Explained: The wide backlash behind Youtube Rewind 2017

By Kiran Galani

YouTube released their annual rewind video, YouTube Rewind, for 2017, earlier this month, to a mixed reaction from their audience. While some people commented on how nostalgic the video made them feel and how it captured the spirit of 2017 perfectly, a large majority of fans were rather disappointed by it and the fact that the video omitted several important YouTube stars and events and instead focused on rather arbitrary videos and events.  

YouTube Rewind: A pop-culture roundup

The concept of YouTube Rewind was first introduced in 2010 and the video then simply featured a list of the Top 10 most popular YouTube videos for that year. The video series is produced and created by a collaboration between YouTube and Portal A Interactive. Since 2012, these videos have changed their format to be an overview and recap of each year’s viral videos, events, memes, and music, featuring an ever-growing number of YouTube celebrities that increase in number every year.

The 2017 video referenced everything from pop culture to memes to disasters around the world. The video was backed by audio that included some of 2017’s biggest hits like Shape of You, Humble, and Despacito. It included references to funny videos like the one that saw American academic Professor Robert Kelly’s children burst in while their father was doing an interview, to memes that took over the internet like Salt Bae—a meme based on Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe who became a viral sensation when his restaurant tweeted a video of him dicing meat and, crucially, seasoning it in a highly flamboyant way. They even included a nod to the time when, around the middle of the year, the world becomes fixated with a giraffe named April, who was pregnant for an extremely long time and the Animal Adventure Park in New York live-streamed the birth. so that the millions of people could tune in to patiently wait for April to go into labour.

The video also referenced Fidget Spinners quite a bit because while no-one is quite sure as to why spinny bits of plastic became a thing when you have an entire universe of digital entertainment and information at your fingertips, these fidget spinners were definitely one of the biggest sensations of 2017. The YouTube Rewind video pays homage to the craze by incorporating Fidget Spinners throughout the narrative, including one that could control the movements of a train and another that substituted a record on a turntable.

At the same time, there were a large number of fans who were sorely disappointed by this year’s Rewind and the comments section under the video on YouTube was filled with significant criticism.

YouTube stars sidelined

One big controversy that caused a backlash from fans was the exclusion of YouTube’s biggest star, PewDiePie, from the 2017 YouTube Rewind video. This was the first time since his debut appearance in the round-up in 2013 that Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (PewDiePie) has not been included in YouTube’s annual Rewind selection. This exclusion was preceded by a spate of controversial comments over the last year and this was probably the reason behind his exclusion from the video.

While his fans were all revolting against Youtube, PewDiePie himself released a video addressing his exclusion and insisting that there were no hard feelings between him and the search engine. He revealed that he ‘wasn’t asked’ to appear in the video in the first place, and although he didn’t mention any specific reasons why, fans believe it may have something to do with his string of slip-ups over the past year, including the fact that the Wall Street Journal found a total of nine videos by him that included ‘anti-Semitic jokes or Nazi imagery’.

It’s sad in a way, that I’m not part of it. But like, I understand why, like I’m not salty at YouTube for not inviting me,” he said, in his explanatory video. “But at the end of the day I care more about YouTube,” he continued. “I care more about what’s good for YouTube, what’s good for the platform, then being in it and… pissing people off,’ he concluded.

Fans were also upset about the general vibe of the video and there were several comments talking about how the 2016 rewind seemed much better than the 2017 video. They also complained about the fact that YouTube had kept most YouTube stars in the background (or not included them at all), instead focussing only on a couple of their favourites like Jake Paul and Logan Paul. Some commentators even went as far as to say that this was the “worst” YouTube rewind and that it seemed like YouTube was “trying too hard to be funny” without thinking about the YouTubers themselves.

Another repetitive complaint was the lack of seriousness with which they portrayed disasters like the hurricane. People were smiling in the foreground while the hurricane was displayed in the background and this reflected an utter lack of sensitivity towards the victims of these disasters on the part of the directors and the creators.

YouTube losing its integrity

The YouTube Rewind is a throwback video that is supposed to reflect what the year stood for, especially with reference to the platform. A lot of the fans have trouble with this because they believe that instead of trying to capture the essence of 2017, YouTube just did what brought them the most advertising revenue, thereby commercialising the entire concept of the video while simultaneously losing its integrity and everything it stood for. This has left most fans of the platformed disheartened, though they hope YouTube will get its act together for next year’s video and bring back the authenticity of these Rewinds that people know and love.

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