I love Game Grumps, and I love JonTron. Their YouTube videos have at times put me into an unending fit of giggles during which I can’t breathe, laughing so hard I cry. These silly internet shows have affected my life in surprisingly profound ways. I watch them for procrastination, relaxation, to cheer me up, or even just as pleasant background noise. I’m often happiest when watching these videos – even hearing the intro to the video can perk me up a bit. But the more I watch videos like this, the more I see an unfortunate mirroring of offensive and often misogynistic gamer culture.
Game Grumps — created by Arin Hanson, AKA Egoraptor — is essentially two guys on a couch playing video games together. They wisecrack, make fun of each other, berate each other, and so on. Stuff that friends playing video games often do. They point of the show is to be funny, and they are. Very funny, usually. Unfortunately their constant need to be funny gets away from them quite often. In April of this year, they did a series of episodes where they played a Disney Princess game. Wanting to be funny, and likely thinking they would humorously contrast with the tone of the game, they decided to go “as dark as possible.” What followed was a joke about the sexual abuse of a young girl.
It definitely wasn’t funny.
After that, why in the world would I keep watching? Well, Hanson himself apologized profusely via Twitter, and a trigger warning was added to the beginning of the episode (“This episode contains dialogue about potentially sensitive sexual circumstances. Our apologies to those affected”). Since the incident, he has been receptive of any criticism towards the show, including people calling him out for his occasionally offensive jokes. He’s spoken about learning from his mistakes, and the show became far less problematic as the year continued. He made it easier to like the show, just because of how he handled the situation and kept an open and empathic mind.
For how not to react to criticism, we turn to Jon Jafari, AKA JonTron. The JonTron Show is a pretty simple show: the titular Jon reviews a game or movie, and does so in a comedic framing. He has a unique sense of humor, which makes most episodes a joy to watch and different from a lot of other shows following a similar formula.
The show itself is no more problematic than any other video game review show; the problematic favorite is Jon himself. For a long time, people have been pointing out when he said or did problematic things, but it all blew up this past August with this Twitter exchange:
Yeah, saying the r-word then insulting someone who asks you politely to not say it is definitely not okay, obviously. Fans responded angrily, and in great numbers. They were angry that Jon would be so blatantly offensive, rude, and unapologetic, and they were angry that people were defending him.
But wait, it gets worse:
“Being offended by something is a stupid concept.” Not only does he believe that being offended is stupid, he also believes that someone asking him politely to not say an overtly hurtful and ableist word is “social censorship.”
After all this started coming to light, especially on Tumblr, fans and anti-fans alike dug up the problematic things he’s said and done in the past. In his year on Game Grumps, he had to be bleeped out numerous times for using racial slurs. It’s certainly no coincidence that the show has gotten less problematic in the year and half since he left the show.
In an episode of PC gamer Jon Bain’s (AKA TotalBiscuit) Co-optional Podcast, Jon discussed the sexualization of female characters in the game Dragon’s Crown. He said, “Who cares though? Like, what’s the big deal?“ In the section, Jon comes off as very misogynist, brushing it off and delegitimizing the arguments. I do highly recommend watching the section as he does get shut down by the sole female member of the podcast.
Jon makes it really hard for fans to like him. His videos certainly are funny, but it’s becoming increasingly harder to forget the things he’s said. He’s anti-feminism, rude, ableist, and doesn’t seem to care that this is how he’s seen by a large portion of his fanbase. These aren’t things that are easy to overlook, but if Jon would show some remorse or even open-mindedness it may still be possible to win back some of his fans. When so many people are looking up to one person, it’s important for that person to understand that their fans have many different perspectives on life.
It’s true you can’t please everyone, but comedy shouldn’t come at the expense of major groups of people. I know that Jon, and all the YouTubers like him, can do better.
Joel Wallick is currently pursuing a degree in film studies at Bowling Green State University with an undecided minor. He has been gaming since early childhood, beginning with Pokemon Silver. Follow him on Twitter @SuperNerdJoel
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