The shady side of Pokimane

The shady side of Pokimane

10/30/2020

She’s the most popular female streamer on Twitch (and the sixth most popular overall at the time of this writing), but the reign of Imane “Pokimane” Anys hasn’t been without its controversies. The Moroccan-Canadian walked away from a chemical engineering degree to pursue a career in gaming, and it turned out to be a wise choice — she shot to prominence playing Fortnite and League of Legends in 2017, nabbing the Shorty Award for Best Twitch Streamer along the way. Her rise to the top of the industry was meteoric and, for a time, the stream queen seemed untouchable, but every internet star has a paper trail. The bigger you get, the further people will dig into your past, and as Pokimane would find out, trying to bury your mistakes will only make things worse for you.

Although she’s only been a streaming star for a few years, as of this writing, the gamer and YouTube star already has a slew of controversies, public apologies, and more controversies under her belt. As such, she’s rapidly becoming one of the most divisive characters in the online gaming community — but are the things they say about her actually true? Does she really deserve all the hate that gets thrown her way? You be the judge. Let’s take a look at the shady side of Pokimane.

Pokimane used the n-word twice in a live stream

Numerous internet personalities have had to apologize for racist language and/or behavior, and on March 4, 2019, Pokimane joined that list. When an old clip that showed the streamer using the n-word twice within the space of about 15 seconds resurfaced, she immediately took to Twitter to try and explain herself. “Hard for me to speak on this clip’s context because it’s so old (I’m almost 23 and was underage in that clip), but it was definitely not said in a racist or derogatory manner,” she said, adding, “It was a time period/environment where saying it was more common and used as a replacement for ‘dude.'”

Pokimane went on to say that she didn’t use the “hard R” when she said the word, a defense she used again when she uploaded an apology video to YouTube in August 2020. The Twitch star decided to address all of her controversies in one video, including what she classified as her “inappropriate” use of the n-word. “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. “I really wish I could go back in time and change the past. Unfortunately I can’t, but I do hope that my behavior in regards to language for the last couple of years and onward will speak for itself.” 

She also used a racial slur in a now-deleted tweet

Pokimane’s use of the n-word is not limited to that one embarrassing live stream. The gamer also used the word in a now-deleted tweet that she estimated was around five years old during her 2020 apology video, in which she told her millions of YouTube subscribers (and the users just stopping by for the drama) that this kind of language is most definitely not okay. “I don’t want my deletion of these things or my silence now to make it seem otherwise,” she said. “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 anyone with what I said.”

She was accused of using the n-word again as recently as 2019, when another incriminating clip from a live stream started doing the rounds. She appears to use the slur while playing League of Legends, but according to her, only those with an untrained ear hear it. When YouTube gossip monger Keemstar tweeted the clip, Pokimane called him a “fake gamer” for not realizing what she was actually saying. “I said ‘this anivia’ (sounded like ‘this nivia’), aka a champion in League of Legends,” she replied, adding, “On the real, stop baiting likes by spreading lies.” While some came to her support in the comments, others weren’t convinced, and neither was Keemstar: “I hear HARD G!”

Pokimane was branded a 'fake b***h' during a heated online argument

Pokimane’s beef with Keemstar can be traced back to November 2018, when she called the DramaAlert host out for making fun of a SSSniperWolf fan. “It’s fine to dislike another content creator, but you probs shouldn’t hate on innocent fans,” the Twitch star tweeted, adding, “Realize you have an audience that will also attack them, and most people aren’t used to receiving hate like that.” Keem (who called the fan a “virgin”) didn’t appreciate Pokimane’s input. In a video response, he called her “whole overaction thing” a sign that she was a “fraud” with a “fake” online persona, which prompted Poki to make a video of her own. “I think I’m being very legitimate by not encouraging your kind of behavior,” she fired back. “Imagine all content creators just ran around picking on and attacking other people’s fans?”

The community response was split. Some believed that Pokimane was right to speak out, while others felt as though she’d taken a gag way too seriously. “Calling somebody a virgin as a joke — that’s not an attack. That’s a joke,” Keem responded. According to him, all Pokimane did was seize an opportunity to make herself look good. “I saw right through it,” he said, adding, “You’re a fake b***h.” Pokimane attempted to take the high ground and draw a line under the feud with a final tweet, but her first real controversy wouldn’t be forgotten in a hurry.

