On Sept. 11, YouTuber Shane Dawson (who has 17 million subscribers) announced that he would release an eight-part docuseries about fellow stunt YouTuber Jake Paul (who has 17 million subscribers), and the controversial universe he and his brother, Logan, have created on the platform.
Over the last week, Dawson has released three episodes exploring various facets of the Paul brothers’ franchise and personalities.
Dawson has recently begun making entertainment-based video features about YouTube personalities in the news. Featuring the Paul brothers — two of the platform’s biggest personalities — was sure to earn him attention, and sure enough, the videos have so far accumulated over 41.4 million views.
Dawson says in one video that he’s “fascinated by” the “darkness of [Jake’s] world.”
Throughout the three videos — essentially a YouTube stunt about a YouTube stunt artist — Dawson speculates if Jake and/or his brother, Logan, are “sociopaths.” It has now caused the large YouTube audience and commenter base to talk about the antisocial disorder.
To be clear, Dawson is using a term — “sociopath” — that is an outdated layman’s term for antisocial personality disorder, according to medical experts.
Antisocial personality disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is a personality disorder characterized by an inability to conform to social norms. “They don’t form emotional bonds and tend to be emotionally detached from other people, and they also don’t experience the more socialized emotions that other people have that require that you can represent other individuals as whole people,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist who’s consulted for the FBI.
Of course, though, YouTubers have become armchair psychologists overnight. Here’s how we got here.
In the first video installment, called “The Mind of Jake Paul,” on Sept. 25, Dawson attempts to explain why he’s making the documentary.
“I shouldn’t be doing a series about a possible sociopath, but I also want to do shit on my channel I find interesting. And the fall of Jake Paul and the darkness of his world is something I’m fascinated by,” he says to the camera.
At one point, Dawson poses the question, “YouTubers have to have some kind of personality disorder, something, right? To do what we do — putting ourselves on camera all the time.”
He says he wants to understand the “psychology” of YouTubers, and specifically questions whether Jake is a sociopath.
He proceeds to interview another YouTuber, iNabber (171,000 subscribers), who summarizes YouTube drama on his own channel. The two discuss Jake’s “fake relationships,” assault allegations, lighting various things on fire, and physically endangering his friends for stunts.
Dawson calls this part of his documentary “The Research.”
Dawson released the second video, titled “The Dark Side of Jake Paul,” two days later. This video explores whether Jake is or is not a sociopath, using the outdated term. He recruits the help of Kati Morton, a licensed therapist who has her own prominent YouTube channel (531,000 subscribers).
Morton walks through the clinical definitions and qualifiers of the disorder, as Dawson cuts in clips of Jake.
While Morton says in the video that she cannot diagnose Jake or Logan without meeting them, she ultimately says that “it’s definitely possible” they are sociopathic.
“People put on personas, but going back to the symptoms and signs that we've just read through, like not caring if people get hurt ... he’s done things like terrorizing members of his team. Like, the lack of emotions in his eyes is kind of creepy,” she says.
“Is he remorseful? Does he just pretend he’s remorseful?”
Before Dawson could release the third installment, he issued an apology to people who might have been offended by how the series treated personality disorders.
In a series of Snapchat videos, Dawson apologized to anyone who was offended and/or had actually been diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
“I’m sorry if I offended anybody. If you are offended for someone who has this or thinks they have this, I am sorry, but just know my intentions were not bad,” he said.
He said he had “personal” reasons for why he chose to explore this subject.
“It’s something that people don’t talk about, and I wanted to talk about it. I’m personally connected to it for so many reasons that I haven’t even talked about,” he said.
On Sunday, Logan responded to the first two parts of the series and described his take on the antisocial disorder.
“Your young and impressionable audience will not know any better, so I’m here to cut the sh—” Logan said. He said Dawson had presented information in the series in an “extremely misleading” way.
Logan, who said that he has direct messaged Dawson about his thoughts, went on to say that he believes in a “sociopathic spectrum,” even though Dawson's series is about his brother, Jake. He said he prefers the phrase “sociopathic tendencies” over the term “sociopath.”
“A lot of us, me included, will do some dumb sh—, maybe some stuff that lacks empathy, strictly for views,” Logan said. “It gets us views, which gets us subscribers. Our motivating factor is to reach the next, next, next level.”
He then said that the mental illness, “boiled down,” has to do with...being “more savage.”
“Sociopath is, boiled down, someone who is just more savage than everyone else.”
Logan said he had looked up the definition of the term “sociopath” after people called him one earlier this year, when he sparked widespread backlash after he vlogged the body of a man who had killed himself, in Japan months ago.
“Tons of people, even people in my circle, close friends, like: ‘Yo, you’re a sociopath straight-up,’” the YouTuber explained, going on to say that he hadn’t understood what it meant, and that he’d had to research the term.
“And for sure, some things I fit the description of; that’s why I’m saying, I prefer, if we’re going to label Jake a sociopath or not, doing it on a spectrum and where he lies on it, because again, it’s not just black and white,” Logan said.
In the end of the video, Logan told people not to be afraid of those who might have the disorder. “If your friend might be a sociopath, or has sociopathic tendencies, he’s not going to stab you in the middle of the night, when you’re not looking, I don’t think,” Logan said.
While Logan was critical of some aspects of the series, he also mentioned that the pair are friends and that he admires Dawson’s work.
“Look, I’m excited for the rest of this series,” Logan said at the end of his video.
Dawson addressed Logan’s response at the top of his third video in the series.
Jake also briefly weighed in on Sunday. He tweeted that his only note to Dawson was that he should “make it clear” that he’s “determining wether [sic] or not” he's a sociopath, and not making a determinant call on the label.
In a follow-up tweet, Jake added that he’s “trusting” Dawson with the rest of the videos that are still to be released.
He said he wants audiences to see a side of him that his vlogs and antics don't show.
“The ‘sociopath’ STUFF doesn’t interest me,” he tweeted.
The third installment, “The Family Of Jake Paul,” examines the parents of the Paul brothers.
But before he dives into this “research,” Dawson claims that Jake has known the entire time what his docuseries would explore, like the recurring question of whether or not Jake is a sociopath.
He then reads off a direct message from Logan, which supposedly says, “I'm on the sociopathic spectrum. I wouldn't say I’m a sociopath.”
Logan goes on to defend his brother: “[Jake is] also nice and empathetic as fuck.”
Keemstar (4.3 million subscribers), an animated YouTube personality who also recaps and comments on drama between YouTube personalities, made his opinion loud and clear.
He titled his recap/response video, “LOGAN PAUL is a SOCIOPATH” and added that he has video footage “proof” of the claim.
Keemstar claimed that because Logan did not defend his brother in his video response, and instead defended himself, it proved he “lacked all empathy.”
Fellow YouTube drama commentator Philip DeFranco (6.3 million subscribers) also addressed the controversy — but mostly by criticizing the production of Dawson’s videos and calling some parts of his videos contrived.
“Are people taking this too serious?” DeFranco asked.
Reaction to the series has been highly polarized. Some people criticized specific aspects of the series, and others dismissed it altogether.
This person found the series potentially “irresponsible.”
That said, plenty of people applauded it. This viewer said that she was “beyond shook.”
The next two parts of the eight-part series will air on Wednesday and Friday, according to Dawson.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Jake and Dawson’s teams for comment. Dawson’s email inbox was full.