I’ve been annoyed by YouTube lately, which annoys me in itself, because why should I really care about a platform predominately filled with creators making content for an audience younger than one I’d be genuinely interested in reaching? And I think the reason is twofold. 1) I am pissed off with myself that I make this shitty vanilla content because that’s the safe expected thing to do, and 2) because I see other people falling into the same trap.
The other day I became irrationally irritated by a Twitter conversation I wasn’t involved in. I saw TomSka tweeting with reference to a Tumblr post expressing disappointment with him for making a suicide joke in a video. I completely empathised with Tom’s point – to put a trigger warning on the video would ruin the comedic punches. He then sent a series of tweets trying to find a workaround for this problem in future videos, and some of the replies were infuriating.
And I’m wondering if it’s the platform. Or the audience.
Tom has built an audience of kids/teens because that’s the prime demo his content appeals to. If Tom had only ever made adult content, would he still be suffering backlash from that joke? Would he have grown a different audience? Would he have an audience who expect, enjoy, and respect comedians who don’t find anything off limits, other than the approach?
I am someone who believes comedy can and should be about anything, providing the joke is targeting the right element, e.g. don’t make a rape joke about the victim, and if you’re going to make a rape joke make sure the message is clever enough that it doesn’t come off as a cheap vehicle for laughs.
None of my favourite comedians work with trigger warnings, and what’s more I doubt their audience has ever even considered asking them to. Imagine Doug Stanhope opening a set with trigger warnings; it would take him fifteen minutes to reel off every taboo subject he covers in that hour alone.
So I’m wondering, should Tom just start making whatever content he wants and let the right audience find him? One that doesn’t stifle him or pressure him into making ‘safe’ comedy?
Whilst I don’t understand what it is like to be triggered, I’m not against trigger warnings. I completely understand that someone who has suffered trauma could be upset by an unexpected reminder or callous discussion. That said, I do think that people take trigger warnings too far, and the line is far too grey and subjective for me to even begin to make an argument for where it should be. It’s impossible for any one person to say, and no one person should get to decide.
However, if there are creators who don’t want to be held accountable to an audience who need to know the time stamps of the jump scares in a Five Nights at Freddy’s video, then they should simply start making content that those people won’t watch. They need to ask themselves what is more valuable: a large, broad audience, or an audience that enjoys the kind of content they find fulfilling to make? I am sure there are people who don’t watch (for example) Tom’s content because they find it too tame, but would probably love the stuff he would make if he didn’t feel any responsibility to the vocal minority of his current audience.
Don’t flirt with making it a safe space. If people know it is not safe they will stay away, giving you both freedom.
(That said maybe Tom would make exactly the same stuff in the same way, I am only using him as an example as of his prominent, recent Twitter discussion. I don’t know Tom. I am not speaking for Tom)
Recently, I was also frustrated by the #WeStandWithZoe shenanigans, for so many, many reasons. I saw many people using the hashtag as an excuse to tweet sexualised selfies. Obviously some people were casual and legit. But I saw a whole group of people, who usually tweet pictures of themselves every day, frothing at the excuse to tweet a panty pic. Zoe had a small portion of hip showing, but these narcissists were showing the whole thing, trying to look as sexy as possible, completely missing the point. Want to drive home that The Sun were being absurd with their remarks? Tweet ironically with too many clothes on, don’t turn it into something arguably sexual. Don’t turn it into something so sexual you then have to backtrack and ask that girls under the age of 18 don’t follow your example. I saw a bunch of SJW types eagerly tweeting pics, so wrapped up in this opportunity to finally reveal some body, that they ignored the fact they were encouraging their huge YOUNG teen followings into tweeting softcore underage porn. But where’s the uproar about this? About these poor-intentioned idiots actually causing a sleazy trend?
Not to mention all the fucking free advertising they gave The Sun… Jesus Christ. Congratulations on playing right into their hands, guys.
And this frustrates me because Tom is held accountable for making a joke personal enough to him that he feels ownership of it. That he feels he has the right to make.
I was talking to a friend as these two incidents were going on, both of us refraining from pointlessly throwing more public noise into the mix, about how we feel we can’t make jokes about our own depression, suicidal thoughts/attempts, or self harm, even though it is part of our lives, just because it will upset someone online and we don’t want to have to deal with that shit. We joke about it ALL THE TIME in real life. It’s part of who we are. But we’re censored online. We’re censored from making jokes about the shit we’ve experienced and continue to experience. Censored from being ourselves. Meanwhile, the same people who signal boost TRIGGER WARNINGS at every opportunity are encouraging an online tag for paedo bait.
I am not doing what I wish Tom (and everyone in the same position) would do. I am not just making the content I want to make and seeing where the pieces fall. And I am a hypocrite for that.