Shane ‘grandpa-of-YouTube’ Dawson has been called out by Jaden Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith for a disturbing video featuring an 11-year-old Willow Smith.
Dawson has recently come under fire as a number of problematic clips have resurfaced amid controversy over his friendship with Jeffree Star and potential implication in a YouTube scandal from last year. (More on this later.)
The clip in question is from a video posted around eight years ago. The video has since been deleted, along with hundreds of others from his Shane Dawson TV channel, which only has two videos left.
But it’s been reposted across social media recently as evidence of his problematic past.
TW: In the clip, which some may find disturbing, Dawson is pretending to masturbate to a poster of a young Willow Smith, while quoting the lyrics to her 2011 song “Whip My Hair”.
Dawson, who has also faced accusations of racism, has been called out on Twitter by Willow’s mother and brother.
Jaden Smith, who is two years older than Willow, said he was “disgusted” by the YouTuber’s behaviour:
He then followed it up with another tweet, calling him out for many past instances of blackface:
Jaden and Willow’s mother, actor Jada Pinkett Smith, tweeted she was “done” with his excuses.
Dawson has yet to address this specifically, but on Friday night he uploaded a 20-minute apology video entitled “Taking Accountability”, and people have a lot of thoughts.
In the video, Dawson talks about the criticisms levelled against him, most of which have been going around for years, but have resurfaced now.
In some ways it’s the video people have been waiting for, but at the same time it seems to miss a lot of the points people are making, and is a complete U-turn in tone from a statement he released on Twitter just days ago, making people wonder if it’s really that sincere.
Who is Shane Dawson?
Dawson has been on YouTube for 15 years, during which time he’s amassed tens of millions of followers across different platforms.
The channel he mostly posts on now is called “Shane”, and has 23 million subscribers, while a second channel he created less than a year ago and has uploaded only six videos to has 3.7 million.
By all accounts, he’s a YouTube superstar, in the very top tier of creators. However he has also managed to build a persona which directly contradicts that.
While in the past Dawson was known for his “edgy” (read: offensive) comedy skits and bizarre challenges, he’s quietly rebranded as something else entirely: a sensitive, humble, kind soul who just wants to made great documentaries and help the people around him.
At least, that’s how people saw him for a long time, considering most of his videos revolve around his “relatable” life with his fiance Ryland and their friends.
Broadly, his content over the past few years falls into one of three categories: vlog-style videos of him doing absurd things (like “switching lives with a blind person”), conspiracy theory videos in which he “investigates” mysterious goings-on (such as, does Chuck E. Cheese recycle pizza slices you don’t eat?), and his “docuseries”, which are multiple-part looks at a particular YouTube drama, and usually an attempt to redeem the person at the centre of it.
What is he apologising for?
His historical content features numerous videos of him in blackface, playing highly offensive characters based on racial stereotypes.
There’s also “jokes” about paedophilia, and bizarre videos with family members, such as one in which he and his mother play Omegle and ask people (including girls who are visibly substantially younger than him) to “twerk for us”, and one in which he makes highly inappropriate sexual comments to his 12-year-old cousin.
There are also numerous “jokes” about bestiality, as well as fat-shaming, homophobia (Dawson has since come out as bisexual) and misogyny.
What about Jeffree Star?
U’s his new style of content which led him to meet Jeffree Star, who he decided to profile for his docuseries in 2018. Star has always been a divisive and somewhat fascinating figure in the YouTube community, and Dawson ostensibly made the series because he wanted to offer an insight into his world.
However, as the series progressed, viewers saw the two become friends, and in the final episode the seeds are planted for a further collab: a series about how to create and market a make-up product from scratch.
Ever since, Star and Dawson have been seemingly inseparable, something which fans of Dawson’s were unhappy with.
While Dawson is perceived as the YouTuber-next-door who means well, Star is seen as the flamboyant evil puppetmaster of beauty YouTube, with a deeply problematic past and a penchant for viciously and publicly attacking anyone who crosses him.
It’s this relationship which has ultimately led to his downfall.
The most egregious element of his past is the racial comments and attitudes, and with the resurgence of Black Lives Matter has come a renewed desire to hold people accountable for their past actions, so lots of these videos have resurfaced and people are asking him to address it.
(He has done so before, but let’s just say it wasn’t the most convincing of apologies.)
He also said he was “inspired” by Jenna Marbles, a fellow YouTuber who essentially cancelled herself, saying she’d be leaving YouTube following a very well-received apology for past insensitive and offensive content, which is really nothing compared to Dawson and Star.
But there’s a little more to this.
Following a few comments from Jeffree Star and a slew of people speaking out (with receipts), people have started to think Shane Dawson may have been involved in orchestrating the attempted downfall of 19-year-old James Charles last year.
Further, more and more allegations are coming out about Star himself, including similar instances of racist behaviour, manipulation, his involvement in a number of huge YouTube dramas and generally unsavoury character. As a result, people are concerned that Dawson’s friendship with him betrays a darker side to Dawson himself.
In response, Dawson posted a rambling, since-deleted statement on Twitter about how he was “leaving the beauty community”, saying that beauty gurus are “attention-seeking, game-playing, egocentric, narcissistic, vengeful, two-faced ticking time bombs ready to explode” who are “obsessed with looks, money, power, fame, screenshots and subtweets”.
This did not go down well considering that Dawson had literally 12 hours before been promoting the restock of his palette which he created with Star, happy to profit from the beauty industry at the time.
In the rant he also claimed that he didn’t want to be involved in drama, which many pointed out is at odds with a lot of the content he makes and how he’s gone about promoting his merch (one of his palettes was literally called Controversy).
In relation to James Charles, he also revealed that he knew the video “exposing” him was going to come out decided not to warn Charles (despite the fact that there’s footage of Dawson seeing the video and crying in “shock”). He then goes on to say Charles was a “young egocentric power hungry guru who needed to be served a slice of humble pie the size of the f***ing Empire State Building”.
Needless to say people were not impressed that he saw himself as above drama, above the make-up community and some kind of arbiter of humility.
And so things slowly started to come out. That’s how we get to today’s apology, which seems to acknowledge that his previous statement was irrational and offensive.
What are people saying about it?
Shane Dawson stans are glad he’s addressed the issues so that they can go back to pretending it never happened.
But lots of people are pointing out that he doesn’t address his relationship with Jeffree Star.
Star’s problematic past (especially the racist bit) is seriously troubling, and people are concerned that Dawson’s apology isn’t really sincere if he’s not willing to cut ties, or at least stop promoting him across his platform.
Some people still thought he was just making excuses and playing the victim.
Lots pointed out that all the offensive videos were on his website until very recently, suggesting he was still profiting from these insensitive and damaging messages even after apologising for the first time.