In 2015, Swedish YouTube star PewDiePie (real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjelberg) earned $12 million making videos of himself playing videogames and pulling random stunts to the delight of 12-year-olds everywhere. He has over 53 million subscribers on YouTube, and has deals with Disney-owned Maker Studios and Google-Owned YouTube Red. So yeah, he’s kind of a big deal on the web.
As of today, this all might start to change though. In the past 24 hours, both Disney and YouTube have dumped the star over anti-Semitic jokes in a video that featured two Indian men holding up a sign that said “Death to all Jews.“ He found them on the work-to-hire app Fiverr, where he paid them to act like fools and hold up the sign.
Turns out that both Disney and Google aren’t down with this kind of “humor.” PewDiePie has defended the videos, saying that the criticism is coming without a full understanding of the context in which they were made, but no one’s buying the excuses, which went something like this (from a video that he’s since deleted):
"What I just think – and I believe strongly in – is that it is 2017 now. We’re going to have to start separating what is a joke, and what is actually problematic. Is a joke actually pure racism? Is something that would be considered a joke purely homophobic, or anti-Semitic and all these things? Context fucking matters.”
In addition, the two Indian men featured in the video have lost their Fiverr accounts for the stunt. They recently posted an apology video of their own, claiming that they had no idea what the English word “Jews” meant, despite the fact that they apologized in pretty clear English. It’s hard not to feel bad for the guys, though, as they were clearly doing it for the hard-to-earn money.
It’s also hard to laugh at two clearly underpaid men entertain the whims of a clearly overpaid YouTuber as if they were jesters in some bizarre digital king’s court.
PewDiePie even went on to explain that the “joke” was seeing how far poor people would go for just $5. Because that’s funny, or something like that. PewDiePie’s fans (well, some of them), are still defending him in discussion forums, claiming that it was all just a joke, but the rest of the world doesn’t seem to get it.
As for whether or not this will be the end of PewDiePie, chances are slim, as he will likely go on producing his own videos. In fact, in that scenario, he won’t have to share revenue with Google or Disney. Hmm.