In the past week, there have been two heavily publicized instances of little girls stabbing their loved ones in the name of Slender Man; the first being the two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls charged last week as adults for stabbing their “best friend” last year, the second a 13-year-old in Ohio who tried to stab her mom while wearing a white mask. The media has tripped over themselves trying to explain Slender Man, and inadvertently (or purposefully) demonized Creepypasta, unsupervised Internet usage and online culture. Even those outlets that did not demonize these suspects still failed to properly portray the reach of Slender Man and the stabbings in context of the Slender Man community.
Like all killings the media takes a shine to, a large roster of armchair psychologists have come out of the woodwork to bloviate on Slender Man. Everyone, including those not qualified, especially those not qualified, are theorizing on online culture while completely glossing over the community aspect of a phenomenon like Slender Man. Folks that are qualified to write about online culture, like this lady at the Washington Post, this lady at the Verge and this gentlemen at the Awl (not linking to said trollish article), have also massively fumbled to explain these stabbings in context of the community. (Why the Verge is linking to the awful tone-deaf Awl piece is beyond comprehension, but that’s a post for another matter.)
So here’s the first thing wrong with all this Slender Man stabbing coverage: the absence of Pew Die Pie and adequate mentions of Slender Man in video games
Why is top YouTube celebrity Pew Die Pie important? Well, a large portion of his fan base comprises of girls in the same age range as the little girls stabbing their loved ones. Teens and tweens don’t watch TV as much any more, they watch YouTube and play video games. Pew Die Pie’s main claim to fame is his Slender Man videos and many little girls got into Slender Man because of his charming accent, golden locks and good looks. My now-13-year old brother used to complain all the time about how all the girls in his class are obsessed with Pew Die Pie, and subsequently Slender Man because of Pew Die Pie. My evidence is anecdotal, but that doesn’t make it less true. In the case of the Wisconsin girls, they cite and favor video game lore; they want to go to Slender Man’s mansion, which only exists in the video game. A video game made popular by Pew Die Pie.
The little girls first tried to stab their friend in a public restroom, then in the woods. Both scenes, of Slender Man catching up with you in a public restroom and in the woods, happen in the first episode of Pew Die Pie’s Slender Man video series. Is Pew Die Pie responsible for the stabbings? No, of course not.
In the case of the 13-year-old girl, her mother mentioned her daughter plays Minecraft, and the ultimate bad guy in the game is Enderman, a creepy figure the creator of Minecraft admitted to being inspired by Slender Man. Is Minecraft responsible for the stabbings? Again, no, of course not, but yet again every outlet has failed to mention the Slender Man-inspired monster in Minecraft.
The second thing wrong with all this Slender Man coverage: it glosses over the role of the community WHICH NOW INCLUDES THE PRESS in perpetuating the Slender Man myth.
Think of Slender Man as a community art project, where for years now adults, teens and tweens have been fabricating fake news articles, photographs, and even video games and comics, about Slender Man, this all-powerful, all-knowing spectre-monster with long arms (shaped like claws, or tree branches, or tentacles depending on the artist) that mind controls and kills people. When these two Wisconsin girls say they wanted to honor the Slender Man myth, to make him “real” and prove the “skeptics wrong,” it sounds more like they wanted to participate in the community by creating the most credible news article about Slender Man ever. They didn’t want to make him real by doing another photoshop, that’s already been done. So how do you make the most credible news article about Slender Man? You actually go out and make Slender Man happen in a way the news can cover.
Not only that, but these two little girls then gave their best friend the ultimate Slender Man experience by becoming Slender Man for her. It’s sick and it’s twisted, but if we are charging them as mentally fit adults we can’t say they didn’t know the line between reality and fantasy because mentally fit adults do know the line between reality and fantasy. Unless, you have two girls purposefully blurring the line between fantasy and reality in order to contribute to this online community producing Slender Man lore. Slender Man wipes memories and mind controls, remember, which is convenient for all three girls then, including the one in Ohio who say she doesn’t remember anything after trying to stab her mother.
The Wisconsin girls completely changed the meme and contributed significantly to the Slender Man community/phenomenon with their attempted murder, and by doing so in this way, have completely changed the narrative of Slender Man lore. Slender Man used to just be a fantasy. Now he is a reality. He is a reality because anyone can become a proxy for Slender Man if he or she wishes. This is evident in the stabbing of the 13-year-old girl who tried to stab her mother. Three little girls have now stabbed two people in the name of Slender Man, not in a fan fiction or in a video game, but in very, very real life. Like all things digital these days, these girls got instant feedback for it too. And not just from online.
The Verge almost got this right, when they quoted psychologist Peter Langman:
Online communities may provide stronger reinforcement than other forms of media, Langman says, because other people are providing feedback.
Any media outlet that reports on this story and fails to mention that they as an outlet are now contributing to the Slender Man myth, is laughably ignorant and dangerous. The press does not exist in a vacuum. The press cannot blame CreepyPasta and memes but not blame itself or Pew Die Pie.
In fact, the primary driver of the Slender Man myth is no longer Pew Die Pie, Minecraft, CreepyPasta, reddit, 4chan or Something Awful, but the press itself.
“I want to both have sex with her AND strangle her to death. But in which order…?”
The response? A few joking replies and little else. Not a single person objects or scolds the users. No one even clicks the “dislike” button on menace8012’s comment.
The incident is evident of a larger trend on YouTube, where sexist attitudes towards women run unchecked. It’s not just the trolls or haters in the comments section of videos; YouTubers have cyberbullied women based off their appearance since the site’s inception.
