How Logan Paul went from worldwide condemnation over his 'suicide forest' video, to a popular YouTuber who buys Pokémon cards

Logan Paul
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  • Logan Paul has been more or less forgiven for doing what many consider to be one of the worst thing a major YouTuber has ever done on the platform.

  • His redemption story is largely of his own making — he stuck around after receiving worldwide condemnation for filming an apparent dead body and putting the video on the internet.

  • His absolution may also be partly due to the fact he's considered more mature and thoughtful in comparison to the younger, more chaotic Paul brother, Jake Paul.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Logan Paul was praised by fans and critics for his passionate speech about Black Lives Matter and anti-racism on his podcast "Impaulsive" at the beginning of June 2020, a few days after the news that George Floyd had died at the hands of a police officer.

In the clip, which is still his pinned tweet, he said the only reason he gets away with "some of the hooligan s---" he does in his vlogs is because he's a white person.

"I'm confident that I do not have to fear for my life should the cops show up," he said, urging viewers to "acknowledge and weaponize your privilege."

A couple of days later, Paul's younger brother Jake Paul was charged with criminal trespass and unlawful assembly for being present while looters raided and vandalized a mall in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Read more: Jake Paul's fighting career makes a lot of sense and could be less harmful than his work as an influencer

The brothers shot to fame when they joined Vine, Twitter's ill-fated 7-second video platform, in 2013. They quickly became two of the app's biggest stars with their skits and pranks, before it was discontinued in 2016 and they migrated to YouTube, where they have built followings of over 20 million subscribers.

The juxtaposition of the two stories in June highlighted that while Jake has been on a "problem child" trajectory, and seems hellbent on destroying his public image, Logan has made some progress in successfully repairing his reputation since he received worldwide condemnation for a video he uploaded at the start of 2018.

Logan Paul has often been seen as the slightly less problematic sibling

Logan solidified his title of the less problematic Paul sibling early on in their careers. That was until January 2018, when he received intense backlash for filming what appeared to be a dead body while exploring the Aokigahara forest in Japan, and uploaded the video to his channel where millions of children could watch it.

What is now colloquially known as the "Suicide Forest video" has been cemented into YouTube lore, and is widely regarded as one of the worst major influencer stunts in YouTube history. It was a significant blow to Paul's career, that had only been going upwards beforehand. He lost a forthcoming YouTube show, and several deals with brands and advertisers.

Not only did it tarnish Paul's public image, but it also confirmed the belief of people outside of the YouTube community that the platform was a place full of reckless, irresponsible youngsters who cared about fame and little else. Paul leaned into that persona for a while - he tasered a dead rat a few weeks later, for example, because he got "obsessed with the idea of being a villain," he told YouTuber Casey Neistat in an interview in July 2018.

"When the whole world hates you, I made the conscious decision, I'm going to be the guy they think I am," he told Neistat. "And I essentially became the architect of my own destruction."

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Logan Paul's 'suicide forest video' is widely considered to be the worst thing an influencer has ever done. Logan Paul / YouTube

But while this period certainly haunts Paul's career, it hasn't defined it. Since he was canceled, Paul has been on a road to career recovery, and has, for many, earned back the respect he lost three years ago.

Paul set up the start of this journey himself, and promised Neistat he was growing and changing, and was a different person than he was at the beginning of the year.

"He told us all he was going to build the greatest American redemption story of all time and he's done it," YouTuber Roberto Blake, who analyses the success of creators and helps them build businesses online, told Insider. "I think he did more than foreshadow it - I think he manufactured it."

Influencers often disappear from the internet when they're receiving backlash - but Logan Paul stuck around

Paul somewhat short-circuited the backlash he was receiving by not hiding from it. He took about a week off, but for the most part, he stuck around, taking part in interviews, and appearing determined to move past his controversies.

He threw himself into new projects, such as a documentary about what happened in Japan with plans to give all the money raised to suicide prevention charities. He also got involved in combat sports and a podcast - both of which would bring totally new demographics. His amateur boxing match against KSI in August 2018 was arguably the most successful YouTube and traditional media crossover event ever, earning both stars millions of dollars and mainstream fame.

"He kept putting that distance between him and Japan, and people don't associate him with that incident anymore," said Blake. "For the most part, when you think about Logan Paul, the first thing that comes to mind is no longer what he did in Japan. He's not the suicide forest guy anymore."

Author and online reputation expert Sue Scheff, who wrote "Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate," told Insider that completely leaving the internet for a long period does more harm than good, as it leads to further speculation about a celebrity's behavior and intentions.

"If a celebrity is contrite, honest, and open, they can move forward," she said. "Keep in mind, you will always have haters, but the truth is, you will always have haters anyway."

The 'suicide forest' video is still talked about

Paul has never tried to completely erase his past. He brings it up periodically whenever someone else in the internet community is getting "canceled," or he sees a younger creator making similar mistakes. Other influencers who have been through their own scandals often take the silent route.

Shane Dawson, for example, had a mighty fall from grace over the summer, when he received intense backlash about resurfaced old content featuring jokes that sexualized children and animals, blackface, and racial slurs. He has largely been absent from the internet since.

Dawson, as many influencers do, tried to move on from his problematic past by issuing a brief apology and leaving it behind him. He formed a new "empath" persona and rewrote his role on YouTube as the "nice" guy. But he found this year, partially spurred on by growing conversations around racism and the Black Lives Matter movement, that he couldn't fully escape his past.

"[Dawson] built his platform on that shock humor, that was his whole foundation," said Chris Boutté, a YouTuber whose channel discusses psychology and mental health topics. "If Logan Paul's foundation was making videos about filming dead bodies, and that's what gave him his claim to fame, things might be different."

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Jake Paul celebrates with his brother, Logan, after defeating AnEsonGib in a first round knockout during their fight at Meridian at Island Gardens on January 30, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Somewhere along the way, Paul realized the way to move on isn't to attempt to erase your history, but to learn from it. Boutté told Insider everyone hopes that when an influencer makes a mistake, it'll be "their pull their head out of their butt moment," but this hardly ever happens. You only have to look at the set of LA influencers who apologize for partying during the pandemic one minute, then throw massive ragers the next.

"But I think that also works in Logan Paul's favor," Boutté said. "Because for everybody else that it happens to, they just keep playing into that narrative."

YouTuber Trisha Paytas, for example, goes from one controversy to the next, despite the constant backlash.

"When you compare Logan Paul to some other creators, he's had the transformation that we hope for everybody else," said Boutté.

Logan was brought back to reality when he became the most hated man in the world

Paul's perceived growth over the last three years may also be because he appears significantly more determined to become a better role model than Jake.

Both brothers found fame at an incredibly young age, which is a challenge for parents to deal with. It may feel hard, or even impossible, for mothers and fathers to reprimand the behavior of their children who are earning more money from a few social media posts than they receive for a year's salary.

Blake believes part of Logan's road to redemption was helped by the people he started surrounding himself with after Japan. While at the start of his career he was hanging out with "yes men," his friendship circle has matured in recent years.

"He gave people the authority to challenge him, stand up to him and to tell him 'No,' without them having to fear the consequences," Blake said.

Logan and his "Impaulsive" cohost Mike Majlak have had several disagreements on the show, for instance, including a low-stakes debate about Harry Styles wearing a dress, and larger disputes that have led to Majlak walking off the show.

Jake, in comparison, doesn't seem to have anybody in his life telling him to stop throwing massive parties when COVID cases are spiking, or rein in his trolling of MMA fighters - actions which, according to professional fighter Nate Diaz, are going to end with getting his "ass whooped for real."

Read more: CHARTS: How Jake and Logan Paul thrive on controversy and avoid cancelation

Logan was given a wake-up call when he became the most hated man in the world for a while. Jake, in comparison, has been on a steady road through various controversies, but he's never had to repent for anything that received universal damnation. He's a "kid in Neverland," Blake said, who refuses to grow up.

"Fame is fleeting, and clout is ultimately worthless in the long run, but there's a culture that the Pauls would sell to help elevate and aggrandize that's not even real," he said. "Logan got brought back to reality. Jake hasn't yet."

Even when the FBI raided Jake's house, he hasn't faced the level of consequences Logan did for the suicide forest video. Boutté speculated that the lack of change from this may be because he hasn't experienced a significant financial loss for his antics yet like Logan has.

Logan is by no means a perfect example of a role model. But with an older fanbase and the desire to speak out on important social issues, he's on the right track. He now makes popular, more innocuous videos about Pokémon cards, and, as his song 2020 points out, he got through the whole of the last year without a major scandal. Three years ago, when Logan was chasing money and stardom, that would have been pretty hard to believe.

Read the original article on Insider