Another YouTube star kicked off another project.
Kian Lawley is the latest YouTube star to be booted from a widespread release, after video footage of him making racist comments was unearthed online.
Fox announced that the 22 year old Lawley would be removed from the upcoming film The Hate U Give, after the video, which has since been removed from YouTube, surfaced. The film, which is based on the young adult novel of the same name, centers around a black girl who witnesses the shooting of her friend by a white police officer.
Lawley, who was to play the boyfriend of the main character, apparently used racial slurs more than once, as well as other disturbing language, in the 12-second clip. Fox plans to, according to a studio representative, “recast the role of Chris and reshoot scenes as needed”.
Lawley shares a YouTube channel with fellow YouTuber Jc Caylen, and, depending on the clickbait level of the title, views generally range from 500,000 to within the millions. They have just under three million followers, and most of their videos are of the standard YouTuber fare: challenges, “react videos,” etc. Lawley also co-stars in the Fullscreen show H8ters with Kian and JC, which premiered last April.
He has since tweeted out an apology for the incident.
With that being said, I am fully aware of the mistakes I have made and strive every day to become a better me than I was yesterday. We all have a voice, whether it’s big or small, we need to use it to spread love & light. From now on, I plan to use my voice for positive change.
— Kian Lawley (@KianLawley) February 6, 2018
Lawley’s story seems more the norm than a exception these days when it comes to YouTube stars fumbling outside of the video hosting site. Jake Paul, a now-infamous YouTuber known for having 13 million followers and being generally obnoxious, was dropped from the Disney show Bizaardvark and while not explicitly stated, that was assumed to be the result of his online antics. His brother Logan Paul more recently has come under fire for a vlog in which he filmed a still-hanging dead body. Any prospects in movies and TV he might have had might also now be squashed.
Jonathan Jafari, known on YouTube as “JonTron,” had voice work he’d done for Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee removed after he made racist and anti-immigration comments. PewDiePie, creator of one of the site’s most successful channels, lost his ties with Disney Maker Studios over antisemitic videos that featured the star.
All five YouTubers arguably present content aimed at young people — two are gaming channels, three are loud, flashy “challenge channels” — and all found themselves deservedly shut out when they attempted to move past the YouTube world.
But what is it about YouTube that seems to be such a strange breeding ground for stars who are arguably at a level of fame matching movie and TV actors and who are also prone to having such an easily accessible dark past?
The obvious answer is that the public just isn’t that interested in properly boycotting famous people, no matter how ugly their past deeds — Mel Gibson still finds work, after all — but it can not be denied that YouTube, even if the channel owner making terrible comments is making those comments in videos meant for children, continues to support high-profile YouTubers even in the face of controversy.
PewDiePie is an ideal example. Literal years of racist language, sexist language, antisemitic language (and videos of him holding antisemitic signage) later, PewDiePie continues to benefit wildly from YouTube’s money-for-views algorithm. In just June 2016 to June 2017, a year when many of his actions came to a more public light, he still managed to pocket $12 million. While YouTube did remove him from their YouTube Red series program, he, a now-known racist, continues to make a more than lucrative career off of YouTube.
It’s not a matter of saying that PewDiePie, or Lawley, should continue to profit from YouTube because they continue to get views. Remember the other tie that binds all these YouTubers together — they all appeal to young children. One of the most disturbing facets of many in the news channel video featuring Jake Paul terrorizing his neighborhood is the fans waiting for and watching him. Most look like very young teenagers. The onus should be on YouTube to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech, instead of what it has now, which is a strange policy where “controversial religious or supremacist content” is not removed, but moved to a place less easy to find on the site.
Lawley, while no longer a part of The Hate U Give, can’t be too worried. If anything, he can go back to YouTube, and continue to enjoy making a living vlogging, without the threat of being forced to take responsibility for his actions.