The Internet roared when Shane Dawson announced that he would make an eight-part documentary series on the controversial Youtube star Jake Paul. Dawson had been known for making “DocuYoutube” series on other controversial figures (including Tana Mongeau and Jeffree Star), but this person, known for several strings of awful behavior, was a step too far. Dawson did announce that he would not be lenient or forgiving to this person, and that he was making the series to analyze why the younger Paul brother behaved in such a way.
With the release of the first episode, all seemed well enough. Within the first few days the episode got 15,000,000 views, a viewing higher than some of the most popular TV shows on air. The controversy arises in the second episode however, when discussing the idea of sociopaths, as an attempt to analyze if Jake Paul qualifies as a sociopath. This controversy centers mostly around the psychologist he meets with and the framing of a sociopath.
Now, here’s a few details on a sociopath. A sociopath classifies under antisocial personality disorder, mainly marked by superficial charm and an inability to regard moral or social standards. Sociopaths lack the ability to relate and sympathize with others, and often learn to mimic behavior by studying how other people react. They usually have poor behavioral/impulse control, and often need high amounts of stimulation. Sociopaths, which is the extreme end of antisocial personality disorder, affects about 4% of the population, or 3% of males and 1% of females.
Now, sociopaths aren’t inherently bad people. They often do things that are considered bad or callous because they lack the capability of understanding them. Oftentimes, however, sociopaths are confused with psychopaths, who are dangerous, as they share some similar traits. This creates a massive stigma against sociopaths, a stigma that oftentimes prevents people from getting help or living a relatively normal life.
Now, here’s where the Shane Dawson controversy comes in. He frames the description of a sociopath with scary music and themes, making a sociopath appear more like a serial-killer psychopath. He also makes it seem like a sociopath is some born horrible mental illness, rather than being a personality disorder born out of deep childhood trauma. He reinforces a stigma around mental and personalities disorders, which is ironic, given his history or eating disorders and depression. He has been open about his mental health issues, so to cast a disorder that people can’t help as something scary on such a mainstream platform only boosts the stigma against mental illness and personality disorders.
The second controversy comes in the fact that the psychologist he was talking to began diagnosing people. Any undergrad student who is serious about becoming a psychologist or psychiatrist can tell you that a therapist is not supposed to diagnose people. A therapist’s main job is to help guide someone on their own journey and let the person discover themselves, or have testing done in order to get a definitive answer. They are not supposed to sit there and tell you what they think you have. Any therapist who does so is not a good therapist. The fact that she was labeling Jake Paul as a sociopath without having ever met him is bad practice (also, her implication that all Youtubers are sociopaths with Narcissistic tendencies is kind of ridiculous). She only fueled the fire of placing sociopaths in a bad light.
Although Shane has apologized for this move in subsequent videos, the fact that he even did it in the first place for ambiance was just poor taste.