What’s life like as one of the world’s most popular YouTubers? Well, as I dug into PewDiePie’s channel, the Swedish video game reviewer and cultural commentator posted a review. In the first four minutes, it had 38,000 views. In the first 21 hours, a million. It’s good the be the king, as the saying goes.
PewDiePie is the YouTube moniker of the 30-year-old Swede Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg. He launched his channel in April 2010, noting that few people at the time were doing game reviews. So he began posting reviews of himself playing and offering stream-of-consciousness commentary. As the number of subscribers exploded, PewDiePie expanded his channel’s repertoire into comedy shorts, meme assessments and cultual commentary—YouTube style.
For years, PewDiePie was the most subscribed channel on YouTube (though it’s now “sunk” to No. 2 behind the Indian conglomerate entertainment channel T-Series). But shed no tears. PewDiePie still has 103 million subscribers—more than twice as many as Justin Bieber, to put his popularity into perspective. Kjellberg’s disarming combination of coolness and self-deprecation, cutting wit followed by immediate apologies for being “too mean” and up-to-the-second cultural awareness have ll cemented his position as one of the internet’s most important personalities. And PewDiePie continues to crank out content watched by millions of fans literally the second he uploads it.
Most of PewDiePie’s stream-of-consciousness commentary is simply inanity. It’s not good or bad, it’s just what’s flowing through this guy’s brain and mouth at any given moment. His ongoing monologue often has a clever, meta-cultural quality to it. At times PewDiePie, stumbles into what we might call “common sense statements.” In one video, for instance, he says anyone who takes their clothes off online shouldn’t be surprised by criticism: “Right or wrong, regardless, people are going to judge you for it.”
Profanity flows freely, especially misuses of God’s name paired with “d–n.” At times, f-words are bleeped with a flatulence sound. More recently, though, PewDiePie has been leaving his f-words uncensored. While PewDiePie avoids wandering directly into explicit content himself, he’s certainly willing to talk about it. The video “Idubbz Content Cop” unpacks harsh criticism of YouTuber Idubbz regarding his response to his girlfriend’s decision to begin posting explicit videos for money. PewDiePie suggests that such judgment is to be expected, but backs away from offering that judgment himself. In fact, the bigger worldview problem PewDiePie’s channel illustrates is this: There is no truth, merely opinions, points of view. The only thing that matters is personality and the momentary bit of comedy, sometimes at others’ expense.
PewDiePie’s YouTube empire is built on a combination of cutting wit, constant sarcasm and breezy cleverness.
Note: Plugged In’s YouTube channel reviews are not exhaustive summaries of everything viewers will find, but a representative sample of recent videos to give you a sense of the kinds of things you might expect to see.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.