Does Pokimane take advantage of male fans?

Keemstar’s parting dig at Pokimane during their big argument was that she “can’t pay rent without donations from virgins,” a variation on an insult that’s been thrown at her on countless occasions. The streamer has been known to receive large sums from male admirers (in December 2019 a Twitch user named Misterjons94_ gifted her $2020 during a stream, in celebration of the coming year), and there’s a perception that she takes advantage of lonely fans, many of whom are ridiculously dedicated to her. It was PewDiePie who first exposed their levels of devotion to the wider internet, featuring a screen capture of an interaction between Pokimane fans in one of his try-not-to-cringe videos.

In the conversation (originally shared on the /r/sadcringe subreddit) one fan complains about having to donate less than they usually would that particular month. “Yeah man, I get it,” came a reply. “My wife’s been bugging me about this holiday I promised her like eight months ago, but the squad comes first #devoted #pokisquad.” People now tend to think of Pokimane fans as a bunch of simps (a simp being a guy who irrationally idolizes a usually-famous female in 2020 internet parlance). When one Twitter user told her that there are people out there who treat her as a virtual girlfriend, she admitted that it was probably true. “All I can do is discourage that sort of thought pattern/behavior,” she said in a now-deleted tweet (via Dexerto).

A fan's claim that he went homeless to support Pokimane caused an uproar

The interaction between Pokimane fans that PewDiePie and his guest CinnamonToastKen highlighted drew a lot of laughs in the gaming community, but it also shone a light on what appeared to be a genuinely serious issue. The fan who complained about not being able to donate their regular amount said that they could only give so much “because 4 months of rent were overdue,” which set alarm bells ringing. “That’s some next level brainwashing right there,” CinnamonToastKen said, and he isn’t alone in this opinion. People began digging into Pokimane’s fandom following PewDiePie’s video, and they soon discovered that more than one member of the Poki Squad had seemingly put themselves through hardship so they could still donate to her.

In a conversation captured by YouTuber It’sAGundam, one fan mocked another for only being able to spare $500. They claimed that they had recently been evicted — but still intended to make a donation. “I’ll see if I can sleep behind the Starbucks so I can use the free WiFi and donate the rest of my money,” they said. Pokimane addressed tweets like this one in her big apology video, insisting that its just people joking around. “I can totally understand how if someone was unsure of its legitimacy it could be pretty upsetting to see something like this,” she said, before making it clear that she “does not want you to donate if you can’t afford it.”

PewDiePie accused Pokimane of hypocrisy over copyright strikes

Pokimane found herself back in PewDiePie’s firing line in 2019, when he called her out for a practice that’s deeply frowned upon in the YouTube community — copyright striking. The whole episode began when a YouTuber named Bowblax decided to upload a timeline of Pokimane’s fight with Keemstar, a kind of slideshow containing every insult that was traded during the row. Pokimane argued that the video used too much of her unedited content and had it taken down. This didn’t sit well with PewDiePie, who pointed out that she uses other people’s content in her videos all the time. “What bothers me most… is the hypocrisy,” the Swedish star said, adding, “I would say 90 percent of content on the internet — or at least on YouTube and Twitch — isn’t 100 percent original content.”

When Pokimane saw PewDiePie’s video, she responded with a video of her own, standing her ground when it came to the strike. “Bowblax strung together all the tweets and videos from Twitter and just re-uploaded to YouTube with no editing or commentary or voiceover,” she said, claiming that it wasn’t “transformative content” and therefore deserved to be taken down. Over a year would pass before she would admit that she was probably wrong about that. “This was my mistake,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t consider the fairness of leaving that video up, as well as not properly understanding the fair use defense when it comes to transformative content.”

Pokimane was criticized for jeopardizing people's livelihoods during coronavirus

In May 2020, Youtuber It’sAGundam uploaded a video about Pokimane’s fans that rubbed her up the wrong way. The video (entitled “Simp willingly goes homeless for Pokimane”) used several examples of interactions between Pokimane fans to highlight just how dangerously obsessed some of them appear to be. It’sAGundam came across instances of grown men “shaming each other for being too broke to give a girl who’s not your girlfriend money,” he said. “We live in a day and age where men are shaming each other for not giving a woman who is already a millionaire the last bit of money they have. Welcome to 2020. It is a horrible time in history.”

