Logan Paul is blond, muscular and partial to double-finger guns. In a three-minute-long music video he published in May called “Help Me Help You,” he laments that his fictional girlfriend constantly makes him late because she’s worried her jeans make her look fat. It has 69,867,061 views on YouTube.
Logan Paul is, if you’ve heard of him, very, very famous.
He has 13.1M Instagram followers, which is 200,000 more than he had five days ago. I know this because a teenage boy waiting in line to meet Logan Paul showed me his account after I’d inquired which Kardashian was in town. The line snaked down Mulberry Street in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. The excitement in the crowd was palpable. I studied the screen: 12.9M followers. “He just waved at me,” the kid panted, eyes wide and star-struck.
If you’d asked me my opinion of Logan Paul last week, I’d have asked who Logan and Paul were. If you asked me the same thing today, you’d be desperate for an out within 45 minutes, the approximate halfway point of my verbal Logan Paul dissertation. I’m rapt, confused, disillusioned. I can’t stop thinking about Logan Paul. Logan Paul, LoganPaul, Loganpaul.
Six hours before I’d ever heard his name, around 8 a.m., I noticed a long line growing longer down an otherwise-empty street, and thought little of it.
Around 2 p.m., I heard a chorus of blood-curdling screams erupt outside. I looked around, alarmed. It was a summer Friday; the office was deserted save for me and a few others. “What the hell?!” One colleague ran out to do recon. Moments later, another deafening cheer ripped through the office. “Dude,” I turned to another, “We HAVE to go out there!” Surely Beyoncé, Rihanna, Bieber and Taylor Swift were skipping down the street naked or something.
We ran outside and into utter chaos. Buzzing crowds filled streets. “What’s going on?” I tossed out a few times to onlookers. “Some YouTube star,” a confused-looking women finally offered. Praying she was wrong because that sounded boring, I ducked under caution tape, past a few cops and through some metal barriers. That’s when I ran smack into the shaky teenager: “He has 12 millions followers,” he cried, phone in my face, not believing his own luck, “and he waved at me!”
I returned to the office, annoyed and incredulous, and started Googling. That’s when I learned that people had been waiting on Mulberry Street not just since 8 a.m., but for 45 hours. And that’s when I learned about the massive, sweeping cult of Logan Paul.
Logan Paul — never Logan, always Logan Paul — is 22 years old. He got his start on the social media platform Vine in 2013, making a name for himself by cramming tidy bursts of daring, physical comedy into six-second windows. He quickly joined the ranks of a growing class of Vine stars, racking up over 9 million followers and many more views for pranks like this one, aptly titled “KITTY CAT CAR JUMP!“:
By the time Vine announced its folding in October 2016, Logan Paul had established a lucrative career outside the platform. He’d dropped out of Ohio University, moved to Los Angeles, secured an agent, the whole nine yards. He had been profiled by Business Insider, featured on 60 Minutes, written up by BuzzFeed. He’d worked with brand sponsors like Pepsi and Hanes, and scored cameo roles on various TV shows, most notably Law & Order: SVU. He had also — and this is key — amassed a loyal, screaming following nicknamed the “Logang.”
As Thrillest wrote in December of last year: “Logan Paul wants to be famous. That’s hardly remarkable among Vine stars. They all want to be famous. And on some level, by some definition, they already are. But if fame is an alphabet spectrum, they’re probably plotted closer to Z than A. Logan Paul wants to change that.”
Logan Paul is nothing if not a modern celebrity. Today, his net worth is said to be around $3 million. His fame largely lives and thrives online. His form of art — silly videos — is direct-to-consumer, democratic, vulnerable to the whims of his fans’ attention spans. Lucky for him, the tides are very much in his favor. As Business Insider put it, “Logan Paul knows how to blow up the internet: That’s the easy part.”
Over eight million people subscribe to his daily vlogs. Often running over 10 minutes long (a length I had considered an internet no-no), his hyper-edited videos are choppy, obnoxious and turn-your-brain-off entertaining. They’re a disorienting mix of boring real life, slapstick humor and manufactured drama. Aging millennial that I am, I cannot begin to explain the draw of his channel, except to say that it is for a different generation. Or, at the very least, for people very different from me.
