Anyone else really bored of white male a*hole redemptive arcs? I’m not sure any of us really had a taste but it but especially not during the Trump and #MeToo age. Now, it’s the turn of Logan Paul, the inexplicably popular YouTube star who became infamous to the mainstream after he filmed a dead body in Aokigahara in Japan. He’s already gone on the Apology Tour, aided by a media that loves a sad man story but also has no idea how to approach something like internet fame with any degree of seriousness or understanding. The Hollywood Reporter has a piece on Paul, and it’s as awful as you think it is.
Let’s start with this tweet:
.@LoganPaul comes clean about what exactly happened in that Japanese suicide forest, how his $13 million empire collapsed and how he's plotting his path to forgiveness with his 24 million followers https://t.co/hOlYeQsW5z pic.twitter.com/mt9KhfGx9j— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) October 31, 2018
Where to begin? What is there to ‘come clean’ about? He filmed a suicide victim for laughs and views. It’s not a complex matter. His empire also didn’t collapse. As the piece notes, he’s doing fine. The blip was just that. We see this sh*t with people like Louis CK, in which the focus is on how their careers and finances were hurt, not on the people they treated like dirt. The serious photoshoot is a nice touch too.
Then we get to the piece itself, and it doesn’t get much better. The article is written by Seth Abramovitch, who you may remember from his piece on Jeffrey Tambor, which attempted to rehabilitate his image after he faced sexual harassment allegations. That piece referred to the accusations against Tambor as ‘one of the most complex cases of the #MeToo era’, which leaves an especially sour taste in your mouth when you remember this was one of the few high-profile stories of the post-Weinstein era involving trans women. That piece also saw Abramovitch spend a lot of time lingering on one of the accuser’s time spent as a sex worker, their mental health and suicide attempt. The narrative was clear.
His Paul piece isn’t quite so insidious, but it does follow a staid path for sad white man redemption. It’s not enough to explain what happened and assume audiences will get the message, and the piece relies a lot on that. Yet it also seems oddly unaware of the rest of Paul’s career and reputation. Some mention is given of past ‘pranks’ but anyone with even a passing knowledge of his YouTube and Vine work will know the terrible stuff he’s done and how it fits into a particular context. The ‘prank’ era of YouTube is heavily defined by the staggeringly popular work of Logan Paul, all of which is aided by YouTube and various sponsors. You can’t talk about Logan Paul without getting into all of this, but the piece seems so determined to frame him as a sad man who wants a second chance after a big mistake.
Paul doesn’t exactly help himself in this piece. He comes across as, to put it mildly, f**king stupid, yet still PR trained to a degree. He’s turned down his shtick dramatically, but then spouts out wannabe New Age lines like this:
“The first question I asked myself at the beginning of the year was, ‘How do we fix this?’ — when the question I should have asked myself was, ‘How do I fix me?”
It doesn’t get any better from there.
The trip to Japan, it is revealed, was the idea of Paul’s on/off girlfriend Chloe Bennet. Yeah, her from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. They met while making a remake of Valley Girl. Yeah, that movie. The framing of the fight they had before he went to Aokigahara makes it seem like it’s her fault somehow:
A week before the trip, Paul and Bennet had a fight. “She wanted to stay in one hotel, I wanted to stay in a different hotel,” he recalls, adding that he “just wanted my space.” Miffed, Bennet told Paul she wasn’t going and delivered an ominous prediction. “She’s like, ‘Yo, this behavior is going to bite you in the ass. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but you’re going to crash and burn,’ ” he recalls her saying.
If Paul wanted to make himself seem more empathetic with this story, it doesn’t work. He seems to get the most emotional when talking about things other than, you know, him filming a suicide victim’s body for kicks. Like when Aaron Paul called him out on Twitter for it:
The Breaking Bad star had always been friendly to him. “He came up to me at whatever event we were at, shook my hand, patted me on the back, ‘Dude, love what you’re doing,’ ” Paul says. “Then this shit happens, and Aaron Paul is telling me to go to hell? I’m like, ‘You told me you were my boy when we met! It was all good! We have the same publicist!’ “
Emphasis is put on the money Paul potentially lost from the fallout after YouTube briefly demonetized his channel — around $5m — but at least Paul is self-aware enough to not complain about that. This is hard enough to feel sympathy for. How many people do you know get millions of dollars a year to do hilarious pranks like faking your own murder? But it only stings further when the piece wraps up by reminding us that Paul still won:
There are signs, however faint, that things might be turning around for Paul. On Oct. 17, YouTube released The Thinning: New World Order after all, suggesting his stay in vlogger jail may be ending. And then there’s the fact that, since the suicide forest video, his follower count has actually increased by a million.
There it is. YouTube welcomed him back with open arms and he’s more popular and richer than ever. So, what the hell is the point in The Hollywood Reporter writing him a sweet sad redemption arc? After all, his demographic don’t care and the chances are they’re not subscribed to the trades. No, this is for potential advertisers and industry collaborators, an implicit endorsement that Paul is safe to work with again. He’s learned his lesson from filming a suicide victim for clicks, you guys. Now he’s making money and some of that cash could be yours!
After Abramovitch suggests he become politically involved - !!! - Logan makes this claim:
“You know what I found, though,” he replies, “and this is unfortunate, but a lot of viewers are brainwashed, oftentimes by their parents.” After a little more thought, he adds, “Maybe it is my responsibility to force these kids to think independently, which is what I always try to do. There comes a time when you have to grow up and start thinking for yourself.”
Thank you but no. Kids on YouTube already have to deal with myriad issues, including the site’s oft-ignored potential for radicalizing people via alt-right propaganda channels, without having to worry about Logan Paul going all Lonesome Rhodes on them. He ends the piece by saying ‘Good luck trying to cancel me’ and he’s right. He’s got too many big names in his corner ensuring he’ll be safe for the time being. Like The Hollywood Reporter.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.