YouTube Rewind
YouTube's focus seems to have moved away from their actual community and are now facing the backlash. (Image via Variety)

This Year’s ‘YouTube Rewind’ Is a Testament to the Platform’s Growing Commercialism

The new Rewind video is record-breaking, and not in a good way.

With over 12 million dislikes on YouTube, this year’s “YouTube Rewind” is officially the most disliked video on the platform. If you’ve seen the video, or at least the countless number of other YouTubers bashing the Rewind, you might have a good idea why people consider it the worst video on YouTube.

Not only was this year’s Rewind a cringe-worthy barrage of “Fortnite” dances and more over-the-top references from the game, the video starred mainstream Hollywood icons and contained disingenuous advocacy for both YouTube’s content creators and social justice that has many YouTubers worried about the company’s growing commercialism.

Since, 2010, YouTube Rewind has been an annual event of sorts for the YouTube community. The company normally puts together an extremely well-curated, professionally produced video containing the year’s most notable content creators in one giant collaboration video. It’s just a fun way that YouTube pays tribute to their creators, putting them in the spotlight in a video that attracts a lot of viewers, and ideally, racks up more subscribers for the YouTubers featured in the video.

Over the last few years, however, there’s been a noticeable decline in likes and a drastic increase in dislikes on the YouTube Rewinds. The new 2018 video took the cake for the most disliked of them all, so where did it go wrong?

Things go downhill almost immediately when the video opens with Will Smith overlooking what appears to be the Grand Canyon or another national park with similar vistas. The problem isn’t Smith himself; he’s a brilliant actor and quality person, but he doesn’t quite belong in a YouTube Rewind. Last time anybody checked, Smith isn’t a YouTuber, but a big-time Hollywood star.

This is one of the first aspects of the video that has a lot of members of the YouTube community frustrated. If YouTube could get a world-famous actor to star in their video in which he says that he wants to see “Fortnite” references and Marques Brownlee, then why couldn’t they have hired an actual YouTuber for that role? Smith’s voice is not reflective of the YouTube community simply because he’s not really a part of it, and when he calls for “Fortnite and Marques Brownlee” at the start of the video, it seems insincere and forced.

After Smith’s cameo, the video only gets worse. The scene bluntly changes to the inside of a “Fortnite” Battle Bus filled with some popular YouTubers wearing a few of the game’s famous costumes, ready to jump. The driver of the Battle Bus? None other than Ninja, the blue-haired “Fortnite” gaming legend and practically the poster child for the game at this point.

Though he is a member of the community, Ninja’s appearance is also problematic. Yes, he has a YouTube channel with a lot of videos and subscribers, and in that way, he is technically a YouTuber. The thing is, though, Ninja streams all of his gameplay on Twitch, an entirely different platform, and the majority of his YouTube videos are simply compilations of some of the best moments in his longer Twitch streams. For him, it’s a smart money-making move because he can make income on both Twitch and YouTube, but because he doesn’t do anything original to his videos on YouTube, it’s essentially identical content on two platforms. So, in that way, he isn’t really a distinct YouTuber, and yet, he’s featured in the Rewind video.

After Ninja’s appearance, the Rewind morphs into a collage of the year’s greatest internet trends and memes, from K-pop to the yodeling kid and even Bongo Cat. And of course, I can’t get away without mentioning Trevor Noah flossing or John Oliver doing an even more ridiculous “Fortnite” dance.

One thing that I think YouTube did right in this year’s Rewind was to include the platform’s biggest animators, which is something they have only done for the last couple of years and gives credit where it’s due for a distinct niche of content creators. Unfortunately for these underappreciated artists, their publicity was part of the most disliked video of all-time.

Near the middle of the Rewind, after the structure of the video sort of falls apart and an awkward silence settles in among the YouTubers around the campfire, YouTube tries its hand at social justice advocacy, but even that falls flat. The few remaining around the fire take the staggering silence as an opportunity to highlight those “who managed to do something bigger than themselves this year,” which sounds great in theory, but doesn’t really mean anything without solid examples. The YouTubers spit out social issues that supposedly matter to them, such as mental health, women’s rights and Asian representation in media.

All these issues are certainly important and worth noting, but the tone the YouTubers have in the Rewind when randomly talking about them for about 30 seconds in the middle of the video just makes it sound insincere. It appears that YouTube put no effort in to creatively intertwine social justice advocacy into their own video, which resulted in a forced blurb with no real impact.

If the sheer amount of dislikes doesn’t tell you already, YouTube’s casting and composition decisions for this year’s Rewind did not sit well with either viewers and content creators. PewDiePie and Ethan Klein both have a couple of videos that outline their concerns over the Rewind, as well as YouTube as a company, but the common thread seems to be that the distance is growing between the platform and their consumers. They continue to disregard the voices of their own audience and content creators, which, judging by the response to the 2018 YouTube Rewind, is only hurting the company in the end.

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