A Red Flag Review of Viral Video
+Never have I been more grateful for my sloth in posting an article as I am today; when news broke last week of ‘Bye Sister,’ (YouTube makeup guru, Tati Westbrook’s video about James Charles), I wasn’t ready to give something off my cultural radar 43 minutes of my life, but when I finally did, Charles decided to release his own video (also over 40 minutes) clarifying the incident which led to their very public blowup.
When I heard what was going on from my preteen cousins, I was put off by the fact that a grown woman was coming for someone nearly half of her age. It felt cruel and juvenile. What’s worst was the almost celebratory energy surrounding his downfall. Westbrook’s accusations that Charles was manipulating straight men into thinking they were gay and using his fame and power to strong arm people into having sex with him rang false to me. Mind you, he’s only 19. Teenage boys trying to have sex by any means necessary is not unfamiliar to me and while not always savory, it isn’t exactly predatory (unless we’re talking about the underage). Her comments were inflammatory to say the least and led to an unprecedented 3+ million subscriber drop for Charles which included celebs like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West and Ariana Grande.
But lo and behold, in the midst of the smoke, a clearing: ‘No More Lies‘ dropped Saturday and in it Charles refutes all the claims made by Tati, point by point and in the process, earned over a million subscribers back. If ever there was a case to be made for not rushing to judgement, this is it. Initially, I was going to make a point by point comparison of their videos, but I decided to just focus on the red flags in hers, specifically the points she made that had me going, ‘Hmmm, say what now?’:
🚩 she doesn’t just spill the tea, she scalds with it – Anytime someone tells another person’s story, my red flag antennae go up. Tati told all this boy’s business, including how she and her husband helped up his earnings per video from $90 to $2,500. She mentioned a million dollar deal that they helped negotiate for him. She discussed private conversations she had with him, one in particular in which she said, ‘I told you this is not good and you could have your career destroyed.’ Considering the effects of her video, I wonder now if that was a threat or a warning?
🚩 details, details…except when it comes to her – Another red flag: vagueness. From what I take from both her and Charles’ video, this situation was triggered by his posting an ad for Sugar Bear Hair, a competitor to Westbrook’s Halo Beauty. She was understandably upset by his decision, but her explanation for why she needed to address this publicly is not as clear. She says that she could have just stopped talking to him, but decided to address it through YouTube because she ‘didn’t feel safe talking about this privately’ and didn’t want her words twisted and used against her. She wasn’t clear about why she felt afraid which leaves viewers to come to their own (likely, not good) conclusions. It’s a serious case of allowing people’s tendency to presume the worst do the work for you which is a nasty passive aggressive tactic.
🚩 all good, all good…except for him – I found it peculiar how Tati described James’ ‘unwilling’ pursuits as individuals ’emerging into adulthood who don’t quite have everything figured out,’ but neglected to see that those words fit Charles to a T. She opens her video with clips of praise for Charles, describes herself as a role model, talks at length about the amount of help she and her husband gave Charles, even stating that her role in their relationship was more from a parental stance, but would you raise an eyebrow or a glass at a ‘parent’ that shades their ‘child’ in the most visible way possible? Are we happy or horrified when we spot a parent spanking their child in the street? Warning sign: self righteous shading is a one dimensional justification for a personal takedown; it sounds a lot like, ‘I’m such a good person because (I do this, I don’t do this, people tell me so) and this person over here is bad because (they do this, they don’t do this, people say so)’. Checking people from a pedestal is a MAJOR red flag. Checking people who are unrelated to the issue, as she did Charles’ mother, another violation. In the video, Westbrook mentions that Christie (James’ mother) said to her, ‘thank you for looking after my boy.’ After listing his ‘flaws’, she claps back, ‘ok, I’m handing that back to you.’ As if playing mentor is akin to guardianship. The unmitigated gall is jaw dropping.
🚩 what it looks like and what it is are two different things – towards the end of her video, Westbrook gets into the ad that started it all and her beliefs that she didn’t really think Charles was in danger, that if he was in danger, he could have left and that the deal with Sugar Bear Hair must have been in the works because companies don’t just have contracts laying around to give to people. All valid assumptions, but still, conjecture at best. She has no credible reasoning for thinking that his story about linking up with SBH at Coachella was untrue other than her feelings and that’s fine, but that doesn’t make it lie.
As it stands now, ‘No More Lies’ has racked up over 29 million views in two days. It didn’t make YouTube’s trending list, which is weird considering the numbers. Checked it today and he’s been flagged for a copyright claim which might explain why his video is not on the list and interestingly enough, Tati’s game changing ‘Bye Sister’ was unlisted (meaning that you won’t find it in searches, but you can watch it if you have the link or in my case, have watched it already and it’s in your viewing history). Considering how detailed and proof riddled his response video is, I wonder who would benefit most from its reach being limited? And to not break my own rule and be vague, I’ll answer my own question: Tati Westbrook.