Disney and YouTube have cut their ties with YouTuber PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, after he included several examples of anti-Semitic and Nazi imagery through his videos.
According to a Wall Street Journal review, some of his videos in recent months featured imagery including swastikas and Nazi salutes, among other examples that many considered grossly offensive. He reportedly used a clip of a man dressed as Jesus Christ saying that "Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong." He also paid two Indian men to hold up a banner through Fiverr which read "Death to all Jews." Kjellberg however insists that he is not serious about the use of such imagery.
Kjellberg formerly held a partnership with Maker Studios, which was purchased by Disney in 2014 for $675 million, and was integrated into its entertainment division soon after. “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case and the resulting videos are inappropriate," a Maker Studios spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
In response, Kjellberg offered the following statement on his Tumblr account:
I was trying to show how crazy the modern world is, specifically some of the services available online. I picked something that seemed absurd to me—That people on Fiverr would say anything for 5 dollars.
I think it’s important to say something and I want to make one thing clear: I am in no way supporting any kind of hateful attitudes.
I make videos for my audience. I think of the content that I create as entertainment, and not a place for any serious political commentary. I know my audience understand that and that is why they come to my channel. Though this was not my intention, I understand that these jokes were ultimately offensive.
Meanwhile, in light of the same issue, YouTube has also canceled Kjellberg's original series, called "Scare PewDiePie," a YouTube Red exclusive that the company reportedly paid big money to produce. To make things worse, the video giant has now also removed the internet star from its Preferred advertising program, a system used for more marketable creators. This generates more revenue compared to traditional advertising.
Kjellberg is no stranger to controversy; back in September, after making a joke about joining ISIS, Twitter suspended his account. It was reinstated later on, but he lost his verified status, and it has not been restored to this day.
Moreover, back in December, the online video star promised that he would delete his YouTube channel once it hit 50 million subscribers. He claimed that he wanted to do so to protest the changes made within YouTube, which had resulted in a loss of views, as well as subscribers. But once that goal was reached, he instead deleted his second account, to the confusion and ire of many.