Columnist raves about Shane Dawson’s YouTube transformation

By Hallie Underwood, ’20

My phone buzzes and a Youtube notification appears. When it’s David Dobrik, Colleen Ballinger or Cody Ko, I feel a rush of excitement knowing that when I return home from school, a new video from one of my favorite YouTubers will be in my inbox. For me, and for many of my peers for that matter, YouTube has become a new, primary source of entertainment.

For David Dobrik, 4 minutes and 20 seconds tells the story of three days in the life of the Vlog Squad. For Colleen Ballinger, I’m caught in a spiral of beautiful pregnancy and mom videos. I’m a lover of Cody Ko because his humor is unmatched: his commentary, along with his best friend Noel Miller, is authentic, unapologetic and simply clever.

But it’s different when Youtuber Shane Dawson uploads. It’s always long-awaited. It’s always been advertised on his Instagram and everybody’s viewing it over and over, trying to analyze every second.

Dawson has been on YouTube for nearly a decade. From homemade skits to videos of him making Taco Bell cake and setting toys on fire (I couldn’t make this up if I tried), Dawson’s channel has gone through a drastic evolution.

Being a fan for many years, I have been able to see firsthand his content develop into something beyond anything I have ever seen. I remember watching a three-part series on reuniting with his father early on.

He was sure to document everything. Every anxious comment, every bit of sadness and confusion from his mother and boyfriend. He met his father at a trailer in which he lived and sat around a campfire by the beach, talking about the early days in his parents’ relationship and asking tough questions about leaving Shane and his mom in his childhood.

Shane Dawson is becoming Youtube’s documentarian, spending months on a ‘series’ that comes with 30-minutes-to-one-hour-long videos anywhere from one to eight parts.

His most notable series so far consists of his videos on ‘Tanacon’, Jeffree Star and Jake Paul. Tanacon investigated who was to blame for the independent Youtube convention hosted by Tana Mongeau that shortly failed and left thousands of fans dehydrated, hungry, crowded and soon without refunds. Jeffree Star was a five-part series on a YouTube makeup artist with millions of dollars and an interesting past.

Most recently, and possibly most notably, “The Mind of Jake Paul” is about YouTuber and vlogger in which the series is named, investigating sociopathic behavior as well as uncovering secrets about his family, his past, and Team 10.

I have watched these videos once and often twice. I watch them with pretzels and hummus after school and frantically text my best friend to discuss as soon as it is finished. Admittedly, they’re sometimes on again in the background while I do my math homework or lighting up my face before I go to bed, too. Sometimes I’m thinking about his videos in between class periods and just trying to wrap my head around it.

YouTube has come such a long way in terms of what is expected from creators. Sure, it can be entertaining to put on a long, drawn-out video of Trisha Paytas eating fast food or Tana Mongeau telling a crazy story about her eviction. YouTube isn’t all fluff anymore. And I can’t get enough of it. I can’t get enough Shane Dawson.

Shane Dawson is being careful and particular. I’m a journalist, and subsequently a lover of storytelling and the truth. When I watch Shane, I can see that he is setting a precedent for the website when he values these two aspects of content. I surely can’t verify Shane’s truths, merely because it’s only Shane, his cameraman Andrew, and a couple of interview subjects in the room. Shane is the one editing afterward. Nonetheless, his videos are authentic in that they are interview style: Shane and the interviewee.

There’s nothing really fancy about it. A lot of YouTubers seem to feel like flashy is the way to get attention. In the era of clickbait, it’s refreshing to watch Shane build upon truth and still be entertaining. He builds suspense even in long pauses and release dates that are weeks away.

It’s good to hear that millions of people are liking Shane’s videos. It challenges our short attention spans and gives us content that has a little bit more purpose than prank videos or Fortnite tutorials.

I am excited to see what Shane is planning for the future. I’m excited to hurry home from school and spend an hour engaged in interviews from otherwise unfavorable influencers in the YouTube community and beyond. I am excited that Shane is paving the way for YouTubers, and setting a standard for teenage entertainment.