David Dobrik @ YouTube
Emoji summary: 🤪🤙🏻😬
Can you half-love something and half-hate it all at the same time? If something has bits you fuck with and bits you don’t, can you consume it with blinders on, activate selective hearing, and just eat around the mould? I have this one thing I’ve been enjoying all of 2019 that I feel this way about, v natalie imbruglia and torn. Because I am so split, I feel nervous to write about it for risk of being cancelled for the SEVENTIETH time this year. i know it’s hard to read or write about nuance and grey areas in a culture that is polarised in everything it votes for and feels, i get it, and am guilty of perpetuating this also. It’s just a messy place to write from. Like, where do I begin and where do i plan on going with these words? how is this text gonna end? what am I trying to achieve? I have so many questions and so many of them are unanswerable because the people I’m writing about today are so far away from me and i dont have the credibility or money to get their attention. so im talking out loud to you instead, talking today about David Dobrik’s YouTube channel and the group of friends it documents, the Vlog Squad.
Even if you don’t recognise the name, you might know who I’m talking about because there have been some peak international moments of virality from this channel. one is a famous break up video between David and his ex girlfriend Liza Koshy, a beautiful fairy girl. the two of them laugh and sob their way through a break up in the most charming way. it is ridiculous and ? familiar ? - the fact this breakup felt so against their own will, that they both wished it had worked out but knew now wasn’t the right time for them. ow. i watched it with so much sympathy pumping thru my veins that it was like, what can WE do to help? there’s a point where Liza’s face is wet from crying and she looks at herself in the viewfinder and jokes about how she wants to go and fix her makeup but also wants the video to be authentic, in line with YouTuber break up announcements. they’re just funny and self-aware. it has 56 million views. The other big big moment you might have seen was a family pretending their son had disappeared. they ask the invisible son to sit down so they can take a picture with their arm around him but they’ve already taken a photo before this without him in it so the photo seems to confirm he has in fact disappeared. It’s David filming with the Armenian family he hangs out with all the time, the Antonyans. Those two videos, well, they are and they aren’t typical of the stuff that happens across the rest of the channel. it’s all a lot to take in. and I know on The White Pube we often write about a single art-thing that you can see the edges of really quickly and follow along with, but i’m covering 4 years of vlogs in this text as well as David’s second channel, podcast, 2 instagram accounts, and the online content of members of a whole group so / idk, I don’t blame you for not being interested, I think this might be a text for the fans or the makers. I’d started watching more of the videos because i wanted to find out more about the relationship I’d met at its end, but was just quickly hooked for other reasons and now i’m pausing to reorient myself and write through this mess of having an actually problematic fave. should I allow myself? should I cancel myself? Can I give David Dobrik’s YouTube channel a public crit in the hopes he can iron out some of the big creases?
because honestly, wtf am I doing tuning in two to three times a week to bear witness to what might be peak white culture? (Wtf am I doing being this generous or invested in it anyway). Every video David posts on his main channel is 4 minutes 20 seconds long, lol. If you haven’t watched any, the format of the videos he posts is magazine-style, as in, chopped up quick moments edited together like a highlights reel of the lives of a group of 20-30 year old friends, mostly white, mostly men, living in LA. These people all came up through Vine so you can imagine the pace of these clips. a mash up of rehearsed bits, pranks, surprises, one-liners, jokes taken to the next level, his friends drunk in different places, dares, funny songs, and the odd celebrity cameo. That’s the outline, and filling that in might look like: taking turns lying down on the floor with a blindfold while David surprises them with different animals, placing a hairless cat on their chest, a puppy, or a tarantula. His friend needs to piss while they’re driving so wees into a beer bottle and then David dares him to drink it for some money. Random people sit in the front passenger seat of his Tesla while he asks them what they think of Kylie Jenner, and then Kylie Jenner jumps out from the back to surprise them. They’ll fill a pool with 10 thousand lbs of dry ice and then have Steve O (yes, the guy from Jackass) jump off a roof and into the misty water. He goes back to his hometown to surprise his three best childhood friends with a Mercedes each. They throw a coming out party for one of their mates, and that night also ends with him getting a car. They ‘ice’ each other, which means hiding a smirnoff ice somewhere super random and when it’s found the person who discovers it has to kneel on the floor and down it fast. Lots of paintball guns, flamethrowers, and science experiments. Like if Dude Perfect were rich teenagers, or it’s people trying to make Failarmy content on purpose. Running on a treadmill as lego’s poured onto it / hiring actors to play fake police who arrest the well behaved one in the group. David’s best friend is like, this 46 year old failed comedian Jason Nash and in one video he wants to give his Nanny $10,000 for looking after his kids so well, but David convinces him to fly to Vegas and bet that all on red. seconds later they’re shown on a plane, then they’re in the casino, then they’re screaming and jumping and flying back to give the nanny double the original present. You can watch David paying off student loans, coming up with puns in Target with Liza, and also cutting open his hand trying to juggle with bottles of wine - but then making sure they get a good thumbnail of all the blood before they call an ambulance. My top top video, which I think only truly bangs once you’ve watched the rest of it starts with David and Jason in the car together talking. Jason’s ex-wife is mentioned and he goes onto say David will never have an ex-wife because he’ll never be married. Cut to 23 year old David flying to Boston to propose to Jason’s 75 year old mother, then flying her out to Las Vegas for the ceremony, onto Hawaii for the honeymoon, and then back to LA to reveal to Jason what he’s done where he calls Jason his son.
