PewDiePie's New Virtual Avatars Have a Community of YouTubers Upset

The popular—and controversial—YouTuber PewDiePie has recently stopped showing his face in videos, opting to use avatars instead. While it appears that PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is only temporarily embracing the Virtual YouTuber look, some fans and members of the "V-Tuber" community have expressed concern about him glomming onto their subculture—particularly because of PewDiePie's reputation and racist language that he's used in the past.

In a video posted on January 23, PewDiepie jokes that "the only way for me to stay relevant at this point" is to use an avatar. He points to the success of other popular faceless YouTubers, like Dream and Corpse Husband, and announces that he's going to perform a "face unreveal." In the videos he's shared since, PewDiePie has used a number of fan-submitted avatars (with some of them seeming anime-inspired) in spaces where he may otherwise show his face.

But some people involved in the V-Tuber scene aren't happy with PewDiePie seemingly crashing their space, considering past controversies in which the YouTuber has engaged in racism and toyed with Nazi imagery. The YouTuber also said the n-word during a video game livestream in 2017 and subsequently apologized.

When expressing concern about PewDiePie hopping on the V-Tuber bandwagon, a few people referenced these troubling instances of racism and anti-Semitism.

now im remembering the time somebody called me racist for saying pewdiepie shouldn't say racial slurs lmao

— lillie! | space bunny AI #ENVtuber | 🐇☄️ (@laureIthrone) January 25, 2021

Actual pewdiepie fans are coming into my comments and quote rts and I literally give 0 shit about context that man is an antisemitic racist piece of shit and If I wanna make fun of him I’m allowed to he would call me a slur if he had the chance I know it

— Nyala (@Snailzz69) January 26, 2021

could we maybe not celebrate pewdiepie joining the vtuber community when he's racist and anti-semitic

— Lumine 🌟 ENVtuber (Pre-debut) (@LumineTheWitch) January 26, 2021

A V-Tuber named Lillie told Newsweek in a Twitter DM that she doesn't think that PewDiePie is taking V-Tubing seriously, given the quality of his avatar, nor does she think that he plans to interact with the community much. She said that speaking out against him is more about making a statement about what V-Tubers value.

"I personally feel that condemning Pewdiepie for his long history of doing something racist, apologizing and promising to do better, and then doing it again while defenders claim that he's 'changed' with little evidence to back it up is necessary not to literally intimidate Pewdiepie [sic] into backing down (because ultimately it doesn't hurt any of us if he wants to stream with a 3d model) but rather to reaffirm that our community does not tolerate that kind of conduct. Allowing those kinds of beliefs and attitudes to fester due to a policy of 'staying out of politics' in a community is how you lead to toxic, hateful communities where marginalized people feel unsafe," she wrote.

PewDiePie's fans seemed unfazed about the YouTuber's sudden facelessness and have mostly appeared to make memes out of the avatars that he's been using. They have responded to criticism by telling V-Tubers and their fans to get offline. "If your [sic] letting the actions of one person on the internet control your whole life. You need to get off the internet. Stop living in the mind set that the internet is as nice as a rose.. because there is always thorns," one person wrote on Twitter recently.

He protecc
He atacc
But most importantly,
We got his bacc

If you’re mad at Pewdiepie for being a V-tuber, go outside, seriously.

— RCE⛩️ (@rcebackwards) January 26, 2021

I see all these people mad at PewDiePie for this. And honestly. If your letting the actions of one person on the internet control your whole life. You need to get off the internet. Stop living in the mind set that the internet is as nice as a rose.. because there is always thorns

— DaddyBoro (@BoroDaddy) January 26, 2021

The Twitter account VTuber & VTuber Fan Cringe shared screenshots of tweets from members of the V-Tube community who are upset about PewDiePie's current bit. In one tweet, the account called the V-Tuber fans' reaction a "collective derangement."

PewDiePie jokingly becoming a #VTuber is of course making some other VTubers worry about everything else other than their own content they should be producing.#ENVtuber

— VTuber & VTuber Fan Cringe (@VTuberCringe) January 25, 2021

The continued reactions to PewDiePie #VTuber feel like a collective derangement.#ENVTuber

— VTuber & VTuber Fan Cringe (@VTuberCringe) January 25, 2021

In a Twitter DM to Newsweek, VTuber Cringe said that reactions among the community have been mixed. Despite some people being upset, there are V-Tubers who see PewDiePie bringing a new audience to their corner of YouTube.

"A lot of the reactions from the English-speaking community of VTubers has been mostly positive with people supporting his VTuber appearance. Some even being appreciative that someone with his social media presence and influence is shining a light on the community and exposing it to a wider audience," VTuber Cringe wrote. "On the negative side of things, there are also other VTubers that bring up the past controversies he's been involved with and are of the opinion that his fans will bring negativity and bad behavior with him into the community. The latter group is much smaller than the former, however, they are very vocal about their issues with PewDiePie."

VTuber Cringe also noted that there could be "bad actors" in PewDiePie's fanbase who "harass" people who opposed the YouTuber's presence. "That is the unfortunate nature of huge fan bases and the Internet," they wrote.

Lillie wrote that PewDiePie's fans who do dig deeper into V-Tubing may really be the ones who determine what his presence means for the community as whole. She didn't sound hopeful. "I can only see see it hurting people like me who don't have a significant following and are much more likely to be targeted by harassment from the more reactionary parts of the existing vtuber fandom and a potential influx of pewdiepie's most adamant defenders," she predicted.

A few other people online have compared this latest controversy to a similar backlash that streamer Pokimane received when she began using an avatar in some of her videos in September 2020. One person called on fans to just let the YouTubers create content that they enjoy, without gatekeeping them from the V-Tuber community.

am i out of line for saying that people being upset that pewdiepie is using a vtuber model are probably the same people who got upset about pokimane for doing it? let them do it. it’s fun. they aren’t hurting anyone.

— ivory. (@_ivorybun) January 26, 2021

Newsweek reached out to PewDiePie via the contact email on his YouTube channel for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Pewdiepie Anime Avatar YouTube V-Tube
A screenshot of YouTuber PewDiePie's avatar from his video "I Did A DNA Test... (I Guess Im Cancelled Now)." Screenshot/YouTube/Pewdiepie