Pewdiepie is gamer r not, success story of pewdiepie

What’s up PewdiePie? The troubling content of YouTube’s biggest star

Childish, offensive and immensely popular, the YouTube star – whose real name is Felix Kjellberg – continues to command a huge audience. But what is he really saying?

PewdiePie has started a book club. Once a month, the YouTuber sits in his box room studio, bathed in soft pink light, and critiques a set of texts for his audience. The choices so far have tended towards sci-fi – I Am Legend,Brave New World – but also included The Picture of Dorian Gray and American Psycho. “For me to discover how much joy you can get through reading”, the 28-year-old Swede said, “It’s been so much fun.” This month, he wants his viewers to join him in ploughing through Moby Dick.
A readalong of Herman Melville’s opus is unlikely to generate the same interaction as more common YouTuber fare like playing a violent prank or dissing a rival. That said, the first PewdiePie “Book Review” has still been watched 3.5m times. Right-thinking individuals may have struggled to engage young people with classic literature for decades. Felix Kjellberg just turns up and does it from his closet.

Given the scale of his audience and his influence, not much is written about PewdiePie. Tech sites like 
The Verge and Polygon report on him and often critique him severely. But in the mainstream media, his name has broken through only either as a result of novelty or scandal. He was profiled several times by the British press when YouTubers entered the public consciousness in 2014 (no doubt helped by the fact Kjellberg lived in Brighton at the time). Last year he made news globally after paying two Indian men to hold a sign saying “Death to all Jews”. Three months later he drew headlines again after using the “n” word while live-streaming a video game.
PewdiePie’s content is written about even less often. In a way it reflects how we in the media still classify YouTube as a tech rather than a cultural phenomenon. It’s also perhaps because adults have a fixed view of what YouTubers are; narcisssists with a webcam and a sponsorship deal. PewdiePie is not immune from such behaviour; he has his own brand of ergonomic chair, ideal for gaming, that he sells for $399. But Kjellberg’s videos are more largely concerned with critiquing the internet.

PewDiePie in 2014
 PewDiePie in 2014 Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

Each week, alongside reactive content like his savaging of Logan Paul’s suicide video, PewdiePie posts three different “shows”. In the first, You Laugh You Lose (YLYL), Kjellberg watches a stream of supposedly humorous, or perhaps laughable clips. He mocks them and tries not to laugh. On Last Week I Asked You (LWIAY) he sets his audience challenges and reviews the output. Those challenges largely involve creating memes and in the third show, Kjellberg reviews the more popular memes on the internet. This show is called Meme Review.

The format has been updated however. The internet provides Kjellberg with a near infinite supply of material. He also swears an awful lot more than James ever did. More than many of his peers he plays around with form and visual effects (he has a team of editors who work on each piece). Sharp cuts, interpolations, green screen scenes and filters which warp the image or subvert the sound are standard. The combined effect is to turn one man and his desk into something both hyperactive and psychedelic.
Pewdiepie has come a long way since he posted his first YouTube video in 2010. His style has developed considerably. He gained his celebrity from “Let’s Play” videos recording himself gaming with a commentary of yelps and curses on top. He rarely posts such content any more. His first non-gameplay video came in 2011, a short clip in which he apologised for taking time away from his channel to go on holiday. In that video he is shy, demurring and can barely look the camera in the eye. That clean shaven cutie pie is now a man with a hefty beard, a shock of peroxide hair, and great deal more confidence.

Why are YouTube stars so popular?

Because of the way that YouTube (a company owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet) guards its data, it’s unclear precisely who watches PewdiePie’s content. Data provided to Kjellberg by the company, which he screenshotted and posted during a 2017 video, suggested his largest demographic was among the 18-24 age group, followed by 25-34. It seems unlikely that he is not also very popular among teenagers, however. It has been observed that you can pretend to be older than you are on the internet. Many of the fans who engage with PewdiePie by posting content either on YouTube or Reddit are under 18.

Felix “PewdiePie” Kjellberg is funny, intelligent, innovative and highly charismatic. He also has one of the world’s biggest public platforms and a remit restricted only by YouTube’s terms of service. To call him an alt-right agitator would perhaps be unfair as he has never publicly identified with the proto-fascist movement. But he shares much of their culture and amplifies it across the world. People should pay PewdiePie more attention.


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