Don't get me wrong — I'm a fan of Shane Dawson. I've been watching him for a while now, even before his fast food/food combination videos, or vlogs with Trisha Paytas and Drew Monson. His content has obviously changed, and I think he's made a lot of interesting and positive changes. However, I don't think Shane Dawson is above criticism — and I think he would agree with me on that!
Dawson has recently focused on creating longer and more detailed videos rather than trying to get a video out every day of the week. Bringing along Andrew Siwicki to film and help edit allowed a new era of Shane Dawson content. Now, we had content that was much longer than most YouTube videos and made with greater effort. The editing, the people he would collaborate with, and the ideas behind them were captivating and attention-grabbing. Not only that, but he was still the same Shane that his subscribers loved. His personality, as well as the changes he made, have paved way for his very successful docuseries. His hard work was obvious, and it paid off. I'm proud of the changes he has made and am amazed at how successful his changes have been.
However, with change often comes criticism.
Dawson has made several docuseries on different YouTubers, including Trisha Paytas, Grav3yardgirl, and Jeffree Star. Recently, however, Shane Dawson has been criticized for his recent series regarding Jake Paul and the Paul family. The series was supposed to go into what a sociopath is and what that means for the Paul family. Many viewers were critical of Dawson's choice to work with Jake Paul, considering his past history and questionable actions. Jake Paul and his family have been rightfully criticized by many. Jake Paul and his family have been rightfully criticized by many; Jake Paul's actions have been morally disappointing and damaging, such as doxing artist Post Malone or wreaking havoc in his own neighborhood — to the point where his neighbors were considering a lawsuit against Paul. Aside from Jake Paul, his brother, Logan, has also done pretty questionable things; perhaps his most famous atrocity was an international controversy, which was the filming of a suicide victim in the Japanese forest Aokigahara. For a lot of viewers, the most frustrating aspect of the Paul brothers is that despite their behavior, they have only increased their views and subscribers — seemingly, their actions really don't have that bad of consequences.
Dawson has acknowledged people's concerns and understands where people are coming from. He explained that his main intention was to talk about sociopathy and individuals who lack empathy – Jake Paul came into the mix a bit later. Personally, I can understand why he decided to collaborate with Paul, as their collaboration makes an interesting video and invites a large audience – 20 million viewers for the first episode, to be exact.
The criticism has not stopped there, however. Many viewers were upset with episode two, The Dark Side of Jake Paul, of his Jake Paul series and with good reason. Episode two was mostly a conversation between Dawson and a licensed therapist (as well as YouTuber) Kati Morton. The conversation between the two had some concerning moments: when discussing the characteristics of a sociopath, Morton referred to certain behaviors and symptoms as "creepy" or "icky." Many people in the comments were shocked, considering that Morton is a licensed therapist. It is not appropriate for a therapist to call certain behaviors regarding a mental condition as "creepy," especially since there are already many misconceptions concerning mental illnesses and disorders. Mental health professionals are expected to be nonjudgmental when conducting their work, so to hear a therapist talk about these behaviors in such a negative manner was truly disheartening.
There was also little clarity regarding the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths, and viewers thought that Morton had not done a great job explaining the distinction between the two. Dawson later added an explanation of the difference in the video description, stating that he had edited the explanation out of the video. The explanation Dawson gave was that psychopaths are born whereas sociopathy is developed in life. In reality, the terms sociopathy, psychopathy, and antisocial personality disorder and their deviations are much more complicated, and it would have been more appropriate if Dawson had a conversation with a professional who could have explained antisocial personality disorder in more technical terms.
Many commentators on Dawson's video were also concerned with how Morton said she recognized specific mental disorders. She had stated that she gets a "feeling" when confronted with someone who may have a potential mental issue – specifically when she stated she had a "feeling" that Dawson was struggling with eating disorders. This statement makes it seem that diagnosing someone is actually very easy and that clinicians just get a "feeling" which is certainly not true. Diagnosis needs actual evidence that can be quantified and observed — a clinician cannot diagnose someone based off of intuition.
Aside from the misinformation and questionable words from Morton, another critique of the episode was how dramatized it was. Dawson and Morton talked about how a sociopath might put "sad" music during a sad scene in a video, or "happy" music during a happy video scene. Most of the conversation when describing sociopaths had creepy music in the background — but when Dawson and Morton began talking about Dawson and how he is what people would call an empath, gentle music was playing in the background. I'm not sure if Dawson purposely did this, but nonetheless, it was a weird moment and just felt odd.
Aside from the choice of background music, Dawson and Siwicki edited the whole conversation to seem creepy and off-putting with sound effects, additional media clips, and so on. Dawson addressed the criticism and talked about the dramatization of the dialogue, explaining that he wanted to make the video scary, as that is what makes his content entertaining. I understand this explanation— he's an entertainer, his job is to make things interesting. However, considering the topic being a mental health condition, I believe that if Dawson had sat with a professional and talked about sociopathy in technical terms, it would not only have been interesting but also a breath of fresh air. There is so much misconception in the media about mental disorders — especially antisocial personality disorders — that it would have been nice to see a big content creator actually have a technical conversation, address the misinformation with a professional who studies and understands these disorders, and educate their viewers. Instead, this video spread more misinformation for the sake of entertainment.
Here is a video by an expert in the mental health field who addresses the misinformation in Dawson's series as well as explains the disorder in technical terms — I think Dr. Todd L. Grande did a great job addressing the concerns as well as informing his audience in a professional manner!
What did Kati Morton get wrong about Antisocial Personality Disorder? (Shane Dawson Interview) www.youtube.com
I appreciate that Dawson addressed the criticism of his dramatization and that he changed some of his editing after episode two. I'm NOT saying that Shane Dawson or Kati Morton are terrible, heartless people. From what I know of them, they seem to be genuinely nice and caring people, and as I said before, I'm a fan of Shane and of the new content he's creating. However, I believe that they made mistakes and that the damage of these mistakes has already been done. Many of the points I brought up in this article — which are shared by many — have not been addressed by Dawson. Not only that, but many of his fans brushed off these concerns as being "hate," which is discouraging considering that many of these points are criticisms that should be acknowledged.
The viewers who shared these concerns are not trolls who just comment insults and hate; they have genuine fears and want Dawson and company to understand their criticisms and do better in the future. These criticisms are in an effort to stop misconceptions about mental disorders. These points are valid, and should not be equated as hate. I hope that other content creators take note of these critiques and are careful not to make the same mistakes. Perhaps after the criticisms of the Jake Paul series, there will be a better and more productive dialogue on mental disorders from here on out.