YouTube drama is a barbed thing. The first trap is taking it too seriously. The second is not taking it seriously enough.
Yesterday, YouTuber Calvin “LeafyIsHere” Vail posted a video attempting to eviscerate celebrity Twitch streamer Imane “Pokimane” Anys. A notorious YouTuber who falls under the “drama” category, Vail posts videos with titles like “The Saddest Girl on the Internet” or “The Onision Rant” that regularly receive more than a million of views. They have also featured Vail attacking children or marginalized people, which has led to criticisms over cyberbullying. After a years-long break—partially due to his complaints about YouTube’s ad revenue system—he returned earlier this year.
This time, he was after Anys. Charismatic and quick-witted, Anys is the sort of streamer whose existence answers the question, Why would anyone pay to watch another person play a videogame? On her Twitch channel, followed by 5.3 million people, Anys streams first-person shooter Valorant, reacts to ridiculous YouTube videos, pets her cat, and mouths over the lyrics of pop songs. Vail’s video, “Content Nuke: Pokimane,” begins with a montage of Anys before cutting to a clip of her reacting to another drama video. “I think the only way people like this stop is if people like me and my community give them feedback that this is not an OK thing to do,” Anys says. Then, Vail cuts to another drama YouTuber’s tweet from earlier this week that simply reads, “Pokimane 2/10,” and her fans’ huge backlash against the random insult.
Finally, to hammer home the point that reacting is losing, Vail makes fun of Anys for making copyright claims—a move known as copyright striking—against YouTube videos including her content. “I don’t give a shit,” says Vail. “If you’re a big fan of her, please come at me.” He asked people to share the video with the hashtag #pokimaneboyfriend.
The argument underpinning Vail’s video—too boring to recommend—is that Anys isn’t funny, entertaining, or even hot. (An image of Anys sans makeup is included in the video.) He also alleges without apparent evidence that Anys, who keeps her private life very private, has a boyfriend. “Whatever the word is that makes her get cancelled, that’s the one I want to go with,” he says. At the end, he invites Anys, who reacts to videos on her stream, to engage in a discussion over whether she has a boyfriend. Vail’s video received one million views within a day.
A few hours after the video went up yesterday, it was still laced with a total of seven ads. Today, it had none and was preceded by an age restriction. “We have strict policies that prohibit ads from showing on content that is demeaning or insulting and YouTube does not profit off this content,” a YouTube spokesperson says in a comment. “The video from LeafyIsHere was blocked from showing ads shortly after being uploaded.” (Later, after LeafyIsHere complained about the age restriction, YouTube’s official Twitter account asked that they “share next steps over DM” with a prayer hands emoji. The age restriction was removed.)
Demeaning, insulting or just plain milquetoast, within hours of Vail’s video hitting YouTube, #pokimaneboyfriend started trending on Twitter. Two hours after it was posted, 2,500 tweets included the hashtag; five hours after, 9,600. Many tweets memed on the situation at large, some pronouncing anyone emotionally invested in a Twitch streamer’s romantic life a clown or a simp (which is 2020 for delusionally lovestruck buffoon). Before long, particularly after Anys jumped into the fray with her own jokes about the drama, #pokimaneboyfriend became more of a meme-driven takedown of itself than a harassment campaign.