What I watch the videos for is everything I’ve written about above. i grew up with a lot of rowdy cousins and water fights, playing grand theft auto and watching wrestling on a friday night, Jackass, Dirty Sanchez etc. my knees were perma red and scabby as a child because all we did was mess about to the point where my family nickname was and still is Scabbo. that energy’s still inside me. I’m secretly an adrenaline junky I think - like height of my life was a waterslide on holiday that began with you standing on a trap door before it dropped straight down into a tube. i find that cousin-like camaraderie in the Vlog Squad tbh - so for me it feels nostalgic / except of course, its all grown up, risqué and escándalo. I also enjoy watching rich people do anything. it is so entertaining to me because these people feel like aliens. Watching these videos means being witness to the absolute freedom money allows. you can revert to the whims of teenagers; live in this fantasy land where you’re so rich that even though you’re more than capable, you don’t have to pay for you food. Rich people definitely offend me, yeah, and I DO believe we should eat them for getting private jets to Tesco, but David’s vlogs (or the Kardashians or Rich Kids of Instagram-type TV) satisfy something in me. it’s like wanting to be a doctor but not being smart enough so watching grey’s anatomy instead. I’m never going to have a lot of money so I’ll watch these people from afar, this group that make videos called things like SURPRISING BEST FRIEND WITH LAMBORGHINI!! as indulgence (or maybe a better word would be consolation).
But as I described at the beginning of this text, my enjoyment isn’t clean cut. as much as I enjoy all of the above, the videos are at times confusing or offensive; and I think that often it’s coming from a place of ignorance, or I might be giving this guy more patience than i would most others for fucking god knows what reason. I dont even fancy him so I can’t blame that. if I was coming in with my ghostbusters backpack to clean this shit up: I would ask Zane and Heath to stop with the AAVE. There’s fat jokes, which at this point feels lazy. you go all out with the pranks and even remove whole gates so you can drive a truck into the house for a laugh, yet you rely on bottom tier fat jokes ?? I would tell grown adult Jason Nash to cut the character he sometimes plays where he dresses up as a sex worker called Carmelita and speaks with a shit hispanic accent - like I’m all the way over here in north west england and besides knowing that is wrong any tima day, it also feels definitely <not> the time to be degrading latinx when you lot have got incel shooters targeting anyone with brown skin in America (aaand also trans people). I’d cut Durte Dom out of the vlogs and also your lives when he is a sleazy Eminem lookalike who pinned a girl down in front of everybody at a Vidcon party, and after groping her chest, also kissed her against her will. Durte Dom can go, as can Brandon Calvillo for sleeping with a 17 year old when he was 24. Like, these people/things I’m describing are not integral to the videos in the slightest, they’re in it EVERY so often, are doing WAY more harm than good, so I beg you cut > them > loose >.
Those things feel solid, identifiable problems the videos could do without but there is 1 more thing I want to put on the table for us all to look at. It’s a bit fuzzier, ish, maybe, and it’s concerning disability. The nature of the internet means we see a version of the people put forward to us, but in David’s vlogs this is even sharper because he’s the one controlling the edit. The people in the Vlog Squad aren’t even people, they’ve become characters. Todd and Corinna are both Sluts. Zane’s the Drunk one, Jonah the Stupid one, Matt King is the Teacher’s Pet and Scott is, er, Suicidal? When Gabbie Hanna was in it she played a sort of Crazy ex-girfriend role and Alex Ernst was Angry. Jason Nash is the Divorced Loser Dad, and David himself is the kid who doesn’t know what to do with all his newfound wealth. I understand how making people into characters serves a purpose, because it is like the string that comes out of the back of a toy - you have something to pull at again and again for humour and something to make these friends play their part for the camera.
