Though the furor around PewDiePie’s repeated antics has subsided after each of these incidents, his courting of alt-right ideas has not. Though he has never openly identified himself as a member or supporter of the alt-right, he has continued to like and promote channels run by alt-right-affiliated users, and earlier this year, he made a video in which he reviewed the right-wing personality and alt-right hero Jordan Peterson’s controversial self-help book. In the review, PewDiePie endorsed the book, called it a “fun” read, and said he would take some of its advice.
The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra selected their membership based on individual video performances. Further, the cybercollaboration charity video "We Are the World 25 for Haiti (YouTube edition)" was formed by mixing performances of 57 globally distributed singers into a single musical work, with The Tokyo Times noting the "We Pray for You" YouTube cyber-collaboration video as an example of a trend to use crowdsourcing for charitable purposes. The anti-bullying It Gets Better Project expanded from a single YouTube video directed to discouraged or suicidal LGBT teens, that within two months drew video responses from hundreds including U.S. President Barack Obama, Vice President Biden, White House staff, and several cabinet secretaries. Similarly, in response to fifteen-year-old Amanda Todd's video "My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self-harm", legislative action was undertaken almost immediately after her suicide to study the prevalence of bullying and form a national anti-bullying strategy. In May 2018, London Metropolitan Police claimed that the drill videos that talk about violence give rise to the gang-related violence. YouTube deleted 30 music videos after the complaint.
The ChuChu guys didn’t set out to make educational programming. They were just making videos for fun. How were they to know they’d become a global force in children’s entertainment? As time went on and the staff expanded, the company created a teaching series, called Learning English Is Fun, and worked with a preschool company to develop an app, ChuChu School, that has an explicitly didactic purpose. But generally speaking, Chandar and Krishnan just wanted their videos to be wholesome—to deliver entertainment that perhaps provided kids with a dose of moral instruction.
To an adult, the appeal of ChuChu videos is not totally obvious. On the one hand, the songs are catchy, the colors are bright, and the characters are cute. On the other, the animation is two-dimensional and kind of choppy, a throwback to the era before Pixar. And there is a lot of movement; sometimes every pixel of the screen seems to be in motion. Krishnan and Chandar believe that any given shot needs to include many different things a child could notice: A bird flying in the background. Something wiggling. These things hold kids’ attention.
I worry about these questions a lot, and I wonder if our 21st-century American institutions are up to the challenges they’ve created with their market successes and ethical abdications. Even so, when I visited Chennai, I felt okay about the media future we’re heading into. The toddler videos that ChuChu is posting on YouTube are cultural hybrids, exuberant and cosmopolitan, and in a philosophical sense they presuppose a world in which all children are part of one vast community, drawing on the world’s collective heritage of storytelling. That’s a rich narrative rootstock, with lots of lessons to teach—and right now who’s better poised to make the most of it than ChuChu and companies like it, especially if they can learn from the legacy of American educational TV?