Becca Hodgekins. Indeed, the Becca Hodgekins stuff is not great but it’s nothing compared to the near-hatred that some Vine stars seem to inexplicably have for their fans. But, as The Third Pew eloquently put it (while discussing the general PR trainwreck and horrible person that is Nash Grier): “as YouTubers, we have the responsibility to make our viewers not feel worse while watching our videos.”
That really just sums things up. As a YouTuber, you may do one of many, many things – but your ultimate goal will always be to entertain, inform or to generally make the viewer’s life better in some way. Hell, even Sam Pepper is trying to be entertaining (he just happens to fail spectacularly at it.) Even the most controversial YouTuber in the world is ultimately trying to reach some kind of audience – so why, when you get an audience, (that really loves you) do you decide to respond to them with mocking resentment?
Aren’t YouTubers Like This For A Reason Though?
“Hey Stephen, haven’t you been pretty harsh on YouTubers this whole article?” Well first, my name isn’t Stephen, but yes I suppose I have. That’s not because I hate YouTubers – (lol have you even seen this website we are YouTube Trash 4 Life lolol) – it’s just that I feel they need to think about what they’re doing. But we can cut them a little slack. I would say about 10 slack. We’ll cut them 10 slack. Why? Well because mainstream YouTubers are, invariably, just normal people who:
- Made videos.
- Made more videos.
- Became more famous than you can possibly imagine.
That’s a sharp change in lifestyle and it’s one that’s impossible to prepare for. The transition from ‘person-in-bedroom’ to ‘global brand’ is never going to be smooth (just look at the Zoella ghostwriting controversy), and YouTubers can be forgiven for not being total experts in public relations, right off the bat. A lot of the inadequacy with which they approach fan-relations probably comes from just having no idea what to do when millions of people hang on your every word. On top of that, it is also true that:
Fans Can Absolutely Be Too Intense And Go Too Far
There’s a dumb, overused phrase that I hate but it applies in this case: ‘there’s no smoke without fire’. YouTubers are hating on fangirls, but it’s not like that hate is coming from nowhere. YouTubers aren’t just fundamentally mean people (unlike Nash Grier, who I must stress again: is horrible). The frustration that shines through when YouTubers make fun of their fans comes from very real and often quite scary places:
When they’re having to live with situations like that, then you can understand why YouTubers can be exasperated by overzealous fans. But maybe they need to check their privilege a little bit. Yes, some fans go too far and it’s perfectly fair for you to be freaked out – and yes, it may be natural to feel uncomfortable when a huge group of strangers is obsessed with you.
But they love you, they look up to you, they listen to you, they validate your creations, they prop up your entire career (and probably livelihood) and – and I can’t stress this enough: they’re 95% of your audience. There’s no harm in sending a little love back towards them, because that’s all they’re sending your way, even if it’s in a messy way. In a world where trolling is now basically a sport it seems mad to scoff in the faces of people who do the incredibly rare thing of being nice online. Just be patient with them, because in the end: