Up until a few months ago, Shane Dawson was the "King of YouTube."
He now has to shed that title after clips of his old content have resurfaced, and he's had to apologize for racism and inappropriate comments about minors.
He has lost over a million subscribers in the last two weeks.
The landslide loss built up traction when he was publicly called out by Jada Pinkett Smith and her family.
Dawson probably won't leave the internet completely, but his reign is almost certainly over.
The problem with putting heroes up on a pedestal is they have a long way to fall. And someone who has fallen and crashed hard this week is Shane Dawson.
Over the last few years, Dawson earned his crown as the "King of YouTube," with documentary series-length videos that arguably changed how content was made on the platform. Equal parts untouchable and empathetic, Dawson's success has grown and grown with his mega-popular conspiracy theory videos and his access to controversial stars like Jeffree Star and Jake Paul, and elusive ones like Eugenia Cooney.
But while he's worked hard on this likeable image, plenty of people never forgot Dawson's past. Compilation videos of blackface, pedophilia jokes, and other problematic behavior would sporadically reappear and threaten to take down this carefully crafted identity.
Now, in the eye of "Karmageddon's" storm, Dawson may finally have passed the point of no return.
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How 'Karmageddon' began
Dawson seemed to light the match that sparked his own canceling when he posted a lengthy statement about the YouTube beauty community less than two weeks ago slamming "dramatic gurus" and saying James Charles "needed to be served a slice of humble pie" when he lost three million subscribers last year.
It didn't go down well. People within the community started accusing Dawson of using the beauty world as a cash grab — developing his Conspiracy palette with Star, making his millions, then swiftly bolting and trashing it from the outside. This, in turn, seemed to lead to more angry commentators dredging up Dawson's past of inappropriate and offensive content, such as making jokes about sexualizing children and animals, dressing in blackface, and using racial slurs.
Over the next few days, the situation escalated to Dawson being called out by Hollywood royalty and being the subject of an explosive take-down video by Tati Westbrook, where she claimed he and Star "gaslit" and manipulated her into posting the video that caused Charles' demise, "Bye Sister," in May 2019, as a means of publicity for their upcoming collaboration.
This period of "exposing" Dawson and Star has been called "Karmageddon" — a reference to the beauty community's history of meltdowns and creators finally facing their comeuppance.
YouTuber Cherita Gaskin from Cherita Explains It All told Insider she always knew Dawson would eventually crash and burn, but she "didn't know it would happen this fast."
"His fall from grace was such a complete crash because he was able to get away with such despicable things for so long," she said. "He made his living off being a bigot and a terrible person. Someone like him does whatever it takes to stay on top."
Just six months ago, the launch of Dawson and Star's Conspiracy palette crashed the Morphe and Beauty Bay platforms because so many people were trying to buy it at once. The YouTube superstars were doing meet-and-greets with thousands of screaming fans at Morphe stores, and the whole venture was allegedly going to earn Dawson $10 million.
Looking back, it's a far cry from what's happening now, with companies and fellow influencers distancing themselves from Dawson as he becomes the main focus of nearly every drama video on YouTube.
Dawson's problematic history has haunted him for years
This is by no means the first time Dawson's history has come back to haunt him. He's been on YouTube as a social media celebrity for over a decade, and started his online career during the peak of "edgy" comedy. As Mike Majlak said in a recent Impaulsive podcast episode, it was a time where you would try and say the most offensive thing you could think of to get a laugh.
In several apology videos scattered throughout his career, Dawson has apologized for his past and said he no longer recognizes the person in the old footage that periodically resurfaces. But this time an apology hasn't cut it.
The difference is that now Dawson is something of a mainstream celebrity. While in 2012 he and other online creators like Jenna Marbles were christened as "Rising stars" you've never heard of in Variety magazine, Gen Z and certain breeds of very-online millennials have made them into household names in the years since.
YouTube culture has steadily trickled through the wall between online and mainstream entertainment over the last decade, but it was Dramageddon 2, and the fallout between Westbrook and Charles, that bulldozed its way through. Even those asking, "Who are these people?" found themselves desperate to read about the latest installment in the saga of who was going to win the beauty guru war.
