Youtuber Colleen Ballinger is currently facing an onslaught of allegations of grooming and inappropriate behavior from former young fans and employees. Though the situation, known as “traumageddon,” may seem like niche influencer drama, it’s actually indicative of how creators have come to hold each other accountable.
I’ll sum it up for you. Over the past few weeks, several people have come forward with allegations about past inappropriate relationships with the creator behind Miranda Sings, a character with overlined red lips and an off-key singing voice with an army of young followers. The deluge of accusations was initiated by a now-removed video from YouTuber KodeeRants. That’s a pattern we often see in pop culture: One person comes forward with allegations, which in turn inspires others to speak out about similar experiences.
What’s particularly unusual about the situation, though, is that KodeeRants wasn’t the first to come forward. Adam McIntyre, who was 17 at the time, accused Ballinger of grooming him back in 2020. His “colleen ballinger, stop lying” video launched his career as a drama YouTuber, and in turn, he was accused of clout chasing and making false allegations for attention.
Since then the video from KodeeRants, screenshots of inappropriate messages Ballinger sent her young fans have emerged from several different accounts. One person came forward to speak about how Ballinger made them feel uncomfortable on stage at a show.
Instead of standing by and accepting the validation of public opinion finally swinging in his favor three months later, McIntyre rehashed his childhood trauma multiple times to make comprehensive videos about the allegations against Ballinger on his channel with more than 200,000 subscribers.
Around the time McIntyre first released his video about Ballinger, the YouTube landscape looked different. So-called “drama” often involved beauty influencers beefing over personal disagreements and issuing tepid apology videos. Months earlier, Tati Westbrook released a video full of hearsay that turned the world against James Charles, only for him to maintain an immense amount of power. Mainstream media barely covered YouTube in-fighting.
Not much has changed. A small part of this is because of what I’ll call the “Baby Gronk” effect—it’s hard to make an audience care about new characters, especially if they make them feel old, even if said characters start an important conversation about the relationships between creators and their underage fans.
Since so much of the creator economy is openly an exchange of attention, it’s easy to dismiss people as clout-chasing—even when they’re talking about very serious allegations. Often, drama is all about keeping attention on you. This makes it even more difficult for survivors to come forward with allegations, given that part of their goal is to bring attention to someone’s bad behavior.
So what’s actually different about this situation three years after the original allegations? Screenshots. Lots of them.
McIntyre has always had evidence to back up his claims against Ballinger—for instance, he showed footage of Ballinger saying she wanted to send him lingerie in his video. But after the Kodeerants video, several people came forward with screenshots of troubling and uncomfortable messages with Ballinger. In the court of public opinion on YouTube, that’s irrefutable. If you aren’t still a stan, anyway.
As YouTube’s commentary channels attempt to hold the platform’s celebrities accountable without the resources or training of the mainstream media, screenshots are the social currency. Screenshots are what solidified the allegations of James Charles talking to underage fans, and they’re igniting a reckoning for Ballinger as well.
Turns out that the rise and fall of crypto and NFT was distracting us from a new form of digital currency with a longer shelf-life. The era of the Bored Ape is over. Long reign receipts!
– Kelsey Weekman, Passionfruit Contributor