By Ana Mangini
An analysis of the Logan Paul fuck-up based through the reaction video of Japanese-American YouTuber and content creator, Reina Scully, and the backlash she received for calling Logan Paul out.
*Trigger Warning: This article discusses suicide and death.*
Logan Paul recently received serious backlash for posting a disrespectful and insensitive vlog mocking Japan’s Aokigahara Forest (known to many Americans as the “Suicide Forest”) and the dead body of a suicide victim. That video has since been taken down and Logan has technically apologized twice. Still, this situation has revealed to many who do not pay attention to Paul or his “LoGang” just how problematic this clickbait-fueled internet star is to a larger degree.
Reina Scully is a Japanese-American YouTuber who posted a video on January 2nd of this year discussing how she felt about what Logan Paul did in Japan. In her video, Scully communicates how Paul’s actions go beyond what many have discussed as “filming a dead body at a tourist attraction.” Here’s why:
- Logan Paul’s actions in Japan and America show that he treats people, especially people who look different from him, as a superior.
Logan Paul may or may not be to his core just a rotten, bad person. That’s something that I, as a college kid writing this from my bed on winter break, really cannot determine. I’ve delved so deep into #LoGang and dabbing I’m ready for men in hazmat suits to take me away and power scrub my brain.
Do I think what he did was wrong? Yes. Do I think his actions are defensible? No. Does this video (and his other Japan vlogs) show that he looks down on Japanese people and culture? Like…yeah.
The video that Paul uploaded is wrong for so many reasons that have already been discussed on all tiers of media from twitter to late night news. While we don’t know what went on behind closed doors, Paul and his team greenlit this video as something worth broadcasting to millions of viewers. To a degree, they thought that a video showing the body of someone who committed suicide was okay. They thought including the insensitive jokes about Japanese culture and the body was okay. They thought this was okay. And that speaks volumes.
The idea that Paul felt that this video with its subject matter could be funny, entertaining, or meaningful shows a disconnect from the humanity of Japan and its people. In her video, Scully brings up the argument that Paul was able to create this video and think it was okay because he does not respect the people of Japan. “He sees us as caricatures,” said Scully as she described her understanding of how Paul and his team could think the video was acceptable. She continued, “I really do think that he doesn’t see us on the same level of human being as him or something and I think that’s perhaps why he was able to do such a horrid thing as interacting with a dead body that passed from committing suicide.” And, she has a valid point. Throughout the vlog in question, which I do not recommend viewing, Paul makes jokes about Aokigahara and Japanese stereotypes. He relates the finding and filming of the deceased as something that has “never happened in the history of YouTube.” This in addition to his ability to interact with a dead body in Aokigahara and not question his actions is seriously telling of Paul’s lack of respect for Japan.
Its important to remember that this video went through a process of editing and deliberation. Everyone on Paul’s team had time to think about whether or not sending this content out into the world was a good thing. They made a choice and it was the wrong one.
While discussing this, Scully raises an important question: Why do this in Japan? Why not do this in the US and desecrate a cemetary or another location with similar religious significance to Aokigahara? Why is it okay to do it in Japan but not okay to do it in the US? This again speaks to the level of disconnect Paul and his team had when deciding that this content was okay. Whether this was done in Japan or America or England or Egypt or literally anywhere…it’s wrong. And, to a more pressing degree, Logan Paul should probably get ready to catch these hands.
2. His video disrespects a sacred place in Japan on a holy day (New Years) and exploits something that is both shameful and a major problem in Japan: suicide.
First and foremost, Aokigahara is not a tourist attraction. As Scully has pointed out on her twitter, there is a difference between Japan seeking out tourist interest by publicizing Aokigahara and foreigners taking interest in Aokigahara. It’s understandable that people have this misunderstanding but when discussing this situation, the distinction is really important.
When it comes down to it, Aokigahara is a sacred place. If people want to visit it, they should make sure to be respectful, something Paul and his friends failed to do.
Second, when discussing Paul’s actions we should remember that suicide is not regarded in the same way in America as it is in Japan. Scully explains that in Japan “we cremate our dead” and that a dead body, such as the one filmed by Paul, is “riddled with bad symbolism.” If Paul had taken a fraction of the time it took for him to pick out the heinous green alien hat showcased in the video, or the time it took to dab on his haters (wrong brother?), or the time it took to tell his fans “merch link in bio,” and just ask someone about Japanese culture or if his video was insensitive, maybe he could have avoided this situation.
It’s crazy that it needs to be said, but suicide is not something that should be broadcasted or glorified…period. Though, as Scully explains, Paul’s exploitation of suicide and Aokigahara has religious repercussions in addition to suicide insensitivity and exploitation. She describes Aokigahara as “one of our sins, and the internet is glorifying one of our darkest issues. That is not what we want people to see.” Not only is Paul highlighting something regarded in Japan as shameful, he is broadcasting the sins of the victim in addition to those who take their lives at Aokigahara. If anything, Paul could have turned the cameras off and had a candid discussion about what he witnessed and suicide prevention but…he didn’t. He chose to hit record. And that’s why Scully’s video which shines an even brighter spotlight onto Paul’s idiocy is so important.
