I started watching Youtube as something more than a streaming platform at the age of 14.Until then, I almost exclusively used it to listen to Eminem songs from bootleg channels that synced lyrics to a blurry picture. I can’t quite recollect when I started exploring the platform but all of a sudden I started tuning in to channels like SeaNanners,Pewdiepie,Philip DeFranco and Good Mythical Morning. I watch some of these channels to this day and I spend most of my free time on YouTube than on conventional O.T.T platforms.
Throughout the years,I remember watching these channels accepting that I wouldn’t find anyone who watched the same set of Youtubers I did. The ecosytem was so fragmented it wasn’t easy to have a communal interest space. With that being said, I fondly remember all the times I watched Youtube videos with my friends.My earliest memory of collectively consuming Youtube was watching Ryan Higa’s ‘How to be’ series. True authenticity is what garnered views around that time. Now, well even if you ask the top creators of Youtube the key to success,they’ll give you a non-committal answer. No one really knows, not when streamers like Belle Delphine got famous by selling her bathwater online.
As the years pass though, I love seeing 30–45 minute videos that dissect and talk about what happened to a Youtuber that slowly faded from popularity. Other than Pewdiepie, almost no channel has managed remain popular throughout this decade. Most influencers who started in their early 20’s are now in their 30’s, either still making videos or have entirely moved on to greener pastures. It’s fascinating to look at these trends,see how fleeting fame really is.
That’s why I loved iDubbbz’s new documentary ‘Ice Cream Man’ .Ian Carter (Idubbbz) belongs to the camp of ‘edgy’ Youtubers, who consistently pushed boundaries during a time where almost everything you could watch on Youtube was child friendly.. Filthy Frank(now Joji lol),MaxMoeFoe, Anything4Views all these characters were in a merry band trying to do everything that the ‘Superwoman’ types weren’t doing.Through the years, they have had to rethink their approach to content as YouTube decided to heavily police their monetisation strategies. You could no longer swear,let alone try to say the N-word on camera.
Coming back to ‘Ice Cream Man’, the subject of this documentary is Dax Flame. I won’t blame you if you don’t know who he is, I didn’t either. He’s an Andy Kaufman-esque character,where you can’t really tell if he’s playing a character or just acting like himself.He started uploading videos when he was 15, receiving popularity from fans because of the blur between what’s real and what’s fiction. After receiving massive success at the time,he went on to star in big blockbuster movies like Project X(2012) and both the Jump Street movies. If life followed a linear trajectory, you’d think this YouTuber/Actor had struck gold.However, Dax slowly fell out of popularity. As of 2020, he has a job working as an ice cream man in a quaint store in Los Angeles,California.
I would recommend this ‘documentary’ to anyone who thinks fame is something that is a hurdle to cross. Maybe it’s because Hollywood drilled it into our heads that after we got our big break, our struggle ends.Growing up,the thought of having a rocky film career was alien to me.I believed that once you became famous,it lasted for perpetuity.
Dax Flame’s story isn’t just about a washed up YouTuber. In fact, he isn’t the only one in the YouTube world who has fallen out of fame. It’s easy for me to sit in the middle of a pandemic like a middle class father pointing at these ‘failures’ and beseech you to do something ‘safe’. The hard thing would be to tell you to write that book,pick up that instrument or edit that YouTube video. I mean why would you? When the odds are completely stacked against anything you do.
Another easy assumption would be for me to believe that everyone who’s achieved some level of fame are hacks who just got to the top because of the ‘right place,right time’ strategy. Dumb luck,nothing else. Trying to attribute their passion for their craft as something that supersedes mine isn’t a glamorous thing to do.It simultaneously points out their achievements while looking at my own flaws.That’s why I want to believe that the celebrities we see aren’t just famous because of hard work and all those buzzwords you see in every self-help book, its because they genuinely love doing what they do.
I’m not the most optimistic person but a part of me believes that if they could find joy in doing what they love,I can at the very least try to.