“Who Is Your Hero?”

I’ve been on YouTube longer than almost the history of my entire public school education. I remember the days where I would await whatever FRED video would be posted. The days where cats playing pianos were just the start of talent —before keyboard cat. Where the Numa Numa guy was cool and not a meme yet, not that we had memes back then. I mean, I would find just about anything cool when I was like 10 years old on the internet. Thankfully I was sensible enough to find Shane Dawson’s occasionally racist skit videos distasteful. (Along with Onision’s content, who has somehow remained unabashedly negative? Come on, dude. It’s 2018.)

In my Foundations of Story class, we were asked to think of our personal hero. A hero, for the introduction assignment, was defined as “a figure in any medium whose exploits and life demonstrate admirable skill or exceptional persistence.” I could’ve chosen my parents or any celebrity figure or fictional hero. It took me a long time to think of different people who were inspiring to me that I would consider a hero. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about different YouTubers and debating with myself over which one to choose until I looked at the back of my phone to find Shane Dawson’s Illuminati popsocket. It was then I realized that Shane was my hero, duh. Which definitely sounds confusing based upon the last paragraph: let me elaborate.

I started really watching YouTube videos —albeit somewhat addictively— around 2015, and I know this because I switched from a cringy old channel to a newer one. I’m fairly certain I rediscovered Shane through collabs with Joey Graceffa. I remember being surprised, considering my last memory (at the time) of Shane was him being painfully obnoxious and extra in ways that made me uncomfortable. For Joey to do a collab with him was unexpected, but it made me reconsider watching Shane if someone as #familyfriendly as Joey was including him on his channel. Shane’s channel had changed significantly, and so I resubscribed.

It’s been almost three years now that I’ve been following him again, and wow. He’s changed a ton. Instead of creating the problematic content from the late 2000’s, now Shane is producing high quality content on a near daily basis about things he is genuinely interested in. You can tell when someone’s enjoying themselves, and you can tell he’s passionate about his content nowadays. I respect and am inspired by the dedication it takes to produce multiple great videos every week that often require loads of research (for the conspiracy videos especially) or even coordinating schedules with other people on a basic level. I tried coordinating schedules once and you know what happened? Nothing.

In addition, Shane has been wildly open about his own personal struggles. Of course, being a well-known figure on the internet is going to lead to your life being less private than the average person, but Shane has spoken out his own issues —whether it be on YouTube or his books I Hate MySelfie and It Gets Worse— concerning eating disorders, his sexuality, and other personal information like his relationships. It takes a lot of personal strength to come to terms with your personal struggles, and a monumental amount to talk about them online for millions of viewers to see. I value that and aspire to be that certain and honest to not only others, but myself especially as well.

In the past few months, Shane has also featured other smaller content creators and given them a platform to support their talent endeavors and promote them to his own audience. A few people from Fiverr including Antonia Marquee and Jesus Christ. Then there’s also the Psychic Twins, Terry and Linda Jamison who already had a following via other resources but were able to establish themselves on YouTube to his help. He also boosted a vastly talented young singer/songwriter by the name of Sophie Pecora. In some of his videos he also hires a child actor by the name of Christopher to act as a son as a joke for a fake family as a sort of test run for the real deal. Both the latter two children had their families around during the filming and spoke highly of Shane’s professionalism.

When I went to share with my class who my hero was, the day before a very quickly debunked accusation was spread about Shane (which stemmed from a chopped up, out of context audio piece of a shitty joke he had made during his offensive years). I almost changed my answer to the prompt due to the fear of what people would think who had only followed media headlines instead of investigating to find the truth themselves. I worried they would think I supported someone who wasn’t a good person. I recoiled from that selfish thought once it arose and I couldn’t even imagine how I would feel if I was accused of such things, nonetheless how Shane must’ve felt.

I went into class the next day and still declared him my hero, because he truly is and it would be wrong to say he wasn’t. I doubt Shane will ever see this, but he inspires me to be my truest self and strive for the best in others and my own work. If I had alcohol, I’d raise him a glass. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not. So, thanks Shane! 😁