During the last week of December, former Vine star and current YouTuber Logan Paul uploaded a series of video blogs, known as vlogs, showcasing Paul and his video production team’s visit to Japan.
The videos, most of which took place in Tokyo, show the group visiting various locations around the city and engaging in a series of pranks, often at the expense of others.
Towards the beginning of the first video in the series, Paul said, in reference to his future actions, “I just got to be careful to not, like, disrespect the culture.”
He then proceeds over the course of the videos to dip his GoPro in a koi pond, run and yell in the streets, put a dead fish and octopus tentacle in people’s faces, go up to and film people in their cars stuck in traffic, and play real-life Pokémon Go by throwing a stuffed Pokéball at people.
“I swear, Tokyo is just a giant playground―maybe it’s not, maybe I should stop―probably not,” Paul said.
On Dec. 31, Paul uploaded a video where he and his team visit Aokigahara, a forest at the base of Mt. Fuji infamously known for the many suicides that occur there annually.
In the video, the group stumbles upon the body of a man who had recently hanged himself. After contacting the authorities, instead of heading out of the forest, they approach and film the body of the man.
Only the body’s face was blurred, leaving the rest of the body and rope used in full view of the camera. It is important to note that one of these images was used as the thumbnail of the video.
At one point, the camera even zooms on the hands of the body, where Paul notes how purple they are.
The next few minutes consist of the reactions from the group, with an emphasis on Paul’s reactions. There are many jokes and laughs shared about the situation, mixed in with a few moments of shock and awe.
After the video was released online, Paul faced a huge amount of backlash from people around the world, who found his blatant disrespect, cavalier attitude towards the situation and filming of the body unbefitting for the topic of the video.
Paul claims the original intent of the video was to camp in the forest in order to see whether or not he experienced anything supernatural, but many found this claim disingenuous due to how well-known Aokigahara is.
He has since issued two apologies, saying that he will be taking a break from making vlogs so he can reflect on his actions.
Paul’s actions were selfish, tasteless and disrespectful. However, they were only a symptom of a much larger problem.
The current vlog culture is one that revolves around creating videos by finding the latest and greatest type of content that will bring more views and subscribers than previous vlogs.
This process of one-upping naturally leads to people like Paul pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable too far, all in the pursuit of finding the perfect content.
This problem is compounded by the main demographic of Paul’s audience.
According to a study conducted by Variety, teenagers are drawn more towards internet personalities than mainstream celebrities, and Paul is no different. At over 15 million subscribers, Paul’s core audience consists of mostly pre-teens and young teenagers.
Many of these fans were not able to see why what Paul did was so bad, as evidenced by the like-to-dislike ratio and numerous videos posted by fans in Paul’s defense.
It’s disheartening to see so many young people not understand the magnitude of Paul’s actions and dismiss much of the valid criticism levied against him.
In the rapidly evolving digital age, internet celebrities and personalities can grow an enormous following by acting out in wild and sometimes dangerous ways, which draws the attention of impressionable children.
There is nothing wrong with having fun and making an exciting video to post online, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.
Hopefully, this incident will spark further discussions on what should and should not be acceptable on the internet and cause parents to reevaluate the type of content that their children choose to watch.
Joshua Baldwin is a sophomore computer science major from Greensboro, North Carolina
Screenshot taken from YouTube