Who is Logan Paul and why is everybody mad at him?
Logan Paul is a 22-year-old YouTube star originally from Westlake, Ohio, and over the weekend he posted a video of his visit to an attraction in Japan known as the “suicide forest,” which included footage of the body of a man who had apparently recently hanged himself. Paul has since apologized and taken the video down, but not before it earned more than 6 million views.
That’s horrible! But what did he do in the video?
Though it’s no longer on Paul’s official YouTube page, others captured and uploaded the 15-minute-long vlog. “This is not clickbait. This is the most real vlog I’ve ever posted on this channel,” Paul announces on a city street as the video begins, attempting to set a somber tone as melodramatic music plays. “I’m not monetizing this video for obvious reasons. I will say, before you watch, this is graphic. I think this definitely marks a moment in YouTube history.” The solemnity does not last long: “Now with that said, buckle the fuck up, because you’re never going to see a video like this again.”
After a bit of setup (jokes about how Mount Fuji isn’t where Fiji Water comes from, the donning of a funny alien hat), Paul and his crew unload a tent and supplies to camp in the forest. “I will say, if I’m getting haunted by a ghost, I’m gonna do it in my [expletive bleeped out] Gucci jacket. I want to look good,” Paul says, pulling an embroidered jacket out of his car’s trunk.
But soon after entering the forest, the crew notices something amiss. “I really hate to say this. I think there’s someone hanging right there,” Paul says with the affect of a Scooby Doo character (zoinks!). His companions alternately smile awkwardly and curse. (“I think you’re [bleep]ing right.”) The camera moves closer, blurring the body’s face. “Hello? Yo, are you alive, you [bleep]ing with us?” they call out. Paul asks someone to call the police. They eventually film the body from only about a foot away. “His hands are purple. He did this this morning,” someone says. “I’m so sorry about this, Logang. This was supposed to be a fun vlog,” Paul says, addressing his fans. He declares that suicide is not a joke and that they hadn’t intended to encounter any dead bodies, just ghosts. Less than a minute later, though, they’re back to joking. “I don’t feel very good,” someone says from behind the camera. “What, you never stand next to a dead guy?” Paul says, cracking up. The camera shows the dead man several more times. They stick around as the authorities show up. Perhaps sensing the moment requires something other than his usual goofy bonhomie, Paul attempts another this-is-serious disclaimer: “Me smiling and laughing is not a portrayal of how I feel about the circumstances,” Paul warns fans. He nearly ends the video by encouraging them to seek help if they need it but then adds, “Is it bad if I do the subscribe … maybe … ” he asks, before deciding to go for it. “If you’re not a part of the Logang, make sure to subscribe. Tomorrow’s vlog, I promise you, will be much happier than this.”
Eesh! How mad is everyone?
How was his apology, though?
In a statement he posted to Twitter on Monday, Paul claims that he thought he “could make a positive ripple on the internet, not cause a monsoon of negativity.” His intention was to raise awareness and save lives, he claims, but he admits he was “misguided.” Making a 15-minute video every day for the past 460-plus days, “it’s easy to get caught up in the moment,” he writes, but “with great power comes great responsibility … It won’t happen again.” The apology, however, did little to stop the criticism.
There’s more than one of these doofuses, right? Who is the other Paul?
Jake Paul is also a whole thing.
How famous are these guys?
So, so famous. Jake Paul has 12.7 million YouTube subscribers to older brother Logan’s 15.2 million. (They’re worldwide, too, with legions of fans in places as far-flung as Dubai, where Logan hosted what he claimed was the largest meetup ever.) Whereas Logan fans are part of the “Logang,” Jake fans are known collectively as “Jake Paulers,” and there’s a helpful video to watch to figure out if you are one. The two originally rose to prominence on Vine, the now-defunct platform for 6-second videos. Both have done some acting and music (Jake’s rap, “It’s Everyday, Bro,” is one of YouTube’s all-time most-disliked videos) but remain best known for their vlogs and prank videos à la Jackass and Punk’d. Jake has said that while Logan is focused on being an entertainer, he aspires to moguldom. To that end, he commands his own talent company/squad of influencers/extended universe known as Team 10. One of its members is a first-grader. For more anecdotal evidence of their reach with young fans, who tend to be tweens of both genders, look at what happened when Jake Paul recently hosted a pop-up shop in New York: Fans waited outside for hours with their weary parents, eager to spout catchphrases from videos, build their own vlogging chops, and spend hundreds of dollars on merch. Previously, a pop-up store in Los Angeles had to be shut down due to out-of-control crowds.
What about Aaron Paul, any relation?
No. In fact, Aaron Paul posted an angry tweet about the video.
Jake and Logan look a lot like John Early. Is he a secret Paul brother?
No, though the comedian is probably well-positioned to make a parody of some sort.
So people can really make a career out of this YouTube thing, huh?
People have been making careers out of this YouTube thing for a while now. The Paul brothers ranked fourth (Logan) and seventh (Jake) on Forbes’ recent list of highest paid YouTube stars—they are worth a reported $12.5 and $11.5 million, respectively. What’s more, kids of today list YouTube star as their top career aspiration (at least according to one survey), so this nonsense isn’t going away anytime soon.
The Pauls have been in hot water before, right?
Yes, a few times. Jake is actually more controversy prone: This summer, Los Angeles news outlets reported that he had turned his neighborhood into a “war zone” due to fans clogging its streets as well as his various dangerous stunts and pranks. This may have gotten him kicked off the Disney show he was appearing on, Bizaardvark. Jake has also feuded with a set of brothers known as the Martinez twins as well as an ex-girlfriend, who then recorded a diss track about him. As the Washington Post put it, the brothers “ ‘fight’ and reconcile endlessly in vlogs, pranks and dis tracks.” (It’s not unlike pro wrestling!) Jake Paul also made headlines during 2017’s hurricane season, when he drove to Texas to “save thousands of lives” from Harvey but inevitably sowed more chaos thanks to his mob of fans. One lesson from all of this: The more drama you generate, the more follow-up vlogs you can record.
What’s the moral of this story?
First of all, YouTube vlog culture is huge, and the time when it could be ignored is long past. (Again, 6 million views!) Also, it encourages some pretty terrible tendencies and has led to the rise of some pretty awful people. But since the primary consumers are kids, perhaps it is best understood as a cousin of the boy-band crazes of yore. Maybe we just have to wait for the Logang and Jake Paulers to grow out of this stuff and hope, in the meantime, that the long-term effects of having been shown a dead body on YouTube by a famous idiot are relatively minimal.