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Image courtesy of YouTube
Image courtesy of YouTube

On March 17, Business Insider published the story of Hannah, a young woman who, back in November 2018, attended the Vlog Squad’s house party with her fellow female friends and who was sexually assaulted by one of Dobrik’s squad’s members, Dominykas Zeglaitis who goes by Durte Dom, that same night. 

According to Hannah, whose story is corroborated by the other women present at the party, she and her friends arrived to meet the Vlog Squad and hang out with them with an intention to shoot some content but not to engage in any sexual activities. Hannah even rejected Zeglaitis earlier in the night and was made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe by his advancements. She does not have a recollection of having sex with Zeglaitis and states that she was in no condition to consent to sexual intercourse with him. 

The whole night later became content for Dobrik’s YouTube vlog, the plot of which centered around Zeglaitis’ threesome with Hannah and another woman, Aubrey. In the video, Dobrik, among other members of the Squad, is seen peeking into the bedroom with Hannah, Aubrey, and Zeglaitis and joking about the whole situation. The video gained millions of views in the first months since its release before Hannah reached out to Zeglaitis asking him to take it down, to which he agreed. 

Zeglaitis has a history of sexually inappropriate behavior with two other women accusing him of groping them without consent. Dobrik himself has stopped producing content with Zeglaitis but never spoke out about any of the accusations. Zeglaitis himself had already gained a large enough following from his work with Dobrik, which allowed him to continue his career as a YouTuber and a musician after the two parted ways professionally. 

After Hannah’s story first broke out, Dobrik posted a two-and-a-half-minute apology video stating that he always made sure to ask for consent from everyone appearing in his videos before apologizing for inadvertently hurting people, including Joseth “Seth” Francois who recently accused Dobrik and members of his Vlog Squad of taking a prank too far and sexually assaulting Francois for content. Dobrik did not address Hannah’s claim directly in that first video. He concluded with “And I’m sorry if I’ve let you down, and things like that won’t happen again.”

Dobrik’s brief apology appears to be an attempt to appease his audience rather than taking accountability for his actions that not only enabled Zeglaitis in his assault against Hannah that night but allowed for such predatory behavior to gain more power with the Squad’s pathway to fame. The apology did not succeed in alleviating the situation as brands started to rapidly cancel their partnerships with Dobrik following the scandal. His channel, along with that of Zeglaitis, also got temporarily demonetized by YouTube. 

The YouTuber followed up with a second apology video where he tries to take responsibility for his potentially offensive content and actions, as well as his failure to reach out to the victims of Zeglaitis’ assaults. In this video, Dobrik is more on track to follow celebrities’ rite of passage when it comes to public apologies. He readily discusses what he believes he has done wrong, stands up for “cancel culture”, reassures his audience that his actions will speak louder than words, and announces a temporary hiatus from social media. 

Yet, somehow even with all the necessary ingredients, Dobrik’s apology still rings hollow. Most likely, because throughout his two-part apology he continues to act surprised that his longtime friend turned out to be a predator. Dobrik’s reaction fits the pattern found among many men who continuously fail to stand up to their male friends and make allowances for their misogynistic and sexist behavior in however small a way it manifests. The YouTuber may be sincere in his regret but does not appear to fully grasp the extent of his own complicity in the matter.

Moreover, the tendency of celebrities who find themselves in the middle of high-profile scandals to express the minimum amount of remorse before falling off the radar to wait out the storm has become so trite, it is hard to take anyone’s tearful video or text from the notes app seriously. We have examples of Hollywood stars who appear to have successfully salvaged their public image past their history of controversy and even abuse. It could be that these celebrities are not embracing “cancel culture” but have found a way around it, thus rendering it obsolete.

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