YouTube is seen by many as a platform where anyone can make a name for themself, but when Butch Hartman joined the platform in 2015 and Chris Hansen in 2019, they were far from being nobodies. Hansen had made a name for himself outing pedophiles as the host of To Catch a Predator while Butch Hartman had created several iconic cartoons including The Fairly Odd Parents and Danny Phantom. Many people were excited to see the men interacting with their fans, but their trust would soon be broken.
Hartman’s channel originally consisted of drawing artwork and listing fun facts about his cartoons. When he announced his plan to create and launch a family-friendly streaming service to rival the likes of Netflix called Oaxis, fans were skeptical but willing to fund his Kickstarter. After all, surely this cartoon veteran had connections to bring the service to fruition?
Following the successful Kickstarter that raised almost $270,000, it came out that Hartman had conveniently neglected to mention that his streaming service would be based around Christian values. Many of his supporters who had financially backed him felt betrayed that the Christian slant hadn’t been stated up front.
Hartman remained relatively silent on Oaxis’s progress for three years until the service quietly launched and remained online for three days until shutting down and redirecting to butchartman.com. The site contained mostly videos already on YouTube and poor navigation that left much to be desired. Combine that with allegations of him blatantly plagiarizing other artists and not refunding those who felt misled by his Kickstarter, many fans felt scammed. Currently, Oaxis’s Kickstarter page hasn’t been updated since January of 2019.
Chris Hansen used his reputation as the former host of To Catch a Predator to launch an investigation on the infamous YouTuber Onision. For years, content creators had spoken out against Onision’s alleged grooming, but YouTube had taken no action against him. Chris Hansen’s past made him seem qualified to bring pedophiles to justice, and his subscribers were hopeful that Hansen could take down Onision where other creators had failed. Each week, myself and many others watched Hansen gather evidence against Onision by interviewing his victims. He even had well-known creators like Repzion--who had been documenting Onision for years--present the evidence they had compiled. It was thrilling to see a TV star like Hansen use his influence to help make YouTube a safer place and viewers couldn’t wait for justice to be served.
We kept waiting. As weeks turned to months, Hansen’s weekly interviews went from victims’ first-hand accounts to a user whose only connection with Onision was creating a Tumblr blog. It seemed like Hansen was milking the case more so than trying to bring justice to the victimized girls. Then it came out that one victim had a laptop that potentially had major evidence against Onision, and Hansen had encouraged her to send it to one of his teammates instead of directly to the FBI. The laptop remained in the man’s house for months, rendering it useless to be used as evidence in court. It was a major blunder on Hansen’s part, but far from his last. When COVID-19 was becoming relevant he promoted a scam company claiming to have created a miracle Coronavirus killer called Nanovapor. Controversies began to pile up as creators unearthed Hansen’s past with scammers and taking down videos that criticized him until it was revealed that the police had closed Onision’s case back in June 2020 and Hansen had continued to lead his fans on.
Butch Hartman and Chris Hansen used their pre-established fame to scam and lie to their fans who were more than willing to support their personal heroes. People trusted Hansen and Hartman because they thought their television experience made them more credible than the average creator. There’s truth to the saying “never meet your idols,” and it’s important to be critical of all faces on social media regardless of whatever fame or “credibility” they have.
Charlene Pepiot is a senior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Charlene know by emailing her, firstname.lastname@example.org.