Felix Kjellberg, the YouTuber known as PewDiePie, is facing backlash for appearing to mock a deaf creator in a recent video.
On Tuesday, Kjellberg, who has 111 million followers on YouTube, posted a video titled “My Dog Cringes at TikToks,” in which he reacted to viral videos he deemed “cringe” with his dog, Maya.
One of the videos he reacted to was originally posted by TikTok creator Scarlet May, who is deaf. Scarlet May, who has built an audience of about 6.2 million followers on TikTok, posts videos that are in both spoken English and American Sign Language. She often sports elaborate manicures and is known for her “story time” videos.
In a July 18 video, Scarlet May recounted a humorous encounter at a fast-food drive-thru, signing the story while wearing long silver acrylic nails.
In the video that featured reaction to Scarlet May’s post, Kjellberg cut the clip short. “I’m not listening to this,” he said in the video. “Look, she has your crazy nails, Maya!” Holding both of Maya’s paws and waving them around, Kjellberg then appeared to poorly imitate American Sign Language. “Sorry, are my nails distracting you guys?” Kjellberg said
Kjellberg and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to request for comment Wednesday.
He has since removed the clip reacting to Scarlet May from the YouTube video he posted, but it has been circulated across TikTok and Twitter by other users. A screenshot of Scarlet May signing still appeared in the thumbnail image of PewDiePie’s YouTube video Wednesday afternoon.
If you made a mistake, admit the mistake. You don’t just get to, like, mock deaf people who have already been struggling for years with people like you and then go about your day like nothing happened.
Scarlet May, in a tiktok video responding to pewdiepie’s video
Scarlet May did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wednesday afternoon, she shared her thoughts on TikTok in a video, which she partly captioned “we all make mistakes hopefully he learns from this.”
She described Kjellberg’s reaction as “very weird and very unnecessary” but said she “wasn’t surprised.” “I’m used to it,” she said.
“I’ve been trying to normalize and put it out that using nails while signing is normal, it’s OK,” Scarlet May said. “But then a big creator comes on here and puts us, like, a million steps back.”
Some YouTube viewers expressed similar frustration.
“Making fun of the deaf community isn’t a joke… you let us down with that one pewds,” Marleny Alvarenga, a YouTube user, wrote in the comments on his video.
A person on Twitter who identified as partly deaf called Kjellberg’s actions “disgusting.”
“I found it so offensive,” the user wrote in the tweet. “Mocking a deaf person like that. I feel so bad for her.”
Some viewers appeared to be disappointed that Kjellberg removed the clip without addressing it.
“He cut that part out of the video and reposted it, He knew he was making fun of a deaf person,” YouTube user Haylie Chapman commented on the video. “I personally love Felix but this made me respect him a little less.”
Some of PewDiePie’s followers said in comments that they think Kjellberg may not have known that Scarlet May is deaf. Others suggested that Kjellberg was making fun of Scarlet May’s nails, not of her disability or her race (she is Black).
In her video response, Scarlet May said that if “any other hearing person” wearing long nails had told the same story but “didn’t need to sign to get their point across,” Kjellberg might have “listened to the story and maybe even had a laugh.”
“But because I have to sign to communicate and I have long nails on, he, like, stopped the video after two seconds, didn’t even listen to the story,” she continued. “And then after that proceeded to make fun of me signing with his dog.”
Scarlet May said that she felt as though Kjellberg’s video would have been “OK” if he didn’t know she was using sign language or if he just didn’t like her nails.
But she called him out for editing out the clip without addressing doing so and for still using her in the thumbnail image of the video.
“If you made a mistake, admit the mistake. You don’t just get to, like, mock deaf people who have already been struggling for years with people like you and then go about your day like nothing happened,” Scarlet May said. “We all live and learn. If he did not know before, he definitely knows now.”