“… desperately trying to control the narrative in a situation where he realized doing that was impossible.”
I don’t watch Shane Dawson’s YouTube videos; or at least I should that I haven’t watched his videos in a long time. The last time Shane Dawson was at the forefront of my mind was when he was making videos in front of a camera while dressed up as various characters. Those videos weren’t my cup fo tea, so I stopped watching. I had managed to avoid any and all thoughts about Shane Dawson until he recently generated a lot of buzz with a teaser video he posted on twitter announcing a documentary series he was going to produce, the focus of which being other YouTuber Jake Paul. Now I know what you’re saying, and trust me I’m saying it too. Who cares? YouTube drama is absolutely no different from celebrity gossip, and neither one has any substance. But I was intrigued by how much everyone else was intrigued, so I watched it.
The main thing that drew me into Dawson’s new series, The Mind of Jake Paul, aside from everyone else being excited, was the teaser video itself. Everyone was going crazy from this short clip that was maybe a minute long. The clip features multiple subsidiary clips of Jake Paul videos in which he is doing ‘crazy’ things. The screen cuts to black and the title appears. What kept this video in my mind was the lack of focus or idea of what this documentary series was going to be about. And this feeling continued on into the series.
The first episode of The Mind of Jake Paul is a waste. Shane Dawson spends 40 minutes discovering who Jake Paul is, as well as setting up the series. First of all, he never truly sets up the series. He alludes to the fact that he wanted to make a series about sociopaths and then decided Jake Paul would be a good subject for that purpose, but then goes on to adamantly claim that this series is in no way a witch-hunt or a way to diagnose anyone with sociopathic tendencies. Remember this point. The biggest problem I had with this first episode is how Shane Dawson acted. Dawson has been a YouTuber pretty much since the site’s inception, but throughout this video he proved to downright oblivious to one of the website’s largest draws. There is absolutely no way that Shane Dawson literally makes a living off of YouTube, but had no idea who Jake Paul is. It doesn’t make sense any way you slice it. This brings me to one of the biggest issues I had with this series as a whole: focus.
I’m not sure what Shane Dawson’s intentions were with this series, but you can definitely tell what his intentions were for each individual episode. I’m assuming that he wants to make ‘serious’ content, but he’s smart enough to realize that people are only seeing this serious content becasue of his face. He brought them to this channel, and they are deprived of him they will leave; at least that’s what he thinks. This means that Dawson employs a bastardized version of Gonzo journalism where the focus is the storyteller (him), but for no reason other than his own hubris. There is not a moment that goes by in this series where we don’t see Shane Dawson’s reaction to something, and it’s obvious that he wants to control the show. This is most obvious in the earlier episodes when Shane Dawson routinely overreacts to rather mundane facts, which really highlight how defensive he gets when focus is shifted away from him.
But you could argue that this is just his way of making entertaining content, and that’s fine. This brings me to my next issue which is the sensationalization of the story. This documentary series is real, a fact that is repeated to us throughout its eight episodes, but much like reality television Shane Dawson understands that real life is boring. Not only does he fill these interviews and discovery periods with bouts of overacting and personal anecdotes to inject ‘life’ into an otherwise lifeless series, but he uses various tropes that are not uncommon in the reality television world. Of course becasue this series is real Shane can’t tell people how to act, but he can absolutely skew how they act with editing. Music stings are the big factor here, and more importantly how they are used to paint pictures that are totally unintentional (there’s no sarcasm font, so I hope that came across the way I intended). Shane Dawson spends his time saying things like “I’m not saying that Jake Paul is a sociopath” or “I’m not trying to diagnose Jake Paul”, all the while cutting to footage of Jake Paul with ‘scary’ sounds that he got from the free sound effects library. I get it, it’s funny to see that juxtaposition in a video. It’s entertaining which is important. But What I don’t think Shane got was that it is also very dangerous.
Mental health is definitely a serious issues. I’m sure Shane Dawson would be the first to agree becasue according to this series if you ever feel stressed there’s no need to worry becasue Shane Dawson will be there to one-up you with tales of the multiple panic attacks he had that morning. That being said, it’s weird that Dawson essentially championed these really scummy methods of attempting to diagnose Jake Paul in order to garner more interest in his series. The multiple consultations with the therapist was one thing, but bringing her undercover so she could covertly research and deliver an opinion on Jake Paul’s mental state was disgusting. Not only is this a gross precedent to set for your audience, but it’s also against every single code that healthcare professionals abide by, which immediately calls into question the legitimacy of her claims in the first place. If she was willing to break the trust of the healthcare community and more importantly here patient, why wouldn’t she be willing to lie on camera for the sake of content. He also often pretends to turn the camera off to get “real” footage which he constantly reminds us was okayed by Jake Paul, but it’s slimy nonetheless.
That’s really the core of the issue here: Shane Dawson was constantly fighting with the idea of this series being for entertainment purposes only, or a serious venture into investigative journalism. This really shows with the narrative of the series which changes drastically from episode to episode. This is becasue he was desperately trying to control the narrative in a situation where he realized doing that was impossible. This facade to unbiased and genuine journalism is frankly harmful to everyone involved. In my opinion this in no way helps Shane Dawson, it makes a victim out of Jake Paul, it sets the audience up with false expectations of mental health and the concept of a documentary series in general. Nobody wins here.
And the weirdest part is Shane Dawson trying to combat his already established style of ‘info-tainment’ in the last episode where he does no editing at all. There is a large chunk of the video that is just a raw conversation between Shane Dawson and Jake Paul, and it is fucking boring. The entire point of the series, if there ever was one, was completely lost to a conversation about Jake Paul’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Shane Dawson continues to try and make everything more about himself, and the only thing that the audience actually cared about (Jake Paul’s behaviour in his videos) was brushed off with a simple “Oh, we were just having fun”.
If I cared at all about Shane Dawson or Jake Paul I would be furious. But honestly I’m just sad for everyone who expected something good.