YouTuber PewDiePie is once again being criticized online, this time for dropping a racial slur during a live stream.
While broadcasting himself playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds recently, Felix Kjellberg screamed “f*cking n*gger” at another gamer. After a moment, Kjellberg casually said “sorry” and “I don’t mean that in a bad way.” Later in the stream, he said, “Sometimes I forget that I’m live streaming” and added that he “tried to think of the worst word.”
Of course, this remark does not come in a vacuum. It takes place a few months after PewDiePie was criticized for controversial videos, including one where he pays strangers $5 to hold up a sign that says “DEATH TO ALL JEWS” and for other videos that included Nazi imagery. In one of these videos, PewDiePie dresses like a Nazi and watches a video of Adolf Hitler as a way to exaggerate what the media has said about him.
During the previous controversy, most of PewDiePie’s fans defended him because the controversial videos were only intended as jokes. But many were not as quick to rally behind him this time, as the racial slur clearly did not come as part of a joke and was instead meant to be a legitimate hurtful insult.
On /r/ThePewDiePie, a subreddit for fans of Felix Kjellberg, the top post on Monday was from a fan who said that he would no longer be supporting the creator.
“The way Felix said the ‘N’ word was in a degrading manner,” Reddit user AnthonyMusca wrote. “He used it a negative manner, with negative content, to insult the other player. It wasn’t some skit. It wasn’t some clip that 2 seconds were taken out and the first sentence removed. It wasn’t taken out of content. He said it in a derogatory way. ‘Words are not just words’ if you were a PoC you would understand and if you don’t I feel deeply sorry for you.”
In another thread on the subreddit, a fan said that Kjellberg should know better.
“It’s a word with a lot of dark history behind it,” user tanomous wrote.”You can’t just get over something like that. Just because it doesn’t apply to you at all, doesn’t mean that there are millions of other people that feel upset over his use of the word. A lot of people went through an edgy phase where they spout racist slurs over a video game, but we grew out of it. Pewdiepie is 27 years old with a massive audience of children. He’s normalizing the use of racial slurs by causally saying it.”
In general, Reddit as a community came to PewDiePie’s defense during his last controversy, but they mostly haven’t this time. On /r/H3H3Productions, a subreddit dedicated to a YouTube channel that strongly defended PewDiePie for his previous controversy, the common opinion was that PewDiePie’s really messed up this time.
“I believe you can defend the use of this word (or any racist term) in a skit or a stand-up routine, since it is humor, and there really shouldn’t be any rules in comedy if it is used in a good context to the joke (unlike how Kramer used it and killed his career),” user bcboston said. “In this instance, I believe you really can’t defend it since it is used as an insult towards someone else in anger…I think we can expect big fallout over this.”
This comment received 1317 upvotes, with others chiming in to say that Kjellberg’s use of the N-word was “far too casual,” also pointing out that the situation was exacerbated by the fact that he used a hard “R” at the end of the word.
Still, not everyone within PewDiePie’s fandom was upset, with some defending him and saying that the racial slur is just another word.
“He didn’t use it as an insult, he used it to express anger,” user darienrude_dankstorm said. “He didn’t say it directly at the his opponent, but to himself in frustration. And regardless, it’s just a word, stop being such a baby.”
PewDiePie has not yet responded to this controversy.