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A chapter about ‘catfishing’ from Shane Dawson’s 2015 book is being re-examined in a new light

Summary List PlacementThere's still more to unpack from Shane Dawson's vault of old content, according to his critics. The YouTuber who rose to become one of the platform's biggest stars with more than 20 million subscribers before crashing down in fiery controversy last summer has been slowly inching his way...

Author Shane Dawson appears on stage during

Summary List Placement

There’s still more to unpack from Shane Dawson’s vault of old content, according to his critics.

The YouTuber who rose to become one of the platform’s biggest stars with more than 20 million subscribers before crashing down in fiery controversy last summer has been slowly inching his way back onto the platform, largely through appearances on his fiancé Ryland Adams’ channel. 

After Dawson’s old content, particularly videos where he talked about race and children, was called into question in 2020, he faced intense criticism. Most notably, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jaden Smith slammed an old skit of Dawson pretending to masturbate to then-11-year-old Willow Smith. Shortly after, his 2015 memoir “I Hate Myselfie” was pulled from Target’s shelves.

Now, a re-examination of Dawson’s book shows there’s still a backlog of material from Dawson’s past that could chafe with the image he’s tried to craft in recent years. Re-reading and analyzing famous YouTubers’ books has been popular in the commentary genre on YouTube for years, and Dawson’s “I Hate Myselfie” has now resurfaced as a topic of discussion among YouTube fans.

In his memoir, Dawson tells a story of ‘catfishing’ a high schooler with the intent of disseminating his nude photo 

Each chapter in Dawson’s memoir is meant to tell a funny story from his life that contains some sort of moral or lesson, according to the book’s forward. It acknowledges Dawson’s young audience, as each chapter is prefaced by a drawing from a teenage fan of Dawson’s. The book includes racist, sexist, and homophobic language, as explored by YouTubers like CreepShow Art, a commentary channel with more than 430,000 subscribers.

The chapter “The Original Catfish” is gaining attention for an incident Dawson himself calls “disturbing.” Then still in high school, Dawson says he impersonated a woman on AIM, a messaging platform, and solicited a photo of a high school freshman’s penis. The boy bullied Dawson, according to “I Hate Myselfie,” and Dawson initially intended to print out copies of the photo and disseminate them around their high school in an act of revenge. 

“I know what you’re thinking: this is disturbing. Trust me, I know. But I was a fat kid scorned and I was ready to GO THERE with no regrets,” Dawson wrote in the book (he also narrated the audiobook version).

In the book, Dawson says he eventually decided not to share the photo, but that he printed out one copy and brought it to school to show the boy’s friends in case they started bullying him again. In the end, Dawson says he saw how sad the boy looked after sending the nude photo and not getting a response, and he flushed it down the toilet.

The chapter has resurfaced as commentary channels continue to dissect Dawson’s old content

Critics of Dawson have questioned why Dawson chose to include the anecdote in his book, which is still overwhelmingly positively rated by his fans on Amazon, with 79% 5-star reviews.

“I want to remind everyone that this is adult Shane writing this book. This is adult Shane narrating this book,” YouTuber CreepShow Art said in her February 12 video about “I Hate Myselfie.” 

“He’s laughing about it and putting it out into the world because he thinks that people will find this story to be relatable and silly,” CreepShow Art continued.

CreepShow Art wasn’t the only YouTuber who has recently criticized the chapter from “I Hate Myselfie” for their own online audience. Another commentary channel with over 800,000 subscribers, iNabber, made a video juxtaposing Dawson’s current attitude toward his own cancellation and the chapter’s contents.

Commentary and drama channels are a fast-growing genre of YouTubers who report on and discuss bigger creators. Most say they want to hold other creators accountable for bad behavior through their reporting, but some also make their entire income from ads and sponsorships on their channel and videos. Others, like CreepShow Art, told Insider they supplement their primary income with YouTube. Since Dawson’s cancellation resonated with so many YouTube fans, commentary YouTubers are incentivized to keep analyzing his old content from both on and off his YouTube channel.

“When I saw this excerpt from this book, I thought ‘Why has nobody ever called this out before?'” iNabber said in his video. “That’s something you might not expect from merely consuming his YouTube content.”

Both CreepShow Art and iNabber said while they believe Dawson’s recent return to the internet is intended to paint him in a sympathetic light, they think it also allows him to avoid taking accountability for his previous controversial actions, including the type of behavior and language described and used in his memoir.

“As more comes out, it just gets worse and worse,” iNabber said. “I feel like a lot of this is pretty career-ending, I feel like if any other creator admitted to doing half of these things, they would be done.”

Dawson hasn’t addressed any of the controversies from 2020 involving minors, and he hasn’t spoken out about the content in his book, either. Dawson’s lawyer and two of his representatives didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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