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The most consistently shocking thing about 2016 is how anyone can make anything—literally anything—their job. You can stream Call of Duty or react to Vine compilations and have enough money to buy a Ferrari.
Fame is such a vague concept now. I mean, obviously someone like Jared Leto sparks the interest of the world far more comprehensively than a guy shouting into a webcam, but that doesn’t matter nearly as much it used to. If you can get a highly specific community to invest in your personality, there’s really no difference between you and the biggest stars in the world.
With that in mind, I want to talk to you about DramaAlert.
DramaAlert is a hugely popular YouTube channel run by a guy named Daniel “Keemstar” Keem. Right now he has about 1.5 million(!) subscribers. The program acts as a living, breathing tabloid for YouTube celebrity feuds. Seriously: Those exist.
And as you imagine, most of them are incredibly boring. I doubt you, a grown-up with practical hopes and dreams, gives a shit if Leafy (the YouTube version of Kylo Ren) used viewbots or not. But some people do, and DramaAlert is happy to collect an eager million views on the subject.
To understand this better, you first need to know that YouTubers—as a community—are constantly sparking controversies with each other. That’s not really unique in it’s own right; from Hollywood to the Round Table Pizza on Jamacha Road, people who operate in close proximity with each other love to gossip. The difference here is that YouTube drama has become a weirdly commoditized thing. There are so many videos that exist specifically to excoriate someone else in the scene. Part of that is because, well, BEEF IS REAL, but clearly there’s a group of people (I’m guessing the 14-17 year old range) who love hearing their favorite guy talk shit about some other guy. The views must flow. If this is your full-time job, and if talking about why you think Markiplier is an asshole will propel you to two million clicks, then you’d be stupid not to, right?
(Also, as an aside, I cannot think of a more male thing than a YouTuber recording a takedown about another YouTuber. I’ve literally never seen a more transparent dick-measuring contest outside the genuine article.)
My favorite DramaAlert videos, though, are the ones where Keemstar pings back and forth between mean tweets sent by quarreling personalities.
Because yeah, of course feuds never get beyond the chrysalis state of puffed-up internet egos throwing shade on Twitter. It’s a microscopic version of the Taylor Swift/Kim Kardashian saga, restricted to a ridiculously insular level normies will never know about. I feel like these YouTubers have learned what celebrity scandal is supposed to look like by growing up in the PerezHilton era, and this is a way of translating that zeitgeist to a world where they can better control the message.
Occasionally, DramaAlert will do this thing where they invite two feuding YouTubers on the show and let’s them yell at each other in real-time.
Keemstar sits there and eats popcorn. Mainstream gossip publications at least attempt to look like they’re providing a real public service. They never quite embrace their trashiness, it’s never self-aware. But this is a show called DramaAlert. Keemstar is literally performing the vapid, cynical interest we all secretly take in watching notable people go at it.
For a certain type of kid, seeing GradeAUnderA and Joseph Costello publicly roast each other might as well be getting a front row seat to Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor. If you decide to invest in the inflated self-worth of famous YouTubers, you’ll find that they’re more than happy to air their dirty laundry in a way you’ll never find in traditional (read: actual) celebrities. In that sense, DramaAlert has found some truly fertile ground.
Entertainment and sports reporter Luke Winkie has written everywhere from A.V Club to Vice, including Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone, Kotaku, Playboy, Mel, and Polygon.