shane dawson; youtube apologies

Watching YouTube Apologies While Being Consumed by the Void

Saying sorry has become a staple on the video sharing website. Here's a ranking of some of the more famous ones.
July 17, 2020
7 mins read

YouTube apologies have become their own art form. When the website launched with the famed “Broadcast Yourself” slogan, it seemed like a new frontier for entertainment. This emphasis on DIY content democratized everything from short films to music lessons. Like any social media platform, YouTube serves as a megaphone for anyone hoping to exercise their free speech. However, this also creates pockets of hate speech and ignorance.

Many of YouTube’s top content creators haven’t proven to be connoisseurs of cultural sensitivity, and yet, their millions of subscribers and critics hold them to that standard. The court of public opinion has put influencers and content creators on trial, thereby spawning the art of the YouTube apology.

YouTube apologies have become their own genre. Many of these videos have garnered more views than any other on their respective channel. For influencers whose content is centered around drama and personality, the apology is part of the content. Because of this, these videos feel more focused on winning back public opinion rather than actually apologizing. With the recent release of apology videos from Shane Dawson and Jenna Marbles, it seems like a good time to see how these videos rank with the most entertaining YouTube apologies of all time.

Ranking System

After binge-watching apology videos, it became clear that there is a concrete set of criteria that creates a successful YouTube apology.

  1. You must cry or be teary eyed at some point during the video (extra points if you start the video crying). This is absolutely crucial.
  2. The apologizer should separate themself from the actions for which they are apologizing. For example: “I don’t recognize the person who said that”; “I am not that person anymore”; “You guys know that’s not who I am.”
  3. Big points for saying, “I was in a really dark place when that happened.”
  4. The living room of the apologizer’s suburban mini-mansion should be in full view.
  5. Finally, they receive points if the video has a vague title with a period or an ellipsis.

6. Logan Paul

Logan Paul apologized on Jan 2, 2018, for recording and mocking the dead body of a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest. Despite being one of the most well-known YouTube apologies, Paul ranks pretty low. I’ll give him points for having vaguely wet eyes but he never engages in points 2 or 3. In terms of scenery, he clearly has a nice home so he gets points there. But honestly, I would have liked some tears. This is an okay apology but it doesn’t have the X factor.

5. Laura Lee

Laura Lee is a makeup vlogger who apologized a few years ago for old racist tweets. In her apology, Lee just goes for it. Right out of the gate, she completely breaks down crying. I love this move. Lee spends most of the video discussing how hurt she is and how hard it has been being held accountable for her blatant racism. She then proceeds to say “I’m not that girl,” which gets her big points for No. 2. This is premium YouTube apology material. The cream of the crop. Wow, Laura Lee still has 4.5 million subscribers.

4. James Charles

James Charles apologized in early 2019 for slighting his former mentor, Tati Westbrook, and allegedly using his influence to try to seduce straight men. I watched the video and I’m still not really sure what he did. He gets points for 1 and 5 though.

Apparently, one apology video wasn’t enough. Charles posted a follow-up to the apology a week later, titled “No More Lies,” and it’s very long. This video is equally as unclear as the first, but 51 million people have watched the video so clearly a lot of people care. And that’s okay. Right?

Sometime during Charles’ explanation of the difference between Coachella VIP passes and artist passes, I feel the fabric of my consciousness beginning to unwind. I don’t understand this world. I don’t understand the lines that separate this world from what I consider to be relevant. This is a 19-year-old internet beauty mogul explaining a feud between him and a 38-year-old woman, profiting off the explanation to his own apology video. And here I am, gaining something from him. I am watching the snake eat itself. I am the head. I am the tail.

3. Jeffree Star

Who am I to think I’m above these people? What am I even providing here? Is all media self-cannibalizing? The content they create is reliant on people’s attention and I’m giving it exactly that. I don’t even know what Jeffree Star did. Probably something racist. The video is just titled “Racism” so that seems like a fair assumption. It’s always racism with the makeup people. Kind of weird, actually. Maybe it’s because the beauty industry has relied on and promoted a white, Eurocentric beauty standard since its inception. Maybe not. It seems like the people who aren’t makeup people are racist too so who knows. I don’t know. I’m watching the apology now. Jeffree hits 2, 3 and 5 so he gets some points.

2. Jenna Marbles

I remember Jenna Marbles. My friends liked watching her videos when we were younger. Was it really almost 10 years ago? It was. Everything and nothing has changed. Time spirals into an oscillating loop that morphs and bends us to its will. I am Jenna. Jenna is me. This is actually a decent apology. Oh god, nevermind, she did blackface.

1. Shane Dawson

Shane Dawson did blackface too and a lot of it. It’s weird how many of these people have done blackface. Seems pretty easy to not do blackface, but that’s just me. It’s not like leaving the oven on or forgetting to water your plants. I do those things all the time. Never done blackface though.

Okay, this apology is getting pretty grim. Apparently he pretended to masturbate to a poster of Willow Smith when she was 11 years old. Why am I even watching this? He has 22 million subscribers. What am I supposed to do with that information? What does that mean about the world and the people in it? Nothing? I don’t know. Shane checks off pretty much all the boxes though. Shane Dawson wins. Whatever that means.

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