Of Barrels and Bros

Ranked fifteen in numbers of Subscribers on Youtu-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not now, Pewds! I’m trying to introduce you!

So, PewDiePie is ranked fifteenth by number of subscribers and third (as of 10/25/12) in terms of new subscribers over the last 30 days.  Felix Arvid Kjellberg–sadly his legal name is not PewDiePie–, is by his own description  “just a guy from Sweden who likes to laugh and make other people laugh”. Let’s just validate him as not just another YouTuber briefly:

PewDiePie/PewDie/Pewds has 2.4 million subscribers on YouTube, and the number has drastically risen since the last time he felt the need to update that information on Facebook:

 

 

 

 

 

 

That post is from March 28th. Here is the relevance:

March 28th: 300, 000 Subscribers.

October 25th: 2, 477,948 Subscribers.

By now you’ve either stopped reading or you’re wondering what he actually does to get that many subscribers so fast. Here’s a hint:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wait, wrong one. Try to erase that from your memory.  Here’s what he does, (Click it! But be weary of  loud adult/12-year old humor.)

Yes, his job is literally playing random video games and making an ass of himself. (Before you ask: he has a girlfriend and she also has a YouTube channel, he has been interviewed on Swedish television, he’s been crowned King of the Web, and defeated the master barrel.)

PewDiePie could easily just be content with just posting 2 videos a day, seven days a week (pretty consistently actually). But Pewds goes the extra mile to keep in touch with his ‘Bros’ — the term he uses for his viewers/subscribers/followers on all social media/network sites. As opposed to ‘normal’ celebrities, everything that ‘PewDiePie’ is is because of social media and social networking sites. I myself found out about PewDiePie through a friend on Facebook. PewDie does not have a hot new single, a new movie to act in or direct, or a best seller novel. Felix Kjellberg is PewDiePie thanks only to his Bros and the connection between the two entities. Pewds could (and does) literally say to his fans “Without You, I’m Nothing“. In the study from the journal of communication, Papacharissi discusses how twitter users project themselves through two different methods, affect and play. These two combine for the typical Twitter user to form their projected self.

What does that have to do with Pewds?

This:  is PewDiePie’s Twitter profile picture.  (In case you’re wondering it’s a faceswap with one of his dogs).

PewDiePie’s Twitter channel is very active. Knowing that his fan base is his livelihood, PewDie spends time responding to questions and random quips for attention for what seems like hours on end:

(Clicking on the picture above opens a bigger version of it and clicking on his twitter profile picture directs to his twitter page. )

PewDiePie’s active fan base can easily communicate with someone who responds directly to their tweets and that is something they can all be sure of. PewDie has no ‘staff’ like ‘normal’ celebrities. In order to keep his fanbase happy and positive, PewDie has to have a consistent positive persona like the persona that his fans have grown accustomed to in his videos. As Papacharissi wrote;

In constructing identities as performances, imagining, mimicking, and restoring behaviors become essential processes in assembling a performative repertoire.

PewDiePie’s twitter feed is extremely playful, using the spelling, syntax, emoticon structure (differentiating between  =D and :D) of the people he is replying to. PewDiePie’s tweets that are not responses however are clearly and simply written without too many links or excessive smileys. How planned out some of this may feel could lead to believe that PewDiePie is performing a theatrical persona  but that would be misleading.

Hugo Liu, who defined four types of taste statements (Prestige, Differentiation, Authenticity, and Theatrical),  would not disagree with the following statement and all it translates into: Pewds loves his bros. I am certain Liu thought he would say those exact words at some point of his life.  What I mean by “Pewds loves his Bros” has two meanings. The first is that PewDiePie is being authentic, or at least is conveying a sense of authenticity. According to the semiotics of fashion and Liu (both things PewDiePie obviously thinks about while writing his tweets),

authenticity is associated with a relaxed style and the display of slight imperfection

PewDie seems relaxed and laid back in all his interactions, he is playful and never delves deeply on some topics. ‘Pewds loves his bros’ and it shows by him seeming relaxed and posting honestly, without an agenda in mind. BUT NO, PEWDIE IS A BARREL! (Barrels are commonly found in a lot of games and it is a common trope in PewDie’s videos to not trust ‘Barrels’. If you’re not on the bandwagon, I know how this sounds.) The reason why I wrote ‘Pewds loves his bros’ and not ‘Felix Arvid Kjellberg loves his YouTube subscribers’ is because, although I believe Pewds/Felix genuninely cares about his bros/subscribers, he is performing a theatrical persona on social media/network sites.

In Liu’s research, theatrical personas carry a negative connotation. He writes “some profiles seemed intent on creating and inhabiting a caricature or theatrical persona”. The words come off as loaded and negative. For someone who’s line of work depends on their personality however, a theatrical persona is a necessity.  PewDiePie is not the only one to do ‘Let’s play’s on YouTube, what I believe makes PewDie one of the most popular ones is the theatrical performances he puts out for his viewers. This entire blog post feeds into that theatrical persona. All the pictures of PewDiePie in this post so far are of him doing what created his strong, and loyal fanbase: random goofy things without caring what he looked like on the camera. Below is what Felix Kjellberg looks like without a grimace:

(This is PewDiePie’s way of ending most of his videos, a ‘brofist’)

So which is it? Is Pewds a bro or a BARREL? (Why caps?). Is PewDiePie authentic or just a caricature?  Marwick and Boyd  suggested that there are different versions of authenticity for different situations.

there is no such thing as universal authenticity; rather, the authentic is a localized, temporally situated social construct that varies widely based on community.

The notion of  authentic online identity is a complex one. Let’s step away from Pewds for a second. People generally do not act the same when they are with their parents and when they are with their best friends: that does not make us dishonest or inauthentic in either situation. Situation ‘X’ calls for behavior ‘X’. Back to Pewds: the PewDiePie Facebook page and Felix Kjellberg’s Facebook page are two different and clearly defined identities. There is a simple reason why Felix cannot be PewDie  all the time, it would like some of us always behaving like they are with their parents even if they are with their friends. Different audiences call for different personalities. Pewds loves his bros: most of them are just subscribed to him, the most hardcore follow his Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook (Felix and PewDie), post on his dedicated website, send him mail (lots of it), and even make songs for him. But all the bros love PewDie because of the personality he exudes in his videos.

In the end however, Marwick and Boyd hit the mark:

Whether we are viewed as authentic depends on the definition imposed by the person doing the judging.

Is Pewds/Felix authentic or not? I’ll let you decide that… like, with a poll:

Try not to laugh.

 

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