So this also follows for Big Nik’s inclusion in the vlogs. whereas on his own channel, his disabilities are sooometimes the focus but often not mentioned at all, in line with the way everyone is caricatured on David’s channel, there he is first and foremost Disabled. for context he is a dwarf, blind in one eye and has mentioned a bone condition also. that’s fine, being Disabled is fine - and there seems to be a whole lot of complicity in these rehearsed jokes revolving Big Nik’s disabilities. He recently dyed his hair blue and looks like Post Malone so there are new things they poke fun at him for (Post Malone is just crusty inhe). All in all David and Nik come off as good friends, especially on Nik’s own channel when we’re not speeding through 10 seconds long clips of stuff happening as we are with David’s. I know some people will say I have no right to comment on this and I have searched and searched for writing on the matter to defer to but i can’t, so instead I just wanna put the evidence forward and ask some questions so someone else can take this forward. what i’m pointing at here is that when Big Nik and David write or perform these jokes together, no matter the complicity and Nik’s agency in the matter, the comment section is an ugly place. Is that their fault? what does it mean if they’re not doing anything to change it?
An example: after these 4 years of David poking fun at Nik in various moments in the videos like ‘MEET HIS BRAND NEW DWARF GIRLFRIEND!!’, recently they did a sketch that went against the grain. If you want to watch it, see the end of ‘HE SAID THIS TO HER ON A HIDDEN CAMERA!!’ Nik comes to David’s house to get his own back, knocking on the door backed by a gang of dwarves who are ready to fight. A scene ensues that parodies cartoon-like Scooby Doo chases and messes about with scale, ie. David throws a bouncy ball at the group chasing him, and an exercise ball bounces down the corridor instead. It’s got jokes like ‘What are you guys, the fuckings Avengers? Looks like Thanos snapped and got rid of half of ya.’ As a viewer in the fantasy land that is David’s Vlogs, Big Nik’s triumph makes sense. What snaps you out of it, if you weren’t snapped out already, are the comments on this video: ‘Oh no the oompa loopas are attacking!😂,’ or one girl saying ‘OMG my biggest fear is midgets chasing me around 😂😂 IDK WHY THEY’RE SO SCARY TO ME xD.’ After scrolling for a loooong time I found ONE comment that said ‘this is offensive tho like why r u laughing,’ and mostly it was people saying this is their favourite vlog. I dont know man. With a bit like this, who is the humour for? Is it for the very specific ongoing narrative of David’s vlogs? Is it for non-disabled people? disabled people? Is that what you’d hope? My gut is like wow this is some Little Britain level of humour because it’s happening in the most normative place for this kind of comedy; remember, this isn’t some art performance or queer critical inversion, it’s YouTube. It’s post-smosh and so on. But then again should I just shut up? if they’re writing these bits together, is that thing happening where it’s okay for Janice to say Damien’s too gay to function because of their close friendship taking place in its own closed off world, but as soon as that phrase ‘too gay to function’ leaves them, is written in a burn book for the whole school to see and use, it’s come undone? they are so visible, it feels like all this burning, magnified light is steaming in through the windows. but again, should i please shut up. On one of the bloopers videos on David’s second channel, a viewer wins a competition and is flown out to meet him. Crystal is an amputee and when they’re sat together in his Tesla she says excitedly, ‘I’d do anything to be the disabled person you make fun of’ in the vlogs. David and Big Nik might be on a level with each other and Crystal might want to be in the same friendship group where there’s levity about disability and that’s boss, so come undone, come tighter, come together right now. I have no clue. it’s like my social justice warrior alarm is going off and i can’t find the reset button. i shall wait for someone else to start writing so i can stop gesticulating.
and that dear reader is my weird crit,,, my text today about a whole youtube channel u might not even know, you might not expect me to like, something you might be bemused or horrified at with its money, whiteness, and men. the triple. I know it’s my privilege in action being able to sidestep the bits I don’t fuck with or the bits that feel ambiguous and slippy in order to get to moments of comedy I can really hold onto. I’m walking a tight rope buuuut I’m sure there are things you watch or read that you don’t 100% back. I feel like I’m supposed to hate it but i’m so in between: I really enjoy David’s vlogs but I don’t stan, I don’t buy the merch, they just make me laugh and they’re so quick. The form and the edit is so perfect and even if the politics isn’t, i for one am not coming to these videos to find my own perfect politics. I don’t expect that much. But I can’t say the same for the kids watching :/