The internet let out a collective cry of anguish last week as Twitter made the announcement that they would be shutting down video app Vine in the coming months. Since acquiring the platform in late 2012 for a hefty $30 million price tag, Twitter just couldn’t cop a profit from Vine, and thus decided to pull the plug.
Immediately after the announcement, Twitter lit up with #RIPVine hashtags, and it wasn’t long until mainstream media caught on, haphazardly writ-ing out eulogies for Vine quicker than one can say “ad revenue.”
The problem is, the myriad of posts-in-mourning seem to be entirely focused on celebrating the best of Vine. The issue with this is that throughout its existence, Vine has hidden a very dark underbelly, one in which top content creators have been allowed to rise to fame while exploiting fans, spewing homophobia and misogyny and even going as far as alleged sexual assault. Seeing as the rest of the world seems complacent in memorializing the best, it only seems fair that some of the worst of Vine be memorialized in these pages.
Like other social media platforms, Vine managed to cultivate its own set of celebrities. It isn’t difficult to imagine which creators catapulted to the top the quickest: teenage boys and young men with perfectly coiffed hair and straight white teeth dominated the app early on, pulling in adoring hordes of impressionable teen girl fans en masse. Unfortunately, as with any form of celebrity, fans of these top Vine creators were eager to ignore, and in many cases, ferociously defend their adored, even when the “crimes” committed by the Vine stars were just downright nasty. As a result, a majority of the creators mentioned below still find success in the online media world, and we have none other than Vine to thank.
Take, for example, Carter Reynolds, with 4.6 million followers on Vine and 2.8 million followers on Twitter. In June 2015, a video of then, 19, Reynolds pressuring his underage girlfriend into performing oral sex on him leaked online, according to an article in the Washington Post. Reynolds took to Twitter, defending his actions and swearing up and down that “I’m NOT a rapist.” Whilst Reynolds faced some immediate backlash, including being kicked out of that year’s VidCon (an annual YouTube conference), to this day each and every tweet he publishes receives thousands of likes and retweets, along with hundreds of adoring replies.
Then there’s the blatant misogyny and homophobia. In early 2014, Vine star Nash Grier uploaded a video to his YouTube channel, shortly after reaching 4.2 million followers on Vine. The now-deleted video titled “What guys look for in girls” featured Grier and two friends espousing their set of criteria of what a girl must fulfill in order for the Vine stars to be interested in dating them.
The criteria included removing all body and facial hair because it was, as they referred to it, “gross.” Grier also personally encouraged girls to play hard to get, and said “If you play easy, then it’s just like, oh, she’s a whore.”
Having obviously not learned to think before speaking, Grier landed himself in hot water again in July when he received a great deal of backlash over a Vine in which he joked about AIDS being caused by, as he referred to it, “fags.” Ironic, considering he had told New York Magazine earlier that year “I don’t use cuss words, I try not to do anything awful.”
The Daily Dot went so far as to list out every time Grier had used homophobic language on Twitter in the past, and the list was quite lengthy. Grier wrote a long form apology on the Huffington Post website in December of that year, but the apology reads more like an essay of excuses, featuring gold such as “I went to a small private school in North Carolina with maybe 200 kids,” as well as espousing the classic ‘most of my friends are gay’ line.
It’s easy enough to say the past is in the past, but when somebody manages to create multiple problematic videos in the span of mere months, they perhaps should be faced with more than just a slap on the wrist and the forgiveness of millions of fans that still adore them to this day; in the case of Grier, 5.74 million Twitter followers to be exact.
Perhaps the most worrisome example of all though, is the case of Curtis Lepore. Early in 2014, it was revealed that the Vine star with 3.4 million followers at the time would be on trial for the alleged rape of Jessi “Smiles” Vasquez, a fellow Vine star and his ex-girlfriend. According to Vasquez, Lepore had offered to look after her as she was recovering from a concussion, but went on to allegedly rape her while she slept.
In February that year he took a plea deal. By pleading guilty to felony assault, the rape charges against him were dropped. What’s even more worrying about this though is the legions of female fans who flocked to defend Lepore immediately following the first announcement. Countless fans tweeted encouraging messages at him, and many more immediately called Vasquez a liar. In a country where rape culture is already such a pervasive part of society, the idea that young women are willing to defend an alleged rapist before knowing whether he is innocent or guilty is extremely disheartening.
As if the rampant homophobia, sexism and alleged sexual assaults weren’t enough, the latest dose of entitlement recently came to light when it was revealed that some of the top Vine stars offered to save the platform…for a price. Apparently, in late 2015 nearly 20 of Vine’s top stars met with Vine to
propose a plan that they believed would save the platform. Each star offered to create three vines per week, all for the reasonable price of $1.2 million per person. Over 20 times the monetary amount of the median annual American income was requested for what adds up to be just over a minute of video content per month.
The absurdity of the request speaks for itself, and the proposal was ultimately denied.
All of these things being said, it isn’t fair to completely discredit everyone who found their way to fame via the app. Thomas Sanders, for example, known for his “Story-time” vines as well as his talents with voice acting and singing, consistently uploaded vines diverse in gender, gender identities, sexual orientation, race and religion. The key difference with Sanders is that he used the six second timeframe as a creative challenge rather than an opportunity to drop lazy jokes reliant on stereotypes being espoused by ‘pretty’ teen boys with blue eyes and perfect hair.
Overall though, Vine bolstered countless entitled and unapologetically problematic people to fame, and when even those creators couldn’t keep the platform afloat, the app floundered. Seeing all the negativity the app has managed to put out into the world, it’s hard to be sympathetic. Rest in tiny six-second pieces, Vine. You won’t be missed.