THE MEMING OF LIFE
YouTube Premium is at an odd impasse at the moment; the subscription video platform is, after all, backed by an internet giant so big that its name is a verb, so it could still kick on and become a Netflix-slaying behemoth.
But it also hasn’t done this yet, and since it’s been trying for four years, this could mean it’s destined to go the way of the Sega Mega CD or Guinness Breo. Originally listed as Music Key in 2014, and again as YouTube RED a year later, its launch as Premium couldn’t dispel the unmistakable bang of that nightclub in a rural town that keeps changing its name until it finally closes, unloved, as a tragically beach-themed student bar.
So, in a final bid to prevent Premium becoming the webvideo equivalent of Bondi Bar in Athlone, YouTube is making big moves towards longer-form recurring series and one-off movies.
This push has delivered some success from projects like I’m Poppy, Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes On Television and the disarmingly great Karate Kid spin-off, Cobra Kai. And then, this week YouTube announced a new plank in its arsenal; a Logan Paul-starring Hunger Games knock-off entitled, erm, The Thinning: New World Order. Despite its title, the film is not about Paul’s strawlike thatch of scarecrow hair – zing! – but rather a dystopian future in which citizens are ruled by the almighty power of a mandatory personality test.
This choice wasn’t merely controversial because of how irredeemably terrible it sounds, but because the lantern-jawed merch nut was supposed to be blacklisted from Premium after that time he filmed a dead body in a Japanese forest at the end of last year.
One person who balked at the choice was PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg. Once the biggest name in YouTube commentary, the screaming Swede fell from grace when his gaming streams, enjoyed by a gargantuan following of children and teenagers, were shown to contain repeated racial epithets and anti-semitic jokes. As a result, his show Scare PewDiePie was cancelled by YouTube Premium. Why, then, he argues, does Paul get another huge boost from the platform, and not he?
“Maybe it’s because I joked about Jews,” he said, showing clear signs of being a man who has learned to atone for his behaviour, “and that’s a more sensitive topic than showing a dead body . . . I think that’s probably what some people think at least”.
In the end, PewDiePie may be churlish to cry censorship, since three days after he posted the latest video complaining about Paul, it had been watched by the guts of 4 million people. Sadly, whether on vlog rants, or abjectly dismal Premium dramas, it doesn’t seem like the internet’s interest in YouTube controversialists is thinning at all.