So last week booktube and twitter kinda blew up over Steve Donoghue’s video and his subsequent comments. Basically, in his video, he talked about how “big booktubers” were attending BEA and pumping out an exorbitant amount of vlogs and hauls and he claimed to know who “real readers” are and that these big booktubers just aren’t it. That was offensive to many people in and of itself, but Steve accidentally fanned the flames when he commented,
“I mean, do [big booktubers] strike you as readers? When you watch their well-lit, well-filmed videos, with them sitting there wearing blush in front of studio lights, can you honestly picture them hunkered down with a book, happily reading, oblivious to everything else? I certainly can’t picture that.”
Now, many people took that as a rather sexist remark due to what they believe he “implied” about wearing makeup. I, however, don’t believe this was intended as a sexist remark, but rather a comment on how aesthetically based booktube is.
This is probably gonna offend some people but I just can’t not say it and that is: booktube is a lot about the aesthetic. AND BEFORE YOU GO GETTIN’ IN A HUFF LET ME SAY: I UNDERSTAND. As a performer, I understand that the way things looks matter. They do. First off, to address Steve’s makeup comments: when you have harsh lighting, you need makeup in order to look like you actually have, oh, you know, actual lips that don’t blend completely into your face. And you need good lights so people can actually, oh, you know, see you. And what performer doesn’t have a good set to perform on?
Now, WITH THAT BEING SAID, I, especially as a genuinely poor person, really dislike how aesthetically based booktube is. Why? Because due to how aesthetically based booktube is, we have grown accustomed now to seeing readers as these well groomed young men and women who have pristinely maintained gargantuan collections of books. And I can’t afford that. And I don’t believe that most of America can afford that either. I can’t afford to have 600,787,942,300,081 books. I can’t afford to haul 600,787,942,300,081 more each month. I can’t afford to always be wearing the best makeup and the trendiest clothes. I can’t afford the lighting and equipment it takes to produce so called “high quality” videos. I just can’t. That’s the reality of my life.
Steve’s video and comments bring up a really good point: does a “real reader” always have to have the biggest, bestest, newest collection of books? Do they have to lead a perfect, wealthy life? I think what he was trying to say is, “Look, if you don’t/can’t have that perfect look, it doesn’t mean you’re any less of a reader.” And I can get behind that. Now, did he say this in the most polite, PC, unoffensive way? No. But that doesn’t mean what I perceive as his intended message rings any less true.
Part of why I’m a blogger rather than a booktuber is because I don’t have to sit in front of a huge bookshelf full of books. Because I don’t have that, I can’t have that. And when I’m behind a computer, typing away, no one can tell. Part of why I’m a blogger instead of a booktuber is because people can’t see whether or not I’m “beautiful.” When you’re writing, that doesn’t matter. And I hate to say it, but when you’re filming, it does matter.
Have we become too aesthetically based? Too materialistic? Has it gotten to the point on booktube where if you’re like me and you can’t afford to have a huge collection of books and “well-lit, well-filmed” videos, you’re not a “real reader” in the eyes of viewers? Because I think it kinda has.
This is just the point of view of an outsider. But I think that’s a valuable point of view as well. I am in no way saying that Steve’s comments are nice or that what people thought he was saying is okay. But I am saying that we can take some of the truth behind his ugly words and use it to reflect upon ourselves, our society, and what we value.