Even Jada Pinkett Smith knows who Dawson is. Her damning indictment on Twitter that she was "done with the excuses" when an old video showed Dawson pretending to masturbate over a poster of her daughter Willow, who was 11 at the time, was perhaps what sealed his fate.
The combination of Dawson's newfound notoriety, his badly timed letter to the beauty community, and "manipulative" label was finally what tipped Dawson's career and reputation over the edge. This time, the canceling seems to have stuck, and he doesn't know what to do about it.
"Right now he's scrambling because he's never been held accountable," said Gaskin. "His karma for not taking an ounce of accountability is coming at him fast. For whatever reason people are now just becoming upset about his past actions when they've been there all along and they now want answers."
'The devil and the angel combo always works in storytelling'
Dawson's continued partnership with Star (who is periodically called out for his own controversies) also didn't help his case.
"I think Shane was always playing with fire befriending maybe the most controversial figure on YouTube, and aligning so much of his brand with him," CEO of Studio BE Brandon Relph told Insider. "It's ironically what probably made the duo so successful; the devil and the angel combo always works in storytelling."
He said Dawson has now been "exposed" as "not quite the angel" he seemed.
"I am a strong believer in forgiving people for their past, and this hasn't been Shane's first apology about any of this," he said. "But I think the timing and where the world is at has really started to harm his halo."
Dawson's pursuit of being a good guy on YouTube may be why his crash has been so terminal. Chris Boutté, of the channel The Rewired Soul, told Insider influencers can sometimes fall victim to their own personas.
"The halo effect is when we look at one attribute of a person and then we let it engulf them," he said. "Like that person's pretty, so they must be a good person too. Or it could be for the negative too (the horn effect), like that person did this one s----y thing, so everything about them is bad. It's kind of this black and white thinking."
If someone in our minds is all good and they end up in a scandal, it can feel uncomfortable and threatening that our reality has changed.
"When something happens that's even somewhat controversial, people get in their brain, 'Oh, this person lied to me, they're not a good person, they're not a nice person,'" said Boutté. "Shane Dawson is constantly helping people. Before he got into his whole docuseries thing, he was raising up small creators. So when we see that bad thing, it screws up what we expected of that person."
Dawson flew too close to the sun
Star, on the other hand, may be uncancelable for this very reason. His fanbase is so desensitized to his problematic behavior and supervillain persona that they accept it, even though he's "been through more controversies than I've had hot dinners," said Relph. The expectation fans have of Dawson is very different, said Boutté, so his mistakes feel more significant.
Compared to Dawson's million, Star has lost 400,000 subscribers in the last two weeks — a relatively small number for an exposed past littered with racial slurs, violence, and back-stabbing behavior.
"When you have somebody like Jeffree Star, Trisha Paytas, or Tana Mongeau, what do you really expect from them?" Boutté posed. "Do you expect them to be this kind, generous, giving person? Or do you expect them to be kind of an a--hole and constantly be in controversy?
"You kind of look at it like, 'Oh, well I expect that from them, but I don't expect it from [Shane].'"
Dawson's halo shone so brightly for so long for his 22 million fans, it was inevitable he would eventually end up falling short of their expectations and disappointing them.
Relph said Dawson reacting to Westbrook's video in real-time on Instagram Live, where he called her a liar and a manipulator, was a huge mistake. It will have done him no favors in clearing the fog of controversies he's found himself in over the last two weeks.
"Shane does not seem to be very good at damage control," he said. "And that will cause huge problems for him. He might be damaging his brand more now than Tati, or anyone else, could."
'I think this might be another resetting of the Shane Dawson empire'
But this probably isn't the end of Dawson's online career altogether. His next YouTube series, whatever format it takes, will still bring him millions of views because his die-hard fans will be waiting for him.
Some of Dawson's fellow YouTubers have survived worse. Many have been canceled to rise from the ashes again a few weeks, months, or even years later. Relph thinks Dawson will take a long break from his channel, followed by a "return to its roots."
"I think this might be another resetting of the Shane Dawson empire," he said.
Whether Dawson retires on his millions made from the Controversy line, or comes back to his channel with a heavy heart and bruised ego, is uncertain right now. All we can know for sure is that he'll have to put away his YouTube crown in a closet at the back of his beauty room, because the reign of old YouTube is over, and he won't be needing it any time soon.
Read the original article on Insider