If you’re anywhere near social media, you know that people will sacrifice any shred of dignity for clout.
Yes, clout. That intoxicating, indescribable, and fleeting pursuit of likes, followers, and meaning in an online world that is bereft of anything tangible outside of nonsense. It’s why people tweet inane things all day. It’s why people feel the need to whip out their phones and record moments during the insignificant dead time of their lives.
And it’s why Jake Paul and Tana Mongeau—YouTube stars and two pieces of wretched digital offal—decided to stage a fake wedding this past Sunday. The couple conceived of the “prank” as part of a longtail viral stunt for, well, we’re not sure. It happened, though, and we’re all worse off for it.
A YouTube Match Made in Heaven
Staging a fake wedding is probably one of the tamest stunts Paul and Mongeau have attempted. Jake Paul and his brother Logan have made their name on YouTube through a series of tasteless and hacky “pranks.” Logan Paul made headlines when he decided to venture to Japan’s Aokigahara Forest. There, he made a video where he displayed an apparent suicide victim.
Logan’s younger brother, Jake, hasn’t gone to those depths (yet). He’s of the same ilk, though, and staging his wedding with Mongeau is another prank in a long, tired series pranks. Mongeau, for her part, doesn’t have the subscriber base of either Paul but dabbles in the same internet dark arts.
Mongeau’s content consists of pranks, music videos, and confessional type videos, and she has also had mishaps with live events. Her 2018 TanaCon event—dubbed the new “Fyre Fest”—dragged out over 20,000 fans who encountered logistical nightmares. Overall, it was a failure from the get-go.
The fact that these two came together to stage a wedding is one thing. But the fact that they charged fans upwards of $49.99 (which they are now refunding) for a livestream of the wedding begs belief. But that is what happened.
On Sunday, Jana (a portmanteau of Jake and Tana) tied the knot in a ceremony that featured a staged fistfight and other gaudy nonsense that was engineered specifically to go viral. Despite the pair ostensibly tying the knot, on her MTV reality show “Tana Turns 21,” the YouTuber admitted that the two were doing the wedding “for fun and for content.”
YouTube: A Video Cesspool with its Own Set of Rules
Because of this shift in its mandate, famous YouTube personalities like Paul and Mongeau have found themselves in a bind. Creators must consistently surpass their previous viral stunt or lean hard into brand partnerships to keep the lights on.
The shift has alienated YouTubers who have built a brand and name off the platform, while large corporations have swooped in to pick up the pieces. These large companies possess the production resources to create video at a clip that jives with YouTube’s monetization ecosystem. On the flipside, YouTube stars strive to create larger-than-life, kitchen-sink situations. They have to stage a fake wedding and make their own reality show.
If anything, the wedding, and strategies to amplify the spectacle, are indicative of YouTube’s current direction.
Overall, the event shows how the platform is balancing original content against content created by large corporations. Unfortunately, grassroots content creators might find themselves deprioritized in the face of productions with bigger budgets and resources. Or, we may see creators push the boundaries beyond what’s tasteful, like Paul and Mongeau.
Now, we only have to wait for the impending divorce to see how things shake out.