PewDiePie’s “Bro Army” fanbase is taking over YouTube. This is not PR hyperbole or marketing bullshit; the 24-year-old Swedish gamer—real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg—is literally the biggest thing on the video-sharing site, and his 17.8 million subscribers are bro-fisting so hard all over the internet right now.
PewDiePie (Pewds for short) has more YouTube subscribers than Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, or Lady Gaga. His channel is growing at an alarming rate—it's more than quadrupled this year—and his current YouTube ad revenue for 2013 is estimated by SocialBlade at between $1.2 million and $14.6 million. How does Pewds do this? By playing video games in his pajamas and dicking around at home with his cute dogs and beautiful girlfriend, on camera.
Adults may find the screaming, whining, crying, maniacal mumbling, cursing sprees, weird voices and ridiculous faces in PewDiePie's videos (mostly in his horror video game walkthroughs) annoying, but to the young Bro Army this is all quite charming. In fact, the easiest way to describe PewDiePie is as the Justin Bieber of video game commentators—and I mean that in the nicest way possible.
Image via Tumblr/Pewd-s
Why? Well, the majority of his fanbase is quite young and female, and as a male digital specimen Pewds excels on many fronts. First, the superficial: he’s got golden locks and a scruffy face along with an alluring accent. Pewds clearly knows this, and prances around practically naked in women’s bathing suits and exposes his chest in quite a few videos.
Flaunting his bod like this meets with swooning from his large female fanbase, and laughter from his male fans. There's a reason this 33-second video is his fourth most popular, after three “funny moments” montages:
Video via YouTube/PewDiePie
But looks aren't everything, and a large part of Pewds' success is due to his personality and actions. He's goofy, regularly making fun of himself, and he's also charitable, donating and raising funds for various causes. He's also a lot more tolerant than your stereotypical misogynistic gamer, and shows a willingness to change his behaviour when it offends. After his fan base got angry over his “rape me” song, he took the video down, and apologized both in video form and on his Tumblr for engaging in such behavior. “I listen to my viewers and if people think I say something bad, I actually take it in and change ... I just wanted to make clear that I’m no longer making rape jokes, as I mentioned before I’m not looking to hurt anyone and I apologize if [I] ever did,” wrote Pewds.
Of course, he's not without controversy—he still uses “slut” as a regular joke-insult, something the community has adopted. And when it comes to homophobic slurs, Pewds hasn’t issued a comparable statement or given up the practice (though it’s not common with him), but he does appear to be receptive to the LGBT cause, having participated in the NOH8 campaign.
He regularly jokes about bromances with fellow male gamers who appear in his videos, and when a fan asked him if he was gay for all the bromancing and cross-dressing he does (a common practice for popular males on YouTube), his response was, “It's not called being gay, it's called being fabulous!" alongside this image:
Fostering this idea that it is okay to be affectionate towards male friends is a good thing and a refreshing change in a community that isn't exactly known for its tolerance. Pewds' female fanbase also loves it, writing slightly erotic fanfiction or weird animated GIFs around Pewds' bromances.
As for intelligence, most adults seem convinced Pewds has none. Variety, for instance, called him a “blithering idiot” with an “aggressive stupidity” and prone to “psycho babble.” That's a bit harsh, as Pewds is at least creative in his videos, stringing together inside jokes across multiple episodes, like his love of ducks and gold statues named Stefano, and hatred of barrels. He's also clearly smart enough to run an enviably successful YouTube business.
Another thing that draws in Pewds' fans and has steered him more towards mainstream celebrity is the loving, stable long-term relationship he has with his beautiful Italian girlfriend, Marzia "CutiePie" Bisognin. Marzia is glamorous, operates a small beauty and style channel, and of course, has a lovely accent and patient personality, a good counterweight to Pewds’ often outrageous behavior. Their two cute pugs no doubt also help bring YouTube views.
Video via YouTube/CutiePieMarzia
Like any true celebrity romance, fans are emotionally invested in the relationship. They love Marzia and Pewds together so much, they wonder when Pewds will pop Marzia the engagement question, and wish for them as presents under a Christmas tree. When they noticed that Pewds had Marzia as his computer wallpaper, they fangirled out over how much these two beautiful young people must love each other. They naturally express this enthusiasm through the medium of GIFs.
In fact, the Pewds and Marzia fascination is something like a YouTube version of Kate Middleton and Prince William madness.
So while you might not have heard of him until now, Pewds has managed to carve out his career as one of the internet A-List, all by mastering Generation Z’s playthings (YouTube and video games), having a hot girlfriend, and generally being a nice guy. Maybe he could give Bieber some lessons.