YouTuber Dream recently revealed his face, and we work in an industry where this is front page news – or at least would be if we wrote our news in newspapers and not endless spoils of online content ready to demand your attention at any given moment. I had some vague knowledge of Dream – I knew we hadn’t seen his face, I knew his avatar was a smiley on a green background, and I knew he cheated at Minecraft. That’s about it. I don’t care that he revealed his face and, in a way, I suppose I’m slightly saddened that it’s news. But in the immediate aftermath, I feel compelled to go to bat for him.
As for why I’m sad, that’s more of a personal note. I’ve seen a few peers dismiss the Dream face reveal, scoffing at the very idea of it. But ten million people watched it on its first day. Like it or not, this is major gaming news. If you want to go where the action is, this is it. A huge slice of the gaming audience, particularly the young emerging audience, cares about the Dream face reveal. It’s something I’m a little out of the loop on, despite feeling so plugged in to gaming news at large, and that’s why I feel saddened by it. Seeing the reaction though, I remember why I rarely pay this slice of media any mind.
Dream just looks like a guy. He’s a white man like any other – if you walked down the high street you’d see ten guys just like him. He’s a normal man, but he’s famous, so he’s fair game. Dream has been insulted for looking normal and for looking abnormal. There are roughly 7 million tweets expressing mock shock that ‘oh the Minecraft YouTuber is an average white guy?’, and at this point everyone has already made that joke. It makes me think of one of my all time favourite tweets, which purports that Twitter is like the whole world bullying a person who deserves to be bullied by like nine people. I don’t really know enough about Dream’s history to know if he frequently insulted others for his appearance, but the scorn that observers (especially journalists) are pouring on a guy for looking normal and for having cultivated an audience that cares what he looks like is a little strange.
That’s nothing though compared to the insults he’s getting for looking abnormal. At least the constant and smug ‘over it’ vibes the people dismissing him as ‘just a guy’ aren’t inherently insulting. He’s a normal guy who looks normal. That’s a fact. It’s the constant regurgitation of that, as if to suggest he therefore deserves less attention or popularity based on looking normal, where it creeps into insult. Better that than taking any feature even slightly outside the ideal (a chin too pointy, lips too thin, eyes too shallow) and using them to describe Dream as a grotesque freak who should have kept the mask on. He’s literally just a guy.
It feels like something of a gender reverse. Most male streamers are allowed to look however they want online – not just in terms of their base attractiveness (or lack thereof), but also facing no scrutiny for their clothes, or unshaven face, or unkempt hair. They just need to show up.
Women, however, are expected to not only look conventionally attractive at all times, but also be well dressed, in a full face of makeup, with perfectly styled hair. Do all this, and you’re mocked for being an e-thot or a titty streamer, your achievements dismissed on account of your gender. Fail to do this and you’re reviled. There’s a page on Reddit dedicated entirely to tracking Pokimane’s weight and analysing her clothing choices to account for this alleged weight gain – a perfectly normal biological phenomenon given she started at 17 and is now 26. Bodies tend to change in nine years.
This is not to say Dream deserves it, however. What knowledge I have of Dream does not include him insulting women, or anyone else for that matter, for their appearance. Even if he did, it’s saddening in another way that our first reaction to one of the best known content creators in gaming’s freshest form of media is just to say ‘haha ugly’.
This, I fear, is the biggest obstacle content creators face. Gaming journalists are judged broadly for their work, which perhaps gives them more leverage for incisive critique, holding publishers to task, and breaking stories. Content creators are judged by their personality and appearance, so they constantly have to work the crowd. These younger audiences will help shake games media over the next decade, but Dream’s face reveal is proof that the content creation crowd still has some growing up to do.
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