On Thursday, June 25, in lieu of her usual content consisting of crafts, spoiling her dogs, or showing off her favorite memes and TikToks, Jenna Marbles shared an apology with her subscribers. The video, titled “A Message,” and coming in at around 11 minutes long, focused on videos she made nearly a decade ago. Jenna apologizes for these videos, some of which she put on private long ago, and others that she’s done the same with in the last week because they are racist or misogynistic. She also announces that she is leaving YouTube.
“I want to hold myself accountable… I’m ashamed of things I’ve done and said in my past, but it’s important.”
This came as a shock to many of her followers because while most YouTubers have a very public scandal that leads to an apology, Jenna did not. It appears that only a few people called these videos into question, but Jenna takes these topics very seriously and wants to address it. Watching her on camera, it’s clear that she has bottled up a lot of shame and regret about these videos over the years, and she was ready to act on it.
The videos in questions include one in which she imitates Nicki Minaj, in which her skin is darker than usual. Jenna claims that she was not intentionally doing blackface, but the overused amount of self-tanner definitely looks like it. She apologizes for her impression of the female rapper and for doing blackface, whether intentional or not. “It doesn’t matter,” she says. “All that matters is that people were offended, and it hurt them, and for that, I am so unbelievably sorry. It’s not okay. And it hasn’t existed on the Internet for a long time because it’s not okay.”
Jenna also addresses her 2011 video, titled “Bounce That Dick,” a joint effort with other creators to make a raunchy, comedic rap song. In the video, Jenna raps, “Hey, ching chong, wing wong, shake your king kong ding dong. Sorry, that was racist. I’m bad at rap songs.” After showing the video, which hasn’t been public for a while, Jenna says, “It’s awful. It doesn’t need to exist. It’s inexcusable.”
She then apologizes for the “What Women Do/What Men Do” series, feeling that her platform was too big to show such strictly masculine and feminine blanket assumptions on either gender. She says, “I have privated all of them because I don’t think that making jokes about your gender is funny, and I know that there’s a lot of people that struggle with their identity and have varying, fluid identities. I just don’t want content in the world that’s… it doesn’t make sense. It can be hurtful. It can be harmful. And I don’t want it there.”
One more big topic that Jenna apologizes for is her use of slut-shaming in the past, mainly from this 2011-2012 period. She admits to having a lot of internalized misogyny that no longer reflects her views on anyone. “It does not reflect my attitude toward anyone and their bodies. That’s really been eating me up inside for a long time. I just want to say I’m sorry if I ever made you feel bad about yourself or your choices. There’s no one demanding an apology from me for that video of me right now, but you know what put it on my tab.”
“It’s not cool. It’s not cute. It’s not okay. And I’m embarrassed I ever made that. Period.”
At the end, Jenna Marbles admits that she intends to leave the platform, maybe temporarily, maybe forever, to ensure that the content she puts into the world is not hurting anyone. “For now, I just can’t exist on this channel.”
Fans were naturally upset about this. Many have been following her since the beginning, and many look up to her as a person. She is known on YouTube for her growth as a person and her ability to not shy away from challenging topics.
For example, a few years ago a video went viral of Jenna Marbles calling out the Kardashian/Jenner clan on white privilege and giving a succinct definition on what it is and why it’s important to acknowledge it.
She has also been vocal during the past few weeks about the Black Lives Matter movement, openly aligning with it on her social media and in her videos. Jenna even took a break from creating content on all channels for over a week in order to not distract from news reports or protests.
So, when her fans assumed she was called into question, they pounced to action. They let her know that YouTube humor was different then, that she’s different now, and that they love her and want her to come back. The problem is that most of these fans were white.
“I’ve definitely done things in the past that weren’t great, and I’m not completely unproblematic.”
Fans felt the need to forgive Jenna because of the amount of growth she’s been through as a person. They wanted her to keep creating content because it seemed unfair that she would leave when so many others are vastly overstaying their welcome. People like Tana Mongeau, who performed a fake marriage for “clout,” has a history of racism, and scammed subscribers out of their money for an underwhelming convention centered on herself.
Logan Paul, who has been called into question for filming and uploading morally controversial content, such as his infamous vlog on Japan’s Aokigahara forest, or “suicide forest.” Or rumors that his brother Jake Paul has drugged women who attend his house parties.
Or Shane Dawson, who has been under fire many, many, many times for his incredibly racist, sexist, and crude past. And who just this week is now being “canceled” again. This time, for a past video where he feigns masturbating to a photo of 11-year-old Willow Smith. Both Jaden Smith, the singer’s brother, and Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother, have called out Shane on Twitter. They have demanded that he faces some actual consequences for once.
Jenna doesn’t look like any of these people. She doesn’t churn out fake apologies and make excuses for her past. So, many subscribers wondered, why does she have to leave the platform?
“I think there was a time where having all my old content exist on the Internet showed how much I had grown up as a person, which I am very proud of.”
Has Jenna changed drastically over time by unlearning past societal and social views? Yes. This can be seen just by looking at how she used to speak, what she used to think was funny, and even the fact that her Wednesday uploads used to be called “Sexual Wednesday,” a title that she’s shed just in the last year.
Do people change, and do they deserve credit for that? Of course! And I really hope so. Because in 2011, I also had a lot of internal misogyny. Any girl I didn’t like was a “slut,” and that was automatically a bad thing! Times have changed, and hating on girls for their sexual choices is tacky and anti-woman. In this respect, and this respect alone, do I have any say in “forgiving” her.
But racist doings of the past are not for me to forgive, or any other white person. That apology was not for us because it did not hurt or affect us. That apology was for Black people who saw yet another person with a large platform doing blackface. The apology was for Asian audiences who had to listen to her pedal out a poorly done “joke” mocking their language. That apology was for anyone who may have felt constricted or confused by being put in a box of either woman or man when they felt like the opposite, both, or neither.
So why does Jenna have to leave the platform? She doesn’t. But, she has chosen to. This is allyship. This is growth; this is taking accountability. Fans that are outraged about other people “canceling” the YouTuber are trying to turn her into the victim. Jenna is not the victim. She makes it clear that anyone who she has hurt from her videos are the victims. Although de-platforming is the most a controversial YouTuber has ever offered when called into question, it should be no surprise that her white subscribers detest this act of allyship.
It is truly not anyone’s job to forgive Jenna Marbles. Because she is not looking for forgiveness, she’s looking to be better.