Menace8012’s comment, and the community’s response (or lack thereof), may seem extreme to the casual YouTube community safarian, but it also perfectly portrays why so few women have found success on YouTube. Many women on YouTube try to avoid this negative sexist environment by cloistering themselves in the beauty section of YouTube, but that does little to combat the anti-women sentiments running rampant throughout the rest of the site.
Like rape apologist ideology, YouTubers who silently upvote, or in this case “like,” menace8012’s comment are implying iJustine deserves the threats and derogatory comments she gets, daily, because of the way she looks and dresses. Sometimes in her videos, the blonde, blue-eyed and pretty iJustine wears a tank top and lip gloss, and that little bit of sexuality occasionally sends both genders into a sexist frenzy. Read the rest of this entry »
I present you with a comment, from the YouTube community, that I ran into the other day:
TL;DR -> it makes AdSense obsolete.
I tried to sell a story on Subbable earlier this week. Oh gods how I tried. ReadWrite, the Guardian’s tech section, even Variety… but I failed to generate interest, and/or communicate just how drastic of an impact Subbable can have on the YouTube space, business-wise.
To most of the press, Subbable appears as a gentle, crowd-sourced monthly pay-what-you-want subscription platform funding web shows that already exist. Doesn’s seem that disruptive, until you consider the allure of YouTube. The heart of the indie YouTube dream is being free, or at least above, corporate influences. If successful, Subbable could potentially do away with the advertising/hit-mining rat race on YouTube. Hank Green doesn’t exactly say this in the video introducing the platform, but he might as well.
In a private chat, I got Green to elaborate:
“Advertising values all kinds of content the same, but different kinds of content delivers different amounts of value to users. We want there to be a system that rewards the creation of stuff people love, not stuff that people will spend three minutes watching when they’re bored.”
Subbable — which is unaffiliated with YouTube — changes the YouTube money-making game because it emphasizes community and a supportive fan base over viral hits with fleeting popularity & large monetary payoffs. It’s a slow, steady win as opposed to that big payday. (It’ll be interesting to see how the addition of Minute Physics, Wheezy Waiter, and Andrew Huang next week on Subbable will play out. )
Green never came right out and said this during our chat but it got me thinking: if a content creator worked it out with his fans, he or she could essentially never bother monetizing their channel…EVER. There’s literally no reason now to go through Google corporate to make money. Their high ad cut and ad sales team are already alienating users and businesses, so why bother with that hot mess? You don’t.
I, for one, still believe in that YouTube dream.
There is one notable narrative in The Mckenzie Ivey Web Show (which had only 16 episodes): the loss of her Russian hamster JubJub.
Appearing in “MY HAMSTER PIMP 333″ on September 4, 2010 , Jubjub is promptly lost on September 19. kenzieivey once again chair dances to Souja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag” in “jubjub where are you,” as if to lure the hamster out.
And then almost like an afterthought, the 10ish-year-old girl uploads another video with the same title, this time explaining her predicament.
Jubjub is not to be found, however. kenzieivey lets the people of YouTube know, in “the hamsters gone,” uploaded on October 17th. Jubjub has been missing for more than a month.
kenzieivey lost interest in The Mckenzie Ivey Web Show shortly thereafter, and joined an elite list of tween YouTubers I wouldn’t mind having as my younger sibling.
The WSJ had erroneously reported Google is pledging an additional $200 million in its premium content channel’s marketing budget. This caused a “rais[ing of] eyebrows” as it made the pledged total marketing budget $400 million. That’s a shit ton of money, especially when you consider Google only gave 150 million to the content creators. A 150 million pie being split with 100 channels! “Channels,” which equate to established YouTube celebrities AND people like Felicia Day, Deepak Chopra and Kevin Smith, AND their entire film and production crews. (Tiny pie slices, ’cause we’re all on diets, right?)
Established YouTubers have complained about this injustice, this discrepancy in funding which they claim proves Google doesn’t take what they do seriously – (how can you compete with TV if you don’t invest properly in the content, Google!?) – and this additional $200 million figure (and slight) was cause for more complaint.
According to this executive, the funding his company received from Google allows it to spend about $1,000 a minute on each video production made for its channel.
“But $1,000 a finished minute is not enough,” he explained. “You need to get to around $2,100. At $1,000 a minute, you’re pulling favors every time you do a shoot. If you’re just pulling a location permit in L.A., it’s going to cost you $900.”
Long story short, Google told TNW they are not investing $400 million. The WSJ was confusing that time in May when Google pledged $200 towards marketing its premium content. Oops!!
Shortly after that WSJ article was posted, RWW founder Richard MacManus sends me a link to it on skype:
[7/31/2012 3:57:39 PM] Richard MacManus: Have you seen this Fruzsina? http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10000872396390444840104577549632241258356-lMyQjAxMTAyMDMwMDAzODA3Wj.html
[7/31/2012 3:58:14 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: no!
[7/31/2012 3:58:32 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: the wall street journal always publishes news that is years old, pretending it’s fresh
[7/31/2012 3:59:00 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: google already pledged 200 mil in advertising
[7/31/2012 4:04:03 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: I don’t find anything informative about this article…
[7/31/2012 4:04:15 PM] fruzsina.eordogh: it has a nice chart
So, you know that part in the skype chat where I said the WSJ likes to publish news that is “years old, pretending it’s fresh?” I was referring to this time in February 2012 when the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Ray William Johnson being YouTube’s first millionaire. (RWJ became YouTube’s first millionaire in April 2011.)
Please note the 49 comments on that RWJ article, many of which are from YouTubers pointing out various factual inaccuracies in the article. RWJ even ranted about how horrible the article was in an episode of his show (a very rare move)… and it looks like the WSJ NEVER BOTHERED to correct all of those factual inaccuracies, nor did they apologize.
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