What seems like mere weeks ago, drama channels like Spill Sesh and Tea Spill caught wind of some very dark rumors circulating popular YouTubers James Charles and David Dobrik. Both were separately accused of serious allegations, and both have since apologized and announced hiatuses from the internet. What’s interesting about these two different scandals—other than the coincidence of their proximity in time—is that both Charles and Dobrik have millions of followers, which I think has made them believe they’re largely untouchable.
In 2019, Dramageddon 2.0 saw Tati Westbrook, Shane Dawson, and Jeffree Star expose Charles as sexually manipulative and predatory. When Westbrook later revealed she was gaslit into making her accusation, Charles was considered the victim of the situation. Much of what Charles was accused of was forgotten, arguably making him believe he couldn’t be called out again. This mindset carried over into 2021, when multiple minors came forward as early as February to accuse Charles of grooming, soliciting nudes, and sending explicit photos. As more boys stepped forward, Charles was committed to dismissing the claims for months. Finally, on April 1, he apologized.
— James Charles (@jamescharles) April 17, 2021
Dobrik, on the other hand, has remained unscathed by scandals for most of his career. That’s not to say his content has always been squeaky clean. Half of his vlogs sensationalize putting his friends in harm’s way, while the other half is homophobic, racist, misogynistic, and fatphobic jokes. In February of 2021, former Vlog Squad member Joseth “Seth” Francois accused Dobrik of sexual assault and racism. Then in March, Business Insider revealed that former Vlog Squad member Durte Dom raped a young girl. These headlines were followed by news about Vlog Squad member Jeff Wittek’s life-threatening accident. All three of these incidents were filmed as content for Dobrik’s vlogs.
Though the first two incidents took place years ago, Dobrik didn’t apologize until this year. First, he posted an apology video titled “Let’s Talk” to his podcast channel, Views (1.6M subscribers), with the comments turned off. Following an immediate backlash, Dobrik posted a second apology video to his main channel (18.4M subscribers). It’s unfortunate that it took a series of very public call-outs for Dobrik to realize his content was doing more harm than good. At this point, Dobrik can keep posting apology videos all he wants. But if he doesn’t genuinely change his behavior, then it’s going to be telling that those videos were just hot air.
In the last year or so, cancel culture has made its way into the lexicon of almost everybody. But this has misconstrued the original purpose of cancel culture, which was more about accountability and education than blacklisting celebrities and public figures for their mistakes. In the context of the situations of Charles and Dobrik, however, both are repeat offenders of the allegations they are just now apologizing for. This is but one reason why I think we should stop being disappointed when celebrities make mistakes.
I’ve always been a little too interested in what celebrities are up to. I used to come home from middle school every day and peruse pop culture magazines and gossip channels before starting my homework. While I still tend to ere on the side of being in the know on all things celebrity, my relationship with the concept and its “elite” group has changed significantly.
In the past, I would read celeb headlines in open-mouth shock, borderline hurt that celebrities I liked could make such egregious errors. Now, however, there is no bewilderment or letdown on my part. Most of these headlines rely on the element of surprise: Can you believe [insert famous celebrity] would do this?! The short answer is yes, I can believe it. The long answer is celebrities are human, which obviously means they will make mistakes just like the rest of us. The only difference is that celebrities make mistakes on a grand scale and in the public eye, whereas the rest of us benefit from having a much smaller audience.
It’s important to realize that the pedestal on which society places celebrities doesn’t protect them from the consequences of their actions. They are still flawed humans who need to be held accountable, just like the rest of us. If anything, the pedestal has become more of a stumbling block that has caused some celebrities to fall farther from grace than they had to. This is largely because celebrities, like Charles and Dobrik, hide behind their pedestal as though it will shield them from having to face the repercussions of their actions.
And the pandemic has only made this more apparent to the masses. Wealth and fame have removed celebrities from the realities of the everyday person. The New York Times’ Amanda Hess described the concept of celebrity as a “spectacle of excess [that] has functioned as a bizarre appeasement for inequality.” But in 2020, this spectacle wasn’t fun to watch anymore. Celebrities made it too obvious that their pandemic experience was not the same as everybody else’s—primarily because many stars, content creators, and influencers weren’t always quick to adhere to safety and quarantine guidelines.
Again, I’m not surprised anymore when celebrities are revealed to be questionable people who think they can flout the rules. This has helped me have less of a personal stake in the concept of celebrity. I do still think accountability is of the utmost importance. Viewers are the reason why Charles and Dobrik both finally apologized. However, should they return to the internet, they’re going to have to make it very apparent they learned from their actions and grew from their mistakes. It’s also important to note that the communities they’ve harmed are the only ones who can accept their apologies.
Both James Charles and David Dobrik have repeated the same mistakes too many times for it to be an accident at this point, which I think should affect whether they’re allowed to have platforms anymore. But I’m not sure I’m in the majority with that opinion. There are still celebrities who have careers after blatantly and unapologetically being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and pedophilic. And regularly there are new people given platforms despite their past mistakes. I’m mainly looking at the two contestants on Drag Race Down Under with heinously racist pasts. In this specific example, it would have been so easy to cast people of color instead and avoid the current backlash happening online altogether.
My point is celebrities are human, and humans are disappointing. We’re riddled with flaws and imperfections. I can’t waste any more time being disappointed when celebrities make a mistake—primarily because so many celebrities aren’t interested in learning, growing, or evolving in ways that matter. Just like Bonnie Tyler, I too am wondering where all the good men have gone. But I can’t hold out any longer, let alone till the end of the night.
Keep up with pop culture trends and follow our brand-new Instagram account.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!