You might not know who Jack Maynard is. Frankly, I don’t blame you. But he just became marginally more interesting.
The gammon-faced 22-year-old, who goes by the dreaded job title of “YouTuber”, has fled from reality contest I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! after a string of racist and homophobic tweets came to light while he was busy bushtuckering. It has since emerged that Maynard also sent inappropriate messages to a female fan.
Maynard came under fire for social media posts dating from between 2011 and 2013 in which he repeatedly used the n-word, the insult “retarded”, mocked people with facial deformities and referred to other Twitter users as “f_____s”.
With tabloids gleefully using the headline “Hit the road, Jack”, he suddenly quit the ITV series on Tuesday night after a mere two-day stint so he could “defend himself”. Which seems to involve the grovelling excuse that he was a huge four years younger at the time and sent the tweets “in response to a neighbour who was bullying him”. Right. He also later deleted them. Oh, that’s OK, then.
This intellectually challenged charmer has previously admitted to getting reprimanded by police for urinating on a public statue. Earlier this year, he vowed to go internet-free for 24 hours to raise awareness for Comic Relief - and promptly got caught “liking” tweets during the time he claimed to be offline, sparking a social media backlash.
Maynard, depressingly, has more than 1.2m subscribers to his self-titled YouTube channel - 88% of whom are female - and is the younger brother of singer Conor Maynard (me neither). He posts vlogs, challenges, spoof songs and comedy skits. It might not surprise you to learn that these demonstrate all the sincerity of a PPI salesman and all the wit of a pork pie past its sell-by date.
Once again, then, Britain’s idiotic and immature YouTube stars have proved they aren't ready for mainstream fame or primetime TV. Maynard’s cringe-inducing fall from grace is just the latest chapter in a litany of vlogger embarrassments.
The queen of them all, Zoe “Zoella” Sugg, was widely slated last week for releasing a 12-door (not 24-door, note) advent calendar filled with cheap tat – a small packet of confetti, stickers, a pen, a bauble, a star-shaped cookie cutter, a 130g candle and a 30ml “room spray” – which went on sale for a laughable £50.
Following a justifiably furious outcry, Boots slashed the price to £25 but the damage was done. Incensed parents accused 27-year-old millionaire Zoella of trying to rip off her young fans.
Indeed, this hasn’t been a good month at Zoella HQ. She was also slammed for social media comments made between 2009 and 2012 that sneered at “lesbos”, “trannys”, “skanks” and “fat chavs”. Sugg issued a textbook non-apology, claiming the posts had been "taken out of context" and saying "I’m sorry if I have offended anyone”.
She’s previously been criticised for filming herself while driving (endangering other road users for the sake of a glorified selfie), not actually writing her bestselling novels and even cited as one of the causes of declining literacy among teenagers. All in all, quite a girl.
Another A-list vlogger, PewDiePie (aka Swedish-born, Brighton-based “comedian” Felix Kjellberg) - last year’s highest paid YouTuber, earning £11.8m with nearly 60m subscribers - has repeatedly landed in hot water for including anti-Semitic jokes and Nazi imagery in his gaming videos. Just as the controversies were dampening down, he used the phrase “f_______ n_______” during a recent livestream. Not just offensive but forehead-slappingly stupid.
The world’s biggest music vlogger, Anthony Fantano - whose album review channel The Needle Drop has 1.1m subscribers - was recently exposed as also having a secret alt-right YouTube persona.
The whole YouTuber phenomenon is a bubble waiting to burst. When they popped onto the public radar around 2010, most of the prominent UK names were quickly snapped up by “social media talent agency” Gleam Futures, founded especially to manage their careers and take advantage of this lucrative new market.
However, there are are signs the curve may be starting to flatline. Pushed to milk as much money as they can in the shortest possible time, this fresh breed of celebrity runs the risk of alienating their fans - and certainly their fans’ parents.
They can't even get a meet-and-greet right. Last month’s YouTuber arena event HelloWorld, featuring Britain’s biggest vloggers, was billed as “an epic, four-hour, immersive live show - nothing like this has ever been done before”. Angry parents agreed - albeit not for the reasons organisers hoped.
Offering the opportunity to mingle with Zoella, her boyfriend Alfie Deyes, her brother Joe Sugg and others, it was flooded with complaints and rip-off accusations. Attractions were roped off, events cancelled and children left “heartbroken” after queuing for hours to meet their favourites, only to be disappointed. Headline acts Zoella’s appearance on-stage was an insultingly brief three minutes. Some attendees had paid as much as £100 for tickets. No wonder they were furious.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed they may be but vloggers are beginning to lose their sheen. Their absurdly high earnings (£50K a month in some cases) have distanced them from their viewers and eroded their “real-life” appeal, while endless corporate partnerships dent their credibility. That all-important girl-or-boy-next-door “relatability" becomes tricky to sustain when you’re living in a high-security mansion and getting flown around the world by fashion labels.
Such smartphone-toting millennials are often insufficiently mature and media-savvy to stand up to the kind of scrutiny that their fame and fortune attracts. They’re ill-equipped for reality TV, let alone intense tabloid interest. Most of us did and said daft things when we were young - just not in front of an audience of millions and an internet that never forgets.
The craze surely can't last much longer. Apart from anything else, they're running out of material. Alfie Deyes, frontman of PointlessBlog, is increasingly living up to its title. Deyes recently posted about buying razor blades in Tesco, before segueing into pics of some wood he’d just bought. Thrilling isn’t the word. It’s becoming everything that social media cynics - “it’s just people talking about what they had for breakfast” - long suspected.
The YouTubers with a specialism - the gamers, fashionistas, beauty experts, chefs and fitness trainers - can at least justify their existence by offering a service. The self-styled “content creators”, “digital ambassadors” and “influencers” who rely solely on confessional material and ker-ay-zee personalities might soon find that personality wearing thin.
Is this a generational divide? Are these the grumpy grumblings of a middle-aged man who just doesn’t “get it”? That’s doubtless what these vloggers’ devoted fans would argue. Yet there’s a swelling tide of opinion that they’re vain, inane and taking the mick for clicks.
YouTubers are their own brand and once they tarnish it, there’s nothing left. The trouble with a career built on little discernible talent and “just being yourself” is that once that self is tainted, there’s nothing to fall back on. Perhaps it’s time the YouTubers vlogged off and found a proper job.