Last year I wrote an article about gaming YouTuber Jason Gastrow, better known as Videogamedunkey or just Dunkey. Then I got told to kill myself, multiple times.
How did it get here?
The article was part of a conversation I was having with my roommate at the time. He didn’t believe the criticisms I had of the YouTuber were valid. I felt that Dunkey’s recurring bit of beating the shit out of a female NPC was endemic of the larger issue with misogyny in gaming and was reinforcing those issues.
My roommate and I talked about a lot of things Dunkey does and what we find comedic in general. The biggest thing that struck me is that my roommate believed our culture needed more acceptance of the misogynist comedy like Dunkey’s. He went so far as to say it’s important for comedians to make rape jokes without fear of criticism. After all, who was I to say rape isn’t funny?
Well, that night I took an hour or two and scrubbed through the majority of Dunkey’s videos to date and read other critiques and opinions. I was trying to make sense of it not only for myself but in hopes of continuing to have constructive discussions with the Dunkey fans in my life, like my roommate.
That led to what became the most viewed and hated post I’ve ever written: Everything Wrong with Dunkey. Go ahead and give it a read if you haven’t, and take a look at the many, many angry comments.
It wasn’t really an article to start, it was a collection of clips from Dunkey’s hundreds of videos and references to other criticisms of his content. But I added my thoughts, as well as my conclusion: “If you look at the patterns of behaviour over the years it’s impossible to deny this is a really shitty guy. He rose to fame off of sexist content, and while he may not murder a woman in every video he carries all of that misogyny with him in all his work.”
Well, my roommate didn’t like that, so he took it to the internet’s best place for reasonable debate and discussion: Reddit.
He shared it twice, once from a now-deleted account where he titled his post “Roommate Decided to write up why we shouldn’t support dunkey” and a second time from a different account where he titled his post “Breaking news: SJW writes article to defend women and minorities from dunkey’s ‘abuse’” which I found pretty humorous. In my experience, “SJW” is the go-to for name calling when people don’t actually want to have a useful conversation with you.
I’m under no illusion my roommate wanted to foster a discussion or engage in any thoughtful critique of my article. He posted on the official Dunkey subreddit, after all, where he knew hardcore fans would jump on my article and attack me. And they did, and have continued to almost weekly since he shared it.
I keep my email on my blog in case readers want to reach me, and I get emails almost every week from Dunkey fans telling me to kill myself and calling me a “r*tarded f*ggot” among other things. The article has about 100 comments and a little over 6,000 views as of this writing, many of the comments matching what I get in my inbox. This is typical of existing with an opinion on the internet, but I feel it also illustrates a bigger point about the kind of community Dunkey attracts.
The people telling me to kill myself and calling me all kinds of colourful slurs are angry, that much is certain. These are angry guys who enjoy seeing a high profile creator beating the shit out of a female character in a game. It’s funny! These are guys who feel validated when Dunkey complains about his ban from League of Legends for telling another player they “should be gunned down in the streets like the degenerate you are.” That’s hilarious, I do that too! They love that Dunkey behaves like they do and is rewarded for it with YouTube celebrity. And they’re angry at anyone who is critical of him.
Don’t get me wrong I’ve laughed several of Dunkey’s videos. He has a great sense of timing and occasionally he skewers a game in a thoughtful way that I agree with. He exposes a lot of the stupid things about videogames I think need exposing, like his 2017 E3 video which illustrated how stupid these press conferences really are.
But I’m still going to be critical of how often Dunkey is shitty towards women in his videos, whether satirically or not. A lot of his content is blatant in its objectification of and violence towards women, from spinning the camera under B2’s skirt to look at her panties in his Nier: Automata video to murdering a cowering woman to get a better look at her naked breasts in his Max Payne 3 video.
A lot of people in the comments and emails I’ve received argue that the personality of Dunkey is satirical, designed to make fun of the outrageous gamer culture by being a caricature of a racist, sexist gamer. Even if that is the intent (and I would love if someone could find me the quote where he says it is) he never distinguishes which videos are meant to be satirical let’s plays and which are his actual critiques of games.
If the audience can’t tell the difference between your satire and the source, you’ve just made more of the source material. And when your source material is toxic, misogynist gamers we don’t need any more of that.
There have been new discussions in the mainstream about Dunkey since I wrote my article. Articles from people I admire like Patrick Klepeck at Waypoint who says that even though Dunkey has “a history of using offensive, ableist language in his videos” he’s still one of his favourite YouTubers, even when Patrick doesn’t agree with everything Dunkey says and does.
And after his Game Critics video blew up there was a lot of discussion about his faulty arguments, like Paul Tassi who wrote in Forbes that Dunkey “constantly gets off track and contradicts himself while addressing these issues.” Dunkey is one of Tassi’s favourite YouTubers as well, but when someone you admire does something stupid that doesn’t make any sense it’s important to be critical of that.
In a perfect world, criticism will lead to reflection which will lead to better content. I had hoped that my critiques of Dunkey would illustrate a larger issue with his content. There’s a couple of comments on my original article in the sea of hate from people who say they appreciate my article because it helped them think about Dunkey differently. And that makes it all worth it.
So what now?
Look, here’s where I stand today: I don’t think the article I wrote was useful.
It’s a list of out of context clips from Dunkey’s videos where he does and says shitty things to women and minorities. The argument I made was that Dunkey beats the shit out of women NPCs and calls them various gendered slurs, therefore, he’s a misogynist and you shouldn’t watch any of his videos ever. That’s not fair.
Dunkey has misogynist themes in his content, for sure. But does that mean you should never watch another Dunkey video? No, it doesn’t. It’s important to be critical.
I’ve seen him mature as a creator. He’s moved away from the more blatant examples of misogyny and racism in his earlier videos, and I believe there are some truly useful criticisms of videogames delivered through a comedic lens. He doesn’t use the slurs he used to, and whether that’s because he’s become more aware of how damaging language can be or he doesn’t want a PR faux pas we won’t know. But another YouTuber with millions of subscribers who stops throwing around slurs is progress (although an extremely low bar).
It’s important to still be critical of the media you enjoy, and I will continue to be.
So whether this article will help clear up where my earlier misguided, messy article came from or not I’m unsure. I sure hope this helps the haters see where I was coming from, or at the very least stop sending me abusive emails every week. Each one just gets filed under the “Proving my Point” folder and makes me feel like shit.
I didn’t want to just delete the other article, but I wanted to let people know my opinions have changed. And please stop telling me to kill myself.