(Content warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault and ableism.)
In a Home Depot parking lot, 31-year-old Austin McBroom filmed himself whimpering in a cowboy hat. In dozens of Snapchat stories from Sunday, the former patriarch of the 18 million subscribers Ace Family channel starts stuck in the rain, until a nice stranger offers to drive him to a massage parlor. There, things become disturbing.
His masseuse, who happens to be a little person, ends up performing a bizarre and seemingly nonconsensual massage on McBroom. Though clearly staged (the masseuse was featured in other fictional videos on McBroom’s Snapchat last week), the interaction is unsettling.
In response, McBroom runs off with his clothes in his hand back to the RV he’s currently living in. But then, the masseuse follows him back to the RV, and the pair make up. They decide to go shopping at the supermarket.
This is just one strange day in the content of Austin McBroom, who has been confusing online onlookers with his content this month after divorcing his wife of seven years, Catherine.
On Jan. 12, Catherine announced on her Instagram that the pair have “mutually agreed to a divorce and will part amicably.” A few days after the announcement on Jan. 16, McBroom started his Snapchat saga in a sincere moment, stating that the marriage “hadn’t been easy for us the past few years” and that he’s looking for a home as close to his kids and Catherine as possible.
Though McBroom says he originally tried to get a house on the same street, that plan didn’t work out. He alleges he ended up getting an RV, which is still his base of operations for content. (McBroom did not respond to our request for comment via email).
Posting over 40 Snapchat stories almost every day since Jan 16, McBroom has consistently created absurd scenarios that have vlogified his life. It started small with getting parking tickets and complaining about a fever. But eventually, the videos moved into the absurd — with a song about his divorce featuring rapper DDG, doing yoga with OnlyFans creator ShawtyBae, and videos of him applying to work as a manager at CVS.
Many online are both enamored and confused by Austin McBroom’s antics, breathing more oxygen into his content. Channels like Tea Spill and the h3 podcast have been pulling in hundreds of thousands of views arguing about the legitimacy of his content and the ethics of some of his more controversial fake stories.
McBroom’s recurring use of little people like ShawtyBae in his videos also seems to have an ableist undertone or appear “mean,” as some commentators have argued. He’s used actors like that in the past, having a little person portray his opponent Gib before a fight in 2022.
Social media has been an even messier battleground, with some calling him the “funniest person on the internet” while others believe “someone (should) take Snapchat away from Austin Mcbroom.”
Catherine and Austin McBroom started the Ace Family channel in 2016, marrying a year later and eventually having three children together. Their content was highly successful, often using clickbait thumbnails full of gross, sexual, and just plain weird content to pull in a young but adoring fan base.
As previously reported by Passionfruit, the family has been at the heart of many controversies in recent years. In 2019, Austin bought a phallic-shaped lollipop for his young daughter, sparking outrage. Then, beauty vlogger Cole Carrigan accused him of sexual assault, which McBroom denied in a Twitter post. In 2020, Austin posted a vlog of him using his jetski in their pool, which neighbors beneath them alleged caused mudslides, dealing property damage.
The McBroom family has been reportedly hit by multiple lawsuits, allegations of not paying event performers and hosting an unlawful parade, as well as scrutiny for moving into a new mansion after the foreclosure of their $10 million dollar house resulting from the accumulation of millions of dollars in debt.
Austin McBroom stopped posting on YouTube in 2023, moving over to Snapchat full-time. It’s unclear why exactly Austin chose Snapchat. Through its Spotlight fund, creators like Katie Feeney have reportedly earned over $1 million, and with the Snap Stars program, top creators can earn a revenue share (though it’s unclear how much).
Snapchat also has a much larger younger demographic, with users aged 15 to 25 making up 48 percent of users in 2020, according to Statista. McBroom seemingly understands the value of being in the public spotlight, turning controversy into monetizable views. His overwhelmingly young audience might not be able to tell the difference between scripted content and the real thing.
McBroom’s fans may watch for hours, worried about the woes of the former family man, giving him the engagement and clicks needed to pay for the finer things. Even those with fully developed frontal cortexes have at least some fascination with watching McBroom, arguing over how real any of it is and growing his reach.
But to maintain that level of growth, he’s going to keep pushing the weirdness of his videos, either ending in a more viral moment or a lackluster fizzle. Either way, it’s all for the views.