His claims about Pokimane being a millionaire are unconfirmed, although Nailbuzz estimates her net worth at $3 million she did sign a “multi-year deal” with Twitch in 2020, but the financial terms weren’t made public. She did go public with her response to It’sAGundam, however. Pokimane reacted to It’sAGundam’s video on a live stream, which probably wasn’t the smartest move. She dismissed all the embarrassing tweets as fake and proceeded to go after It’sAGundam’s sponsor, which is a big no-no in the YouTube world. People were especially appalled that she would stoop to that level during the coronavirus pandemic. “I want to sincerely apologise to both It’sAGundam and to the sponsor of that video,” she said in her apology video. “I completely understand people’s concern for going after someone else’s livelihood, especially in a time like this.”

The secret boyfriend controversy

In 2020, notorious YouTube roaster LeafyIsHere returned to the platform with Pokimane in his crosshairs. He wouldn’t be back for long — the now-deleted videos he made about the streamer quickly led to a permanent ban. Leafy called the streaming queen out for a number of things, but what really got people talking was his accusation that Pokimane has a secret boyfriend who she keeps on the down low so as not to discourage her deep-pocketed male fans. This wasn’t a new theory. Months before Leafy’s short-lived comeback, Keemstar claimed that Pokimane was pretending to be “single online so sad lonely guys donate money” to her, calling it “fake and pathetic” to boot.

Like the rest of us, internet personalities should be allowed to date whomever they want, but the figures do show that Pokimane is more appealing to viewers when she’s available. As the #pokimaneboyfriend hashtag started to gather steam following Leafy’s controversial videos, there was a noticeable drop off in her subscriber numbers. She didn’t deny having a boyfriend in her apology video — in fact, she seemed to roundabout confirm that she’d been keeping a relationship secret for some time. “I understand some people want to relate this to donations, but you can also argue that one can make a lot of money by publicizing the relationship or making content out of it,” she said. “I personally want to be able to experience my relationships without the scrutiny of an online audience.”

Pokimane apologized for what appeared to be a transphobic joke

Just one month after Pokimane posted her all-encompassing apology video to YouTube, she found herself apologizing for a brand new gaffe. It all started with a seemingly innocent Instagram story. On September 29, 2020, she used her Insta to denounce the word “simp” and defend her fans. “Some dudes really do be simpin LMAO but I’m tired of seeing anyone (male, female, attack helicopter, other) be called a simp for being remotely nice to a girl,” she said (via Ginx). What she didn’t realize (or at least would claim not to have realized) is that she had referenced a meme created to disparage transgender people. 

Using “attack helicopter” in relation to gender comes from a copypasta (internet slang for a block of text that gets copied and pasted countless times across multiple platforms) called ‘I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter,’ a mean-spirited parody that’s been around for years. “I so clearly missed the mark on this and I’m really sorry to anyone that I’ve hurt or offended with what I said,” Pokimane said of her poor choice of words. “I didn’t use the term ‘attack helicopter’ in a transphobic manner, and was ignorant to its history which is entirely my fault. I also don’t want to enable transphobic behavior or language, especially within the gaming space, so thank you to those that spoke up about this. I’ll do my best to do and be better.”

The gaming community is split over Pokimane

Pokimane’s rise to power has split the online gaming community, and that divide seemed to deepen significantly in 2020. The streamer has done some stupid and indefensible things (missing the “hard R” off the end of the n-word doesn’t give you a pass, no matter how you frame it), but many are of the opinion that there’s a lot of unwarranted hate directed at Pokimane on account of her gender. She’s been vocal about women being held to different standards in the gaming industry, and in June 2020, she was involved in what CNN called the gaming world’s first big #MeToo moment.

It all started when female gamers from the OfflineTV house outed Federico “Fedmyster” Gaytan for sexual misconduct, which he did not deny. According to Pokimane, Gaytan would lie to people about her love life and try to manipulate her friends. “I had a lot of trust issues with him,” she said, adding that she and her female colleagues had no choice but to go public after private attempts at resolving his behavior failed. She got some blowback over the whole thing because, well, that’s the internet for you, but she’s ultimately trying to make the gaming industry a more welcoming place for women, and that should be applauded. “If a community is male-dominated, there’s bound to be biases,” she tweeted. “I hope that, in this day and age, we can learn to be both fair and empathetic with others regardless of this.”

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