Jake Paul doesn’t need Dis­ney

YouTube al­ready pro­vides an army for the 20-year-old so­cial me­dia star, who has abruptly left his role on TV’s ‘Bizaard­vark’

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY ABBY OHLHEISER TAY­LOR JEWELL/INVISION/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS abi­gail.ohlheiser@wash­post.com

It didn’t mat­ter whether Jake Paul was a ter­ri­ble rap­per in real life or whether he just played one for the YouTube views. What did mat­ter is that he had 75 mil­lion views on “It’s ev­ery­day bro,” a mu­sic video cen­tered on one of the catch­phrases from his daily YouTube vlogs.

So what if it felt like al­most ev­ery YouTu­ber, in­clud­ing his own brother, made videos roast­ing the song? So what if clas­sic lines, such as “Eng­land is my city,” “Dis­ney chan­nel flow” and “I just dropped some new merch and it’s sell­ing like a god church,” all be­came mock­ing YouTube memes? Paul’s merch now in­cludes a “like a god church” hoodie.

So what if a lo­cal news story ear­lier this month re­vealed that the Los Angeles-based YouTube star is an ex­tremely bad neigh­bor — com­plete with burn­ing fur­ni­ture and the hordes of young tween fans who wait out­side his home ev­ery day (some­times with their par­ents in tow) to catch a glimpse of their idol? The seg­ment went vi­ral, and now you know who he is. Maybe some of you even like him.

“The Jake Paulers are the strong­est army out there. Dab,” he said to the news crew, dab­bing (it’s a dance move — Google it). It was child­ish, and the “Jake Paulers” loved it: The dab was for them. In each of his vlogs, Paul tells his fans to “dab on them haters.” It’s an­other catch­phrase of his.

Af­ter the news story went vi­ral, Paul abruptly left his role on the Dis­ney Chan­nel show “Bizaard­vark,” where he played a so­cial me­dia star, a move that he treated as no more than a blip on his in­evitable rise to the top. “I have out­grown the chan­nel,” he said in a tweeted state­ment, a ver­sion of which he also vlogged a cou­ple days later.

In other words, it was Dis­ney that was hold­ing him back. He might not be wrong about that: Two days af­ter leav­ing Dis­ney, Paul chal­lenged his fans to get him to 12 mil­lion sub­scribers in 12 months, a goal that he could real­is­ti­cally ac­com­plish — he al­ready has 9 mil­lion sub­scribers, and gains tens of thou­sands of new ones each day.

In the same vlog where he is­sued that chal­lenge, Paul films him­self get­ting kicked out of a pool area for film­ing with­out a per­mit and get­ting yelled at in a Nike store for us­ing its equip­ment with­out sign­ing a waiver.

The Jake Paulers are Paul’s army, and they ex­pect Paul to act like this. His fans are young — tweens, teens and 7-year-olds. And they’re de­voted.

YouTu­bers who speak ill of their man will see their Twit­ter men­tions and com­ments fill up with de­fenses and in­sults. The in­ten­sity of the “Jake Paulers’ ” de­vo­tion to their man has be­come a YouTube meme it­self. Jake Paul could do the worst pos­si­ble thing you could imag­ine — join ISIS maybe, or shoot some­one while stand­ing in the mid­dle of Fifth Avenue, the meme goes, and his fans would cheer it on as “sav­age.”

I watch YouTube for fun, but it’s fair to say that I am not ex­actly Paul’s tar­get au­di­ence. He and his older brother mock fa­mous YouTu­bers who are younger than I am for be­ing old, for one thing. When I kept up with his vlogs for a week for this piece, I felt as if I was view­ing the near-per­fect weaponiza­tion of some of the worst parts of YouTube cul­ture.

The In­ter­net loves celebri­ties who are open and au­then­tic, and Paul’s daily vlog­ging style plays into that, fol­low­ing him through the course of a day from morn­ing to night. But his ac­tual con­tent is a vac­uum for any­one look­ing to make real mean­ing — it is, es­sen­tially, a vlog about hav­ing a suc­cess­ful vlog. It is know­ingly in­au­then­tic, with Paul and his house­mates ar­rang­ing their day around stunts or pranks that would make good vi­ral con­tent. His house­mates, by the way, are all so­cial me­dia per­son­al­i­ties, too, al­beit with smaller fol­low­ings than Paul. They’re part of his in­flu­encer net­work, Team 10, and they’re there to learn from him.

Paul is ba­si­cally the so­cial­me­dia-star-equiv­a­lent of a pros­per­ity gospel preacher: His own vi­ral suc­cess is an ex­am­ple for oth­ers, his chan­nel a testimony. Fol­low Paul, act as he acts, join his move­ment, and the YouTube al­go­rithm will re­ward you with some of the worldly goods he dis­plays in his videos. Noth­ing is fully ironic or earnest in Paul’s world. It is sim­ply con­tent.

The con­tro­versy that fol­lowed Paul for the past week has since be­come part of that testimony, some­thing he’ll turn into con­tent, too. Paul posted a video re­cently ti­tled “I Jake Paul ac­tu­ally got ar­rested . . .,” which he ad­ver­tised with a still im­age that ap­peared to show him be­ing ar­rested by uni­formed of­fi­cers. It went up at the height of the fall­out from that vi­ral lo­cal news story, when it felt like all of YouTube was wait­ing for a con­se­quence, some­thing to knock a bit of hu­mil­ity into the young and ris­ing star. But the joke was on them. The “ar­rest” was a prank; the cops were act­ing.

The rea­son, he said, was to teach view­ers a les­son about au­then­tic­ity. “That was just kind of a les­son to teach you guys that not every­thing you see in the me­dia on a day-to-day ba­sis is real, and that you can ba­si­cally fake every­thing and twist any­thing the way you want,” he said. Later, he added, “don’t be­lieve the fake me­dia.”

As Paul spoke, his Team 10ers stood around and lis­tened. Who knows whether Paul au­then­ti­cally be­lieves what he is say­ing or not, and who cares? What mat­ters is: Paul is the mas­ter at this sort of thing. Watch and learn.

The video has nearly 9 mil­lion views.

“That was just kind of a les­son to teach you guys that not every­thing you see in the me­dia on a day-to-day ba­sis is real, and that you can ba­si­cally fake every­thing and twist any­thing the way you want.” Jake Paul, ex­plain­ing to fol­low­ers why he asked po­lice of­fi­cers to pre­tend to ar­rest him for a prank

Dis­ney an­nounced that it would part ways with Jake Paul, a YouTube star who plays a so­cial me­dia celebrity on one of its chan­nel’s TV se­ries, af­ter news sur­faced of ten­sion with his Los Angeles neigh­bors. Paul, who has 9 mil­lion YouTube sub­scribers, tweeted that he has “out­grown the chan­nel.”

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