There are three types of Jenna Marbles viewers in this world: those that watched her old content but phased out of it, those who have only seen her new content, and those who have been with her since the beginning and never left. I fall somewhere in-between the middle and third category; I started getting really into Jenna’s content around the time she was uploading her “Ultimate 100 Coats” video. By this point in her career, she had largely moved on from her earlier styles of comedy, and had begun to embrace her newfound “wholesome” identity in the YouTube community. While I do think having Julien in her life had a huge positive impact on her content and her happiness, I’d say it was almost all personal growth and maturity on her own accord that really contributed to the shift of Jenna’s channel.
For many of us, Jenna Marbles and her content represented a special friend. She was (and is) the person we can go to after a hard day, or a breakup, or an argument, and just lose ourselves in the laughs. Watching her videos feels like an escape from the bland, scary realities from the world- it is an opportunity to hang out with some old friends, goof off, and enjoy the experience together. Jenna’s community is friendship and love, and for all of us, it feels sort of like we’re sharing inside jokes with each other that nobody else could understand.
I was always conscientious of the fact that Jenna probably wasn’t going to stick around forever; nor should she feel obligated to. Yes, for us, Jenna is the pinnacle of wholesome entertainment and laughs, but she’s also so much more than that. She’s a human being with a life outside of YouTube, with aspirations she probably never got to explore due to her early internet fame. So much of her life and her personal development has centered around YouTube; it’s impossible to imagine how different her life could be if she had never gained so much popularity.
I commend Jenna for her ability to grow, change, and adapt to her audience over the course of the decade. She has clearly made a consistent effort to make her content as inclusive and pleasant as possible, and it shines through to her viewers.
However, like many other creators on the platform, some of Jenna’s older content has been called into question for being racially insensitive or offensive in other regards. Most notably, folks have been quick to call out her 2011 impression of Nicki Minaj, her use of racial language against Asians in one of her songs (also 2011,) and her assumed friendship with problematic YouTubers such as Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson, who have also been called out for instances such a racism in the past.
Obviously, any instance of racism or distasteful behaviour towards marginalized groups of people is wrong, regardless of if any offense was meant. However, there is a clear difference between Jenna and other content creators with similar pasts: growth and humility. Unlike Jeffree Star, Laura Lee, Shane Dawson, etc., etc., Jenna has shown herself to undergo tremendous and authentic change since her early days as a YouTube phenomenon. She has consistently owned up to her mistakes and insensitive behavior in the past, removed the videos called into question, and clearly educated herself on why these behaviours were wrong.
Now, let’s fast-forward to 2020, the year of Influencer Accountability and her evil sister, Cancel Culture. I think it’s very important to distinguish the difference between these two movements. Calling for accountability is asking for influencers, those with colossal power over young minds, to own up to their mistakes and take genuine liability for problematic behavior. Accountability embraces growth and change, rather than being automatically thrust out of social and digital circles.
Cancel culture, on the other hand, is the notion that influencers who make mistakes should be ostracized and permanently excluded from social media platforms for their behavior. Cancel culture has been criticized since the term ever gained notoriety, with one commenter even noting that cancel culture “rarely has any tangible or meaningful effect on the lives and comfortability of the cancelled.” (source)
Was Jenna Marbles “cancelled?” No.
Jenna Marbles was not forced off of the internet or threatened to leave by anyone else’s accord besides her own. Jenna decided to leave on her own accord and her own time, because she felt she needed to hold herself accountable and move on from a platform that is often crowded with toxicity. With the sudden emergence of viewers asking influencers to hold themselves accountable, Jenna did not make excuses, defend her past behaviour, or ignore the points of her viewers. She did the opposite- she agreed. She agreed that her old content reflected an outdated image of who she really is. She agreed with the marginalized communities who she hurt along the way and validated their experiences. In her June 2020 video regarding her leaving the platform, Jenna herself made it very clear that leaving the platform was something she primarily needed to do for her own well-being and personal growth. And while I was devastated to see a “friend” of mine leaving, someone who I had relied on for years, I understood. And like I said, I really didn’t blame her.
I feel like it’s important to remind everybody that it’s okay to grieve the loss of Jenna’s content. Like I said, Jenna became a “friend” to many of us and her videos have been something for us to look forward to for more than a decade, every week. However, growth is normal, change is good, and although it’s sad, I think Jenna’s leaving the channel is something that she truly needs right now for her own mental health. I think it’s okay to admit that Jenna probably felt a lot of external pressure from the ever-changing standards of influencers in the media, but ultimately, this decision was all Jenna and up to her own wishes.
To those who are angry at those who “called Jenna out” or “made her leave,” I understand where you’re coming from. However, Jenna’s decision is one that she is in FULL control of. We are so lucky for the 10+ years of content she gave us, and although I’m heartbroken to see her go, I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for our ✨34 year old ladyyyy✨.
We love you, Jenna!