YouTube Rewind 2018 Controversy

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Event: YouTube Rewind 2018 Controversy
Date(s): December 2018
Type: backlash against TPTB
Fandom: YouTube
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In 2018, YouTube released YouTube Rewind 2018: Everyone Controls Rewind, which was the ninth YouTube Rewind overall and the seventh in the style now associated with the phrase "YouTube Rewind." Typically, these videos were a well-loved celebration of what made the platform special and featured popular YouTubers such as Markiplier and PewDiePie in connection with that years popular memes, but 2018 marked a change in that formula. Everyone Controls Rewind prominently featured several celebrities not associated with YouTube such as Will Smith and Trevor Noah in addition to people not generally associated with YouTube such as Ninja, who primarily livestreams and then uploads highlights to his YouTube channel.

As of December 2019 the video is the most disliked video on YouTube, taking the spot from Justin Beiber's song "Baby," which held the title for almost 7 and a half years.[1] It's important to note that while "Baby" amassed a significant number of dislikes, the like to dislike ratio of the song isn't terrible at 53.09% likes and 46.91% dislikes compared to Everyone Controls Rewind having on 13.53% likes to a whopping 86.47% dislikes.[1] This means that while a nearly equal number of people liked and disliked Baby, which is also the 14th most liked video on YouTube,[2] the YouTube community overwhelmingly disliked Everyone Controls Rewind.

The Video

The major theme of Everyone Controls Rewind is exactly as the title implies: every person featured in the video "controls" that year's rewind by suggesting content that should be featured. It begins with Will Smith suggesting the inclusion of popular video game Fortnite and YouTuber MKBHD in the video. The camera then cuts to MKBHD, several other YouTubers, and Ninja talking inside of a Fortnite battle bus. Cardi B's song "I Like It" is played on the radio during the scene.

The next scene depicts a group of YouTube personalities surrounding a campfire. Casey Neistat and the Merrell Twins suggest that the Rewind should mention K-Pop, after which the video cuts to YouTubers imitating the music video of "Idol" by K-pop group BTS in a direct reference to the "Idol Dance Challenge" where people attempt Idol's choregraphy that became popular after the release of Idol's MV. The video then cuts back to the campfire, as German YouTuber and actress Dagi Bee proposes a reference to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but comedian Michael Dapaah establishes that the internet meme Bongo Cat[3] will be the groom. Following the wedding scene, AsapSCIENCE suggests the video needs "more science" and Safiya Nygaard suggests a science experiment involving melting lipstick.[4] Another then suggests the inclusion of electronic musician Marshmello, whose mask is removed, revealing singer Mason Ramsey underneath. Then Adam Rippon appears, skating around Mason before the video cuts to a group of popular Korean YouTubers eating a mukbang in Korea.

Eventually, the scene shifts back to the campfire, when animator TheOdd1sOut suggests the inclusion of the "In My Feelings" challenge where people dance to the song of the same title by Drake. The video rapidly cuts between scenes of YouTubers and celebrities, including Trevor Noah and John Oliver, dancing to "In My Feelings" and animated segments by various popular animators. The video once cuts back to the group sitting around the campfire again, with Lilly Singh claiming that the video should feature "the people who managed to do something bigger than themselves." Then several Youtubers give shoutouts to various groups of people, including "everyone who proved it's O.K to talk about mental health" and "all women in 2018 for finding their voices."

Afterwards, ElleOfTheMills decides to "read the comments" for further suggestions on what to feature in the Rewind. Various comments are featured, leading to the inclusion of more pop culture moments that took place over the past year. These references include former Vine star Lele Pons taking part in a fashion show with others wearing the iconic costumes featured in Kanye West and Lil Pump's "I Love It" music video,[5] and references to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the Dame Tu Cosita dance craze,[6] and "Baby Shark."[7] The Sister Squad (James Charles, the Dolan Twins, and Emma Chamberlain) are also shown in outer space, driving a car resembling Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster, and ASMR is mentioned.

The video ends with Smith laughing and watching the battle bus through a pair of binoculars. While the credits are playing, Primitive Technology is featured, sculpting the YouTube Rewind logo with clay.

The Criticisms

This article or section needs expansion.

The YouTube community's dissatisfaction with Everyone Controls Rewind is related to a number of factors that don't have anything to do with the video itself. For a number of years, YouTube has been home of people with large followings that attract equally large controversy like Logan Paul's choice to show a dead body on camera earlier in 2018[8] and Shane Dawson's rise to prominence making documentary videos after a history of controversial content.[9] Julia Alexander writing for The Verge said:

YouTube Rewind is an annual look back at the trends, creators, and moments that YouTube executives and employees consider the most noteworthy. It’s a presentation of what makes YouTube unique, specifically designed to market its creators to advertisers in the hopes of securing large deals. The lack of these moments reiterates the divide between how the platform wants to be seen and the actual culture that creators participate in.

