Comments sections are full of speculation about YouTube’s apparent preferential treatment towards Logan Paul. Many have postulated that Logan is a cash cow, a golden boy, and that YouTube has invested too much in him already for him to really face consequences. That may be true, but what’s more interesting is how he has come to inhabit this zone of apparent immunity.
Logan Paul has been hard to avoid these last couple of months. His recent actions and their impact on the broader community have made him a target of heated criticism across the internet. Subscriber or not, Logan Paul news has likely infested your feeds.
For more context, let’s go back about a year to PewDiePie and the beginning of the Adpocalypse. The Wall Street Journal story that framed PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg) as a Nazi sympathizer also led to a crisis over brand safety and what content can be considered advertiser-friendly. Suddenly, YouTube had to make a lot of rules very quickly, starting with consequences for Felix, including the cancellation of his YouTube Red series.
More broadly, new and stricter guidelines, designed to satisfy advertisers and enforced by bots, resulted in widespread demonetization and very little feedback for creators trying to keep their AdSense revenue. This problem is well-known and on-going. But despite the struggles the average creator must overcome to collect AdSense revenue, Logan Paul’s videos, apart from a brief suspension from YouTube’s Partner Program that lasted just a couple of weeks, have continued earning.
Beyond the clearly distasteful manner in which Logan addressed the body he and his crew found in Japan’s Suicide Forest, much of the outrage surrounding this issue stems YouTube’s response as a platform — a video with a dead body literally in the thumbnail made it into YouTube’s top trending, and it was Logan, not YouTube, who eventually removed the video from the platform. Compared to YouTube’s reaction to the PewDiePie fiasco, punishment for Logan Paul has been perceived as slow and underwhelming. The suspension of his YouTube Original is expected to be lifted, and his removal from the YouTube Preferred Partner program seemed like an afterthought.
The comparison between Logan and Felix is an easy one to make — they both have merch, they both have legions of devoted fans and they have both been at the center of a media sh**storm. However, Felix has never been particularly ad-friendly, while Logan Paul is basically making ads already — for his merch, for his brand, for his lifestyle of excess and unbridled spending — which is exactly the kind of content that attracts the kind of audience advertisers want. Logan Paul has made himself saleable in a way that PewDiePie hasn’t. And YouTube, whether consciously or not, bought into Logan’s brand — the Maverick “revolution” — as much as anyone.
Brands are palatable — they’re designed to spark desire in a lot of people, which means they must be morally and ideologically safe. Logan has become all but inseparable from the Maverick brand, which insists that you can be whoever you want, do whatever you want and never care about what other people think.
The pervasive branding throughout his channel should make Logan safe, appealing, palatable. And Logan Paul is palatable, likable even — until he’s not. On the surface, Maverick represents a positive message for young people looking for their place in the world, but like all branding, that message is undercut by the desire to sell you something: You can be yourself, but only when you wear these socks with my parrot on them. You can experience all this opulence and freedom, but only through my videos.
In The Existential Horror of Logan Paul, YouTuber Big Joel explains the trap Logan has crafted for himself. Because nothing can exist outside of the Maverick brand — now inextricable from Logan’s identity — anything and everything captured in the vlog must support that brand. Joel describes Logan as interacting with the world as if it were a cardboard cut out. He says, “When you transform yourself into a commodity, it’s hard to make a sense of connection or meaning feel genuine.” Similarly, Philip DeFranco, in his first episode about the controversy, says of Logan’s vlogging practices, “Everything is content, and when everything is content, nothing is sacred.” PewDiePie puts it more bluntly: “Logan is a straight-up sociopath.”
Because Logan has become so consumed by branding, nothing external can be real or meaningful. Everything must be jammed into the Maverick narrative, which states that you can and should do anything you want. And because the Marverick/Logan Paul brand was — and still is — so powerful, it has hidden Logan’s less appealing qualities long enough for them to reach a critical mass and explode out of the brand’s well-crafted seams and into the eye of the public.
Though Logan is still under a probation period that prevents his videos from receiving Google Preferred ads and appearing in Trending or Recommended, it’s clear that, at least in the eyes of YouTube, those seams are already being mended.