Moreover, Japan has had a problem with high rates of suicide; there are almost 100 suicide deaths a day and last year more than 31,957 people committed suicide. It is a serious problem that really, really should not be overshadowed by content that turns suicide in Japan or the Aokigahara into a ghost story. This problem has been seen in the past with Hollywood trying to exploit Aokigahara to make money. And, just like in the past, exploitation of Aokigahara did not go over well. We should heed the lessons of the past and listen to Japanese people when they tell us something is wrong. Because, when it boils down, this is an issue of cultural awareness and respect, and it’s time to step up our game.
3. Logan Paul is a bad influence who wields too much influence, so to speak.
Logan Paul has a HUGE following. With 15.5 million subscribers on YouTube, 16 million followers on instagram, and 4 million followers on twitter, his reach is global, especially with Gen Z-ers. When it comes to Logan Paul, I think Uncle Ben said it best, “With great social media influence comes great responsibility” … or something like that. (If you know, you know).
The problem with Logan Paul is that he does not wield his 280 characters with accountability or forethought. When it comes to his content he’s reckless and thus far, being reckless has fueled his brand and gotten him views. This isn’t just limited to his most recent Japan vlogs…Logan Paul has had this issue for a while.
What’s most shocking, especially for people who aren’t branding themselves as #LoGang4Lyfe, is that Paul is receiving an outpouring of support from his fanbase of which, from the looks of it, consists of children and pre-teens who equate questioning their idol’s actions to being disloyal. While loyalty is a commendable quality, this type of loyalty is blind and uninformed. Even before the video was taken down and backlash hit social media, Paul’s video received around 600,000 likes. As YouTuber Philip DeFranco eloquently explained via twitter, “His core audience doesn’t give a fuuuuuuck.” This is probably because a large portion of Paul’s fanbase is too young to fully grasp why what he did was so wrong. And in the midst of this teachable moment, Paul has yet to explain why what he did was wrong to all these kids who idolize and publicly defend him.
Paul also hasn’t discussed resources for people that are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression. (He has mentioned the suicide prevention hotline but…that’s about it.) Considering many of his ‘LoGang’ may be affected, and that the entire online world is looking at him right now, it seems like a missed opportunity to take that last step out the door on the right foot.
But, back to Reina Scully, the real reason this ridiculously long article exists. Scully, after posting her video, received intense backlash. And boy does the internet love its hate speech; Scully was essentially attacked with sexist, prejudicial, and outright racist comments after speaking out. She posted some screen shots of the comments on twitter and they’re seriously disgusting. More importantly, these comments show the hatred that has spawned from this situation and how irresponsible and irreconcilable Paul’s actions were.
Taken from Scully’s twitter.
Moreover, the attack on Scully shows how scary Paul’s following can be. His followers have the capacity to be hateful and, in being hateful, believe that they are doing right by their idol. While this does not represent the mentality of his entire fanbase, a staggering number of Logan Paul supporters have responded with hate to Scully and others’ criticism of his actions. Additionally, the attack on Scully shows another type of supporter who would defend Paul to this degree based in their own personal hatred and prejudice.
Overall, Paul has shown a value of views over responsibility, which is a serious problem with someone who has so much power. He tried to apologize for his actions, however, he failed to acknowledge that his actions were a choice, not a mistake or a botched attempt at suicide awareness. Also, Paul failed to recognize that in choosing to post a video exploiting suicide, Paul exploited his platform and his viewers. Scully discussed his apology in her video, stating, “I refuse to accept that as any kind of reasoning whatsoever. Everyone has their videos edited, especially him, who obviously has a whole team working behind his production,” Scully said “You decide to put that out there. That is the power that YouTube gives us, and you took that power away from yourself by using it as an excuse as to why this all went down. You have no sense of responsibility.” This has been a major criticism from other celebrities and YouTubers.
4. The lack of action from YouTube is a problem.
People are petitioning YouTube to delete Logan Paul’s YouTube channel and…rightfully so. Paul’s video is not only offensive on so many levels, it is also against YouTube’s content policies which state that, “It’s not okay to post violent or gory content that’s primarily intended to be shocking, sensational, or gratuitous.” So far, YouTube has done nothing.
“It is now YouTube’s responsibility to do something about this. YouTube needs to control the situation,” said Scully. To control the situation, Scully calls on YouTube in the description of her video to, “ban him from creating content on YouTube. Not just taking down his video. It should serve as an example of the line you just simply can’t cross by using your career/brand as an excuse.”
In a screenshot posted by Philip DeFranco, YouTube has responded to the situation by saying they “prohibit violent or gory content posted in a shocking, sensational, or disrespectful manner” and that they partner with suicide awareness and safety groups. However, they have done nothing in regards to Paul and have yet to call him out directly.
YouTube’s lack of action sends a message that what Paul did is okay. It sends a message that they place a higher value on clicks and traffic than regulating acceptable content. It doesn’t matter if Paul learns his lesson or not because YouTube’s silence shows that he is supported despite his actions. And as someone who gravely abused their platform and influence, Paul should receive consequences for his actions.
In conclusion, I guess I’d like to thank Reina Scully. First, I’d like to thank her for calling out Logan Paul in a calm, intelligent way that informs a lot of people on the repercussions of his actions in regard to respecting Japanese culture. Second, I’d like to thank her for bringing light to hatred. Third, I’d like to thank her for creating a discussion about what this situation means for the responsibilities of influencers and the responsibilities of the places that provide those platforms for influencers (i.e. Paul and YouTube). The situation is much deeper than it seems, and Reina Scully got people talking all over again.