This year, those people include actors like Will Smith and comedians like Jon Oliver. It includes mainstream stars like Fortnite’s Ninja, and some of YouTube’s most notable creators who have worked in traditional Hollywood — Casey Neistat, Lilly Singh, and Liza Koshy. These creators are beloved and influential, but most importantly, they’re not controversial. They work with big brands and big celebrities, and they represent the switch to a digital MTV that YouTube is trying to become.[10]

This disconnect between what YouTube wants to present itself as and what YouTube has grown to be is one of the major factors behind Everyone Controls Rewind being one of the most hated YouTube videos. Since YouTube pushed advertiser-friendly policies that created Adpocalypse and forced creators to turn to alternate sources of income such as Patreon, there has been a growing disconnect between what YouTube wants the community to watch and what the community actually wants to watch. Changes to the algorithm that recommends videos means that independent creators need to get millions of views to even have a chance to compete with non-YouTube content that's hosted on YouTube, such as movie trailers and clips from late night talk shows.[11] While a user would see the Trending videos and assume they were the most watched recent videos, YouTube channel Coffee Break determined that "YouTube sees it as a place to land people on advertiser friendly content. And creators see a place for viral works to be spotlighted."[11]

Everyone Controls Rewind also came under fire for pushing activism while the platform struggled with white supremacy[12] and a scandal about the promotion of the app BetterHelp.[13]

I have a lot of problems with YouTube rewind 2018 saying how important it is to promote mental health meanwhile when 2018 started they let a YouTuber post a video of a dead man hanging and all YouTubers that advertised betterhelp got paid $200 for each sign up. But that’s just me[14]
Lack of connection with the community even affected the video’s more political messages. The campfire scene in the middle of the video wasn’t bad because it mentioned important and divisive issues like diversity, mental health, and representation. It was bad because there was never any overt linking of these issues to movements in the YouTube community and user experience. In the unfairly maligned Rewind 2017, YouTube masterfully balanced events that occur within the community with events that affect as all by having the creators hold hands and showing some of the news coverage about traumatic events that year. In Rewind 2015, YouTube celebrated gay marriage in the U.S, but the focus still remained on the community and its tapped-in creators.[15]

YouTube's CEO responded to the criticism in a blog post several months later, saying:

Even at home, my kids told me our 2018 Rewind was “cringey.” We hear you that it didn’t accurately show the year’s key moments, nor did it reflect the YouTube you know. We’ll do better to tell our story in 2019.[16]

The 2019 YouTube Rewind, For The Record, is currently the third most disliked video on YouTube after "Baby."[1]


  1. ^ a b c List of most-disliked YouTube videos. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  2. ^ List of most-liked YouTube videos. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  3. ^ website. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  4. ^ Melting Every Lipstick From Sephora Together. Posted 14 April 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  5. ^ Kanye West & Lil Pump ft. Adele Givens - "I Love It" (Official Music Video). Posted 7 Sept 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  6. ^ El Chombo - Dame Tu Cosita feat. Cutty Ranks (Official Video) [Ultra Music]. Posted 5 April 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  7. ^ Baby Shark Dance | Sing and Dance! | Animal Songs | PINKFONG Songs for Children. Posted 17 Jun 2016. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  8. ^ Logan Paul, and the toxic YouTube prank culture that created him, explained. Posted 3 Jan 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  9. ^ Racist blackface ‘comedy’ is making a comeback — on YouTube. Posted 30 Sept 2014. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  10. ^ YouTube Rewind hides its community’s biggest moments to appease advertisers. Posted 6 Dec 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  11. ^ a b YouTube’s Trending section puts creators at a huge disadvantage over big brands. Posted 29 May 2019. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  12. ^ How white supremacists are thriving on YouTube. Posted 19 Sept 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  13. ^ YouTube’s BetterHelp mental health controversy, explained. Posted 4 Oct 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  14. ^ Tweet from @GillNoCaptnGill. Posted 13 Dec 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.
  15. ^ Youtube Rewind 2018 Is More About Image And Less About Community . Posted 10 Dec 2018. Accessed 13 Dec 2018.
  16. ^ YouTube in 2019: Looking back and moving forward. Posted 5 Feb 2019. Accessed 13 Dec 2019.