YouTube star Logan Paul posts controversial video, receives backlash
On a recent trip to Japan, 22 year old YouTube star Logan Paul sparked controversy after uploading a video showing the body of a recent suicide victim. Paul currently has 15 million YouTube subscribers and even more followers on other social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. Paul and his younger brother, Jake, gained online popularity in 2016 , posting vlogs of their daily life, making original raps, and even gaining roles on television shows like Disney Channel’s “Bizaardvark.”
While in Japan, Paul visited and filmed Aokigahara, a forest on the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji. The forest has many walking paths for visitors, but is known to be a frequent site for suicides attempts. The video began with a disclaimer from Paul, first cautioning viewers toward the graphic images to follow, then saying that “this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history.”
Following the disclaimer, Paul and some friends filmed their hike into Aokigahara with a guide. They discussed the forest’s role in local folklore before a cut to the next scene: a body hanging from a tree. The person’s face was blurred out, and the rest of the body and the person’s abandoned bag was in plain view.
Paul laughed loudly and told the guide to call the police before turning to the camera and explaining that suicide is not a joke. Contrary to his statement, Paul and his friends are soon joking around about the body. As the group departs the area, the atmosphere turns friendlier and less serious, as if they had never seen the body at all. At the end of the video, Paul explains that his reactions were just coping mechanisms to the shock of seeing the body and did not reflect how he truly felt about the situation.
Paul received widespread backlash for the video. Celebrities and other YouTubers took to social media to criticize Paul’s decisions to upload the video. Many questioned why Paul included the shot of the body, as well as the attention-grabbing title, if he truly cared about suicide awareness and protecting the victim.
Paul’s audience is mainly composed of young teenagers. His regular vlogs are full of pranks, exaggerated laugh shots, and childish antics. The video was up for a while before YouTube removed it, and the video was uploaded again to other sites quickly.
Junior Lahari Tammera, co-owner of Instagram activism account @proudactivists, commented that “[Paul’s audience] is impressionable, and if their idol condones this mindset, they might think that it’s okay for them to think like that as well.
In two public apologies, both criticized for being insincere and shallow, Paul says that he “didn’t do it for views,” instead “intended to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention” though he was “misguided by shock and awe.”
Although online discourse has shown an interest in suicide awareness since the video was posted, Tammera says that rather than bringing increased awareness, it “served as a trigger for those who experience suicidal thoughts.”
“The only somewhat positive effect of the video is that people can see now how deeply social media can influence others; that creators should know where to draw the line between ‘entertainment’ and endangerment,” Tammera adds.
If you are in emotional distress, please call the Montgomery County Crisis Center at 240-777-4000 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.