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On the surface, the war between James Charles and Tati Westbrook seems like pure drama. However, under the surface, it represents something else entirely.
While the corporations of America attempting to dominate space, the world of YouTube celebrity has managed to monetise something far more unpredictable: drama.
But before we examine the split between two beauty bloggers, we must examine the cost. For, on the surface, the James Charles/Tati Westbrook split is something that you hear in shopping centre carparks, nightclub toilets or the seat of public transport all too often, x is y because they’re z.
In this instance, Charles betrayed Westbrook on the basis of marketing infidelity, endorsing a clear rival to her company. From there, it devolved into visceral nonsense, with Westbrook claiming that Charles would manipulate strangers’ sexuality as some sort of power move, as well as numerous other threats in a 45-minute video uploaded to social media, with the addendum, “please try to watch the entire video before commenting. If you must comment, please keep it respectful xo”
From there, Charles released a video apologising for all that he did. Now, while it all seems petty (which it absolutely is in the grander scheme of things), when focusing on the numbers involved, and the motivators of the YouTube economy becomes clear.
At the time of writing, Charles has lost 2,035,964 subscribers with Westbrook registering a spike of about the same number. But consider it as you would a normal commodity in a normal market. It represents a loss. Eyeballs are clearly the only barometer of worth, they’re the customers of said business. Yes, it seems entitled, and complete nonsense that we should mourn someone worth $10 million (which Charles is) when we’re barely able to butter our bread, but these people represent their brand, and they possess the same alliances we attach to less sentient goods.
Another example is the Fortnite streamer Ninja, who is similarly bleeding followers on Twitch, which leads to clickbait pieces trumpeting his loss, and in return, defence from those who support said product. Their Fortnite streamer is preferable to another. It’s a revision of the Cola Wars. Ostensibly, they’re almost identical products in an identical market. The only difference is personal preference.
So, while one argument seems minor, the effect is huge. With celebrities such as Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Shawn Mendes unfollowing Charles, clearly, in such a partisan, knee-jerk market, one can readily assume that the damage is certainly done. That, and because it is proven to work, consider the hostile takeovers of tomorrow will take the form of misty video blubberings.
Brave new world.