Last Friday, Logan Paul debuted a pop-up store in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood for his merch brand, Maverick. Logan Paul promised to be there in the flesh. Fans flocked, dying for a glimpse, crying when they got one. And then there was me, my 30-year-old-ish peers and our collective pop cultural references, wondering who the hell this blond surfer kid was, bewildered that we could be so deaf to the pulsing zeitgeist. We’re not even old! Many of us work in media! Were we so out of touch?
Logan Paul, with his swoopy hair and skater socks, looks straight out of 2005. He keeps a man with dwarfism in his on-camera inner circle. “SMUGGLING A DWARF TO PARIS IN A SUITCASE!” reads the name of one of his vlogs from earlier this year. It’s a setup reminiscent of Steve-o and Wee Man’s in 2000’s Jackass, and feels exploitive. An undercurrent of misogyny also runs through a lot of his content — like in his aforementioned video, “Help Me Help You,” or in his various Instagram videos that play on “traditional” male/female dynamics.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in disapprobation. It wasn’t that Logan Paul’s flavor of internet fame confounded me, it was that Logan Paul himself had been able to claim it. From what I could see, his ethos contradicted much of what I’d come to define as cultural tentpoles of Generation Z. They are progressive, precocious, the most socially-conscious generation ever, right? Where, exactly, did Logan Paul and his content fit into that? I wasn’t ready to cast a value judgement on an entire generation, but I wasn’t ready to embrace one of their alleged idols, either.
So I put out a call on Instagram: “Teens! Do you like Logan Paul? Tell me why!” Over the course of the day, I received tons of responses, ranging from awe to disgust to apathy.
“Duuuuddeeee Logan Paul is the best!!!,” someone wrote me. “I watch ALL of his videos. I think that he’s cute and just plain funny. A lot of his fans are 12, and I’m 17, so I don’t tell my friends I like him.”
“I am not at all in the ‘Logang,'” wrote one, “but there is something oddly appealing about watching his roast music videos and keeping updated on his ‘alleged’ feud with his brother.” (Logan Paul has a longstanding “feud” with his brother Jake Paul that I cannot, for the life of me, unpack.)
“He is just another good-looking white boy who made it big on Vine,” wrote another. “His humor (and the humor of others like him) is the most basic form of misogyny.”
“I love Logan Paul because he’s nuts,” said one 16-year-old. “He is the personification of ‘do it for the Vine.’ He will do ANYTHING for likes.”
“I’m not a teenager but I despise him,” a non-teen chimed in. “He’s like that annoying baseball player who snapped your bra strap in middle school.”
I got a lot more — some citing his energy as engaging and magnetic, plenty saying “he’s the worst,” others saying they watch him reluctantly, ironically or not at all. To the latter point, one girl wrote me: “I feel the need to stand up for my fellow teens and say that yes, I am a 17-year-old girl, but no, I have never once heard the name Logan Paul and had no fucking clue of his existence until now.”
The more I read, the more it dawned on me: Teenagers’ relationship to Logan Paul, or whatever version of “modern celebrity” he represents, is just as nuanced and varied as my generation’s relationship to our controversial touchstones (like say, the Real Housewives, the Kardashians or The Bachelor). For them, watching him does not equate liking him. Liking him does not equate approving of his antics. His fame is more complex than I gave it credit for.
Older people’s habit of assuming younger people are not capable of seeing themselves critically is exactly what lead to the mischaracterization of my generation, too. In the midst of my spiraling, in worrying that Logan Paul’s rise might mean cultural downfall, I’d stumbled into the same trap.
Discovering a huge celebrity I’d never heard of was surreal. It felt like my inaugural shuffle into irrelevance. Whether or not that’s true, I’m glad to have been reminded (and experienced firsthand) that teens are just as aware and complex as everyone else. And that’s a really good thing.
Hat-tip to Logan Paul, I guess, for showing me that.