Logan Paul's return to YouTube was inevitable. Sure, he had vlogged the dead body of a suicide victim, a video that grotesquely proved the troubling thesis about YouTube culture that everything, eventually, can and will become someone's viral content.
Three weeks after apologising for the video, losing his access to YouTube's premium ad program and seeing his future projects with YouTube's subscription service put on hold, Paul posted a new video on his vlogging channel on Wednesday, which has 16 million subscribers. It's called: "Suicide: Be Here Tomorrow."
The tone of Paul's vlogs are normally that of a frat boy with a new puppy. His newest video, like his other videos, focuses squarely on Paul's thoughts, experiences and feelings, but that's where the similarities end. Instead, Paul has made a documentary of what he believes is his own redemption story.
Paul has also pledged $1 million (roughly Rs. 6.36 crores) to various suicide prevention groups, with $250,000 (roughly Rs. 1.59 crores) of that going to the National Suicide Prevention lifeline.
When Paul found a dead body in a Japanese suicide forest, he called the resulting video "the most real vlog I have ever posted on this channel" and "a moment in YouTube history." The vlog's thumbnail contained a partially blurred image of the body hanging from a tree. Paul and his gang documented their reactions to seeing a dead body for the first time. The camera zoomed in on the dead body's hands, on its back pocket, flipping back repeatedly to document Paul's shocked face. At one point, Paul paused to tell his young audience that suicide was bad. He said his intention was to "raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention."
Paul's redemption video is a documentation of Paul learning why his suicide video was so wrong, by doing the work he should have done in the first place.
The video begins not with Paul's voice, but that of Kevin Hines, a suicide activist and survivor, talking about how he survived jumping over the Golden Gate Bridge when he was 19.
"I'm standing at the ledge, leaning over the rail with tears flowing down to the waters, and I thought to myself, absolutely nobody cares. And the voice in my head said, 'Jump now,' and I did. And the millisecond my hands cleared the rail and my legs flew over it, it was an instant regret. The depression was wiped from my mind and all I wanted to do was live and I thought it was too late." As Hines speaks, Paul sits, listening intently.
Then, the video turns to Paul. In a voiceover, Paul says, "I know I've made mistakes. I know I've let people down. But what happens when you're given an opportunity to help make a difference in the world?"
Paul then meets with Bob Forrest of Alo House Malibu Rehab. Forrest seems surprised when Paul says that he didn't know anyone who had committed suicide, considering he's from Ohio, where suicide is a leading cause of death.
Paul responds, "That was part of the problem, was just my ignorance on the subject."
Saying he "wants to be part of the solution," Paul then goes to New York City to meet with Dr. John Draper, director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Draper says, "We have to change the conversation publicly from just focusing on suicide and how something bad is happening and say, "What do we do about it?" Again, Paul listens. Draper tells Paul five steps for helping to prevent suicide, which Paul then shares with his viewers.
The vlogger's return was teased for days by Paul's immediate family, who all also run their own vlogging channels. Paul's equally famous brother Jake Paul discussed his brother's suicide video for the first time earlier this week in one of his daily vlogs.
"I know Logan more than probably anybody else. I do know though that he did not mean to offend anyone," Paul said. Later, he told Logan's fans - who refer to themselves as the "Logang" - that he was positive his brother was "going to learn from his mistakes . . . and be able to bounce back."
Their father, Greg Paul, told the Logang in an Instagram video "get your vlog belts on" because "some things are coming atcha that you've been waiting for."
Outside of the Paul expanded universe, the question about Logan's return has been: Will the vlogger ever be able to recover from a scandal this big? In many ways, that is the wrong question. YouTuber Philip DeFranco tweeted why immediately after Logan found himself in trouble:
"Before all the extended community outrage against Logan Paul's 'we found a dead body' video, there was a seemingly uncontested 550-600,000 likes on it," DeFranco wrote. But his "core audience" doesn't care, he said, "unless YouTube does something, this doesn't hurt him."
YouTube did act, eventually, releasing a statement condemning Paul's video one week after it first went live, taking measures to penalize Paul's channel financially and to prevent similar international YouTube scandals. Paul might not earn as much money as he did before from his vlogging lifestyle, but the fact remains that he still has his audience. His subscriber count has even grown. Paul will keep his audience for as long as his young fans still find his life interesting enough to watch his vlogs and buy his merch.
At the end of the video, Paul says, "It's time to start a new chapter in my life as I continue to educate both myself and others on suicide. I'm humbled and thankful to say this is just the beginning." Paul, in everything he does, literally and figuratively focuses the lens on himself.
It's fair to assume that Paul will not vlog so glibly about suicide in the future, but that's not the test. The test will come the next time Paul's semi-scripted life as a young-ish Los Angeles vlogger accidentally encounters something that is difficult and real.
© The Washington Post 2018