On June 25, Jenna Marbles announced in a now deleted YouTube video that she would be quitting the platform “for the time being” and possibly forever. This video was an apology for instances in Marbles’ past content that contained some provocative material, including offensive language and behavior reflecting racism and sexism.
Marbles, whose real name is Jenna Mourney, started her YouTube channel in 2010, when the platform was still relatively new to the internet community. She is known for sketch comedy videos, vlogs and other fun content — usually involving her dogs and boyfriend.
Marbles states in the video, titled “A Message,” that she was asked by fans on Twitter to address the controversial choices that she made in older videos.
These instances include her wearing very dark fake tan to imitate rapper Nicki Minaj, a rap song with a joke about Asian people and a video in which she speaks negatively of women who “slept around.”
Marbles acknowledges that her impersonation of Nicki Minaj could be seen as blackface, which is a concern of a number of fans:
“It was not my intention to do blackface. … I do want to tell you how unbelievably sorry I am if I ever offended you by posting this video or by doing this impression, and that that was never my intention. It’s not okay. It’s shameful. It’s awful. I wish it wasn’t part of my past.”
The 33-year-old expresses genuine remorse for her actions and has deleted any content on her channel that expressed these controversial and outdated opinions. By doing so, she deleted millions of views from her channel, but Marbles made it very clear that “I don’t want to put anything out in the world that’s going to hurt anybody.”
As an avid YouTube watcher, I have been a big fan of Marbles for the last three years. I may not be a long-time subscriber of hers, but I have always been aware of her lengthy career and high-level status as an OG YouTube creator.
The first video I ever watched from her channel was the “Ultimate 100 Coats of Things Video.” The 100 coats challenge was a popular YouTube trend at the time, and I had fallen into the never-ending rabbit hole of this content, leading me to Marbles. From then on, I was a fan of her channel and watched as she started to pivot away from her skit-like comedy and just do ridiculous videos like “Braiding Things Into My Hair” and “Cutting Soap For My Dog While He Wears a Turtleneck.”
I do remember looking back at some of her past content and feeling disconnected from it. Perhaps it was because I had grown attached to the present-day Marbles, and past Marbles felt too different for me to enjoy. Her entire way of speaking and carrying herself changed, and I could actually see the contrast in who Marbles used to be versus who she is now.
In many ways, Marbles became much more supportive and accepting, contrasting with her previous critical nature, even if it was for a “joke.” She’s put out her more authentic self by focusing less on scripted videos and more on content that highlights who she is. I genuinely believe Marbles has grown as a creator and as a person over the years.
The fans’ demands for Marbles to apologize publicly for her past behavior seems to stem from how society is reacting to anything negative in the entertainment world. With everything happening with the Black Lives Matter movement, and other YouTube creators being called out for past harmful behavior, it makes sense that people would want to get rid of any source of prejudice in their lives.
Marbles recognizes these motives in her video, saying, “I feel like we’re at a time where we are purging ourselves of anything and everything toxic.”
She recognizes that her old videos were part of the problem by contributing to the blasé attitude of racist behaviors and sexist attitudes.
The amount of responsibility Marbles is taking over her old videos — with no excuses or fake empathy — is relieving and inspiring to see. I fully support her decision to take however much time she needs away from the platform, whether that be for a few weeks or forever. She made the decision to “cancel” herself and I definitely respect that choice.
I would never tell a person from a marginalized group to not be offended by biased or racially insensitive behavior, but the amount of accountability Marbles is taking for her previous actions shows how important it is to have good examples of people learning and growing from their mistakes in a world filled with hate, especially those who have as big of an audience as Marbles.
I am a woman of color, but I cannot speak for everyone nor tell them to accept Marbles’ apologies. However, I will still proudly call myself a fan of Marbles and hope for her return if it ever comes.