Here is a story from my childhood that I will never forget.
It’s 1995. I’m sitting on the toilet, about to partake in the kind of activity one normally takes part in when they sit on a toilet. From the corner of my eye I spot something strange, something that doesn’t belong. I look closer. I squint. A CD? Hidden behind the toilet? What the hell is a CD doing lodged behind the toilet?
I reach over and pick it up. The album in question: ‘Steam’ by East 17.
I recognised the album. It belonged to my younger brother who, for some reason, despite being in his early teens sort of liked East 17 enough to actually buy their album. Later that night I asked him why he decided to lodge his copy of ‘Steam’ behind our toilet. I was genuinely confused and curious.
He looked sheepish.
He was looking for a way to escape the question. I pressed the issue. Eventually he spilled the beans.
“I uh… had some friends over and I wanted to hide the album alright!”
LOL. I’m sorry for using the word ‘LOL’ in an article, but it seems appropriate here. I’ve been telling and re-telling this story for years now.
But here’s the thing: my brother was a smooth motherfucker in high school, he was way cooler than me. But he had a reputation to uphold and there were no lengths he wouldn’t go to in order to protect that reputation. That’s why there was a copy of ‘Steam’ by East 17 hidden behind our toilet for a couple of hours.
Point being: we all have our guilty pleasures.
I have a new guilty pleasure. That guilty pleasure is PewDiePie.
I hate that phrase: ‘guilty pleasure’. I hate it because personal taste is personal taste. People should never be ashamed of the media they consume or the things they like. Feeling guilty about liking something is an elitist, snobby thing to do. It signifies that you are above something: not just the media in question, but those who enjoy it guilt-free.
But yeah, this is PewDiePie we’re talking about and it’s pretty difficult for me to admit that I’m slowly, surely, weirdly becoming a fan of something so many people actively, vehemently dislike. Sometimes I enjoy that whole contrarian thing, sometimes I relish it. But with PewDiePie it feels like a betrayal of all that is right with the world.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Well, I’d like to think there is nothing wrong with me. Therefore I’m going to try and explain why I’m sorta slowly starting to become a fan of PewDiePie. Here goes…
To begin with, I think PewDiePie is an interesting person to watch do things. He has the charisma of that annoying, excitable kid in school who is always trying to be loud and funny — its the class clown thing. PewDiePie feels like the kind of human you’d never want to be stuck alone with, but as part of a group? If PewDiePie is there everyone is having more fun. He is the focal point of that group, he is the reason why everyone is laughing. When he is around, he is the person you are watching. When PewDiePie is around we’re all Milhouse Van Houten: “Guys look, Bart’s doing stuff“.Because PewDiePie is difficult not to watch. He has that energy. I have a lot of friends like this in real life. Some find them unbearably obnoxious, but I’ve always entranced by that kind of personality — people who have no shame whatsoever, who don’t feel embarrassment, who are at ease with themselves to the point where they don’t give a single solitary fuck what anyone else thinks. It’s beautiful, it’s liberating and — in a lot of ways — it’s something to aspire to: that kind of clean inner contentment where you can scream, shout, and generally make a complete idiot of yourself. That’s PewDiePie. He’s one of those people. I admire those people.
Also, PewDiePie is funny. At least I think he’s funny. His comic timing is good. His slightly broken English, his ability to say the right swear word at the right time, the pace and editing of his videos. His occasional lapses into Swedish when shit gets real. He is funny. I find myself watching PewDiePie and laughing out loud. Legit. I can’t help myself.
And then there are those weird moments when PewDiePie breaks character. Like a modern day Slurms Mackenzie, like a wrestler breaking Kayfabe. I remember one particular moment.
PewDiePie is playing Dark Souls. He suffers an unexpected death. Instead of squealing and swearing like a stuck pig he slouches. He becomes a normal human being. He grimaces, puts his head in his hands, mumbles something in Swedish. You can feel his frustration instead of just being entertained by it. It lasts for a second. He puts his mask back on. He snaps on the spandex. For the shortest period of time PewDiePie feels like someone you could almost relate to. For a split second he’s Felix Kjellberg. It’s fleeting. Before you recognise it he’s PewDiePie again. He’s screaming and you watch with a new appreciation. For his performance, for his ability to maintain this manic energy, for the foresight to harness his charisma and pour it into this convenient monetisable YouTube shaped bottle.
PewDiePie is annoying, he’s loud, he’s utterly pointless, but so many things are. I can’t stop watching him. He’s my guilty pleasure. He’s an East 17 album lodged behind my toilet. Please don’t tell my friends.