Practice Makes Permanent
Back in high school, my drama teacher taught an important mantra, “Practice makes permanent.” It was the idea that habits that were repeated in rehearsal would become second nature. I found that this message easily applied outside theater as well. Going to the gym takes effort, beating a boss in Dark Souls takes practice, and being aware of my words and actions take continuous learning and listening. It takes effort to be mindful of one’s own impact.
Enter PewDiePie — Felix Kjellberg — a content creator on YouTube who has millions of subscribers and insurmountable internet influence. With a core demographic of 18 – 24-year-old males, PewDiePie (PDP) has a platform that his viewership looks up to and emulates in their real life. So when Kjellberg dropped the N-word to his audience this past week during a live session of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, it’s not hard to imagine that the impact was huge.
A Lesson in Influence
First and foremost, this kind of language should not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form. The N-word is a term that has a deep and entrenched history of racial violence and oppression. To dismiss it as a simple term would be an injustice to the many victims of racism and hatred. Even in 2017, the word is used as a weapon to display aggressive dominance against black and African people (Charlottesville, VA is a prime example).
The fact that PDP used this language in a casual setting while broadcasting gives the impression that Kjellberg uses this kind of vocabulary in real life. Not that this is entirely surprising, considering that PDP has gotten into controversies in response to his words and actions. He has come about and offered some lazy apologies, including saying, “Sorry, but what the f***?” and “I don’t mean that in a bad way,” almost immediately after his N-word drop during his livestream while laughing.
While Twitter followers may argue he said sorry, it takes a more intentional approach to undo the use of vile language such as the N-word. It means a lot to be sincere, and based on his track record, PDP would need to start practicing genuine actions to show that he is aware and apologetic about what he has done.
Social figures who use this kind of language do the gaming industry a disservice. They also validate and normalize racist behavior among followers of people like PDP. Others look to his example and give themselves the excuse that the N-word is ok to say because PDP said it, and completely ignore the racist impact it has.
Speak Up and Speak Out
Why does this matter? As much as I loathe to say it, PDP represents the gaming community and impacts content creators more than he knows. As a member of that group, I cannot stand by and not speak up about this incident when it impacts me personally and professionally. It is important that outlets, platforms, and individuals come together to speak out against racist behavior and hold people accountable, especially when they have as much of an influence as PDP does.
Other content creators with significantly influential platforms need to stop coming to the defense of racist actions. If no hard line is drawn in the wider community, incidents like these will continue to happen and continue to be normalized.
technically you can say whatever you want. but words mean things & context matters. words don’t exist in a vacuum without consequence
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) September 11, 2017
As I live my life with an idea of “practice makes permanent,” it may do PDP some good to practice awareness of his influence. It’s high time he made common decency, sincere apologies, and non-racist language a permanent part of his day-to-day life.
Author’s Note: This article was written before PDP’s video response was released.