Late last month, drama-baiting YouTuber LeafyIsHere stirred up an internet-wide fuss over the idea that Imane “Pokimane” Anys, the most popular female streamer on Twitch, might have a boyfriend. It was the most recent evolution of a long-running line of thought: women on the internet keep their dating lives secret to fool gullible men into giving them money. Yesterday, Anys posted an apology video in response to the boyfriend drama, as well as a great many other things. Now it’s been disassembled, shoved under a microscope, and fed back into the drama machine.
Anys’ nearly 16-minute “My Overdue Apology” video touches on a broad range of subjects, including times in the past she’s issued DMCA takedowns of videos that include her footage or tweets. DMCA takedowns are a big deal on YouTube, because many people worry that they’ll be weaponized in service of censorship. Anys says she did this not because the videos criticized her, but because they included content she’d deleted or because the videos were titled with clickbaity lies. In her video, she still said she handled those situations “badly.”
Anys also apologized for using the N-word when she was a teenager, at a time when she wasn’t as well-known as she is now but still had an audience. In a clip that she estimates is from “about seven years ago,” she can be heard using it twice while animatedly talking about how unfunny somebody (who is not named in the clip) is. She also says she used the N-word in a tweet from “about five years ago,” which has since been deleted. Fans have been aware of these things for more than a year, but Anys has not faced the level of scrutiny that, say, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins did when he rapped the N-word during a stream in 2018, perhaps because her use of racist language occurred before Twitch achieved mainstream levels of popularity.
“Although I never said it with ill intent or racial context or the hard R, I still want to make it clear that I don’t condone the use of that language,” she said in the apology video. “I don’t want my deletion of those things or my silence now to make it seem otherwise. I’ve commented on this in the past, but honestly, my statement or comments then weren’t even good enough… I just want to make it clear that I am genuinely so sorry if I hurt or offended anybody with what I said. I really wish I could go back in time and change the past. Unfortunately I can’t. I do hope that my behavior in regards to language for the last couple of years and onward will speak for itself.”
Other apologies and explanations shared a consistent theme, centering around some people’s perception of Anys as a digital siren harvesting donations from a procession of desperate saps and simps. First, she discussed a three-month-old video titled “Simp willingly goes homeless for Pokimane” made by YouTuber It’sAGundam, which surfaced a fan’s tongue-in-cheek tweets. This fan said that his savings were running dry, but that he’d still donate $500 to Anys, further adding that he recently got evicted and would “sleep behind a Starbucks so I can use the free wifi [and] donate the rest of my money.” The same person said in another tweet that it was “a joke,” but that didn’t stop It’sAGundam from posting a video in which he took the comments seriously and made fun of the fan’s appearance.
At the time, Anys questioned why the video was sponsored, which makes sense, given that insults are not generally considered brand-friendly, and YouTube has rules against running its own ads on videos that focus on “shaming or insulting an individual or group” (though it is not always timely when it comes to actually removing said ads). However, Anys still apologized to It’sAGundam in her video.
“I want to sincerely apologize to both It’sAGundam and to the sponsor of that video for the remarks and comments I made,” Anys said in the apology video. “I completely understand people’s concern for going after someone else’s livelihood, especially in a time like this.”
Later in the video, she addressed the furor surrounding whether or not she has a boyfriend and her sustained silence on the subject, which LeafyIsHere most recently used to fuel drama YouTube’s collective id, but which has also repeatedly been brought up by figures like unscrupulous drama monger Daniel “Keemstar” Keem.
“I personally made the decision seven years ago or whenever I got into streaming that I don’t want my personal life to be part of my content,” Anys said. “For me, this also creates a healthier divide between my work life and personal life, which is an area where the lines are already pretty blurred. I understand that some people could relate this to donations, but you could also argue that one can make a lot of money by publicizing the relationship or making content out of it. Neither of these things are wrong at all… I personally want to be able to experience my relationships without the scrutiny of an online audience. If you disagree, that’s totally alright. You don’t have to support me or my content.”
Despite what is, on its face, a pretty rational explanation for drawing a line in the sand, especially for somebody whose fans regularly ship her with any male streamer she chooses to interact with, many on YouTube and Twitter have reacted negatively. On YouTube, multiple videos call her apology a “2/10,” referencing a now-notorious July tweet from Keem in which he rated Anys herself two out of ten. Some take issue with her explanations of things like DMCA takedowns. Others continue to reference the idea that Anys just wants to siphon money from penniless young men who believe she’s single. But while the content of people’s takes can be harmful—especially the idea that women are on the hook for fans donating to them, but men are not—the real point of all this is simply to have a take, any take. As former Kotaku senior reporter Cecilia D’Anastasio and Wired staff writer Emma Grey Ellis explained in a Wired piece about the Anys boyfriend drama last month, it’s all business.
“The brand circus industrial complex that has sprung up around the volatile world of internet celebrity relies on predictable responses to formulaic content,” the pair wrote. “It doesn’t matter whether she has a boyfriend, or whether or not her Twitch stream is actually funny; the content isn’t the content. The reaction is the content. Once the complex senses scandal, it starts publicizing the drama, reacting to it, reacting to reactions to it, reacting to celebrity responses to reactions to it, across every social media platform, all the time, until the next scandal happens. The result is often millions of YouTube views, and an awful lot of corresponding advertising revenue. It may not be good for high-minded public discourse, but it is good for a lot of people’s wallets, from the drama channels’ to YouTube’s.”
It is an undeniably toxic culture in a great many ways, but powerful people benefit from it, and others can latch onto its seedy underbelly, so it stays.
Some Twitch streamers, at least, have publicly backed Anys’ decision to keep her dating life on the down-low.
“[There are] all these weird comments people make, and they try and hyper-analyze,” said World of Warcraft streamer Esfand during a stream yesterday, referencing fans poking holes in a prior relationship between fellow streamers Asmongold and Pink Sparkles. “It’s just a weird thing.”
As part of his own stream yesterday, Félix “xQc” Lengyel also referenced a previous era of Twitch, during which streamers were more forthcoming about their relationships, and streamers like Reckful and Blue and Sodapoppin and LegendaryLea openly dated.
“If you have a super out-there relationship or whatever, the problem is that no human is perfectly reasonable,” he said, proposing a hypothetical situation in which a streamer regularly runs late, and his viewers get angry. “[They’ll be like] ‘He’s late because he’s spending time with her, not us.’… You let third parties, people that are outside the [relationship], actually create a wedge between the people…In the past, in the Reckful era, there was a lot of that. I think almost every streamer, all the big streamers, learned from these instances.”
Other streamers, like Devin Nash and Steven “Destiny” Bonnell, called into question Anys’ decision to make a video about subjects like It’sAGundam at all, given that some of her apology just feeds back into the drama machine.
“I feel like she could have addressed a legitimate criticism, but this fucking dumb drama shit, she feels the need to do, but she shouldn’t have addressed,” said Nash during a recent stream. “Do we even want to platform the people that are such inconceivable losers that even giving them attention is almost unethical?”
“Imagine making an apology video to a guy who uses a TF2 avatar to shit on other people’s appearances,” said Bonnell during his own stream, referencing the fact that It’sAGundam represents himself in videos with a digital avatar, rather than his own face.
Still, other streamers and YouTubers have been supportive of Anys on sites like Twitter, saying that they have her back, and it’s unfortunate that she feels the need to apologize for some of these things. As for Anys herself, she stands by her video.
“Lots of differing opinions on whether or not I needed to make this or if it feeds into the drama,” she said on Twitter. “[In my opinion] it’s important to acknowledge if I’ve hurt others, along with providing an apology and proper information regarding these instances.”