By all accountable metrics, Guy ‘Dr Disrespect’ Beahm is one of the most popular streamers period —he may rank on the lower side in terms of follower count, but where he lacks that, he makes it up with strong concurrent viewership on a consistent basis. With that much influence however comes the question of how to wield it, and judging by a recent untimely ban from Twitch, it’s not so clear he’s always given it his best answer.
But first, a primer on the Doc is in order — for those familiar with Twitch or streaming in general, it’s almost impossible to not know who Dr Disrespect is. He started out on YouTube doing Call of Duty videos, managed to land a temporary gig as a map designer for Sledgehammer Games, then came back to streaming as he refocused the latter part of his career on a mixture of battle royale games and other competitive shooters — his ability to adapt in an ever-changing environment is just one of the many reasons he managed to stick the course when many of his peers have otherwise backslid into obscurity.
The nature of Dr Disrespect’s fame is quite unique for a creator of his caliber — the Doc takes pride in being able to retain attention, regardless if the means by which he does so are charitable or not. He likes to project an aura of menace by straying away from mainstream norms, but he’s not opposed to offerings of adulation either — it’s the perfect confluence of two paradoxical interpretations of his personality that make him as infectious and impossible to ignore by fans and detractors alike.
To keep eyeballs stuck on him, the Doc isn’t one to spare on theatrics — unfortunately for him, he’s not always successful at keeping his antics under the radar, and in a shocking moment from E3 of last year, he was banned from Twitch for violating California’s privacy laws and the company’s own terms-of-services. That ban was rather temporary, as have been all of the platform’s slaps on the Doc’s wrist in the past, but something changed recently where Twitch decided to do away with all the trouble and just ban the creator unprompted — theories varied as to why, but one of the most compelling remains that Twitch didn’t want to assume liability for a #MeToo snafu as the platform was facing a major reckoning with sexual misconduct in its midst around the time the ban was issued.
Nonetheless, it is the consistent fact of the matter that whenever Dr Disrespect returns from a hiatus — whether compulsory or voluntary — he still has his audience’s ears ready to perk up. His YouTube debut boasted upwards of half-a-million concurrent viewers, and it’s an indication that the Doc — even if the platform he long held dear suddenly left him out to dry — is still a brand with a strong pull that the industry would be yet foolish to discard or ignore.
But politics of the gaming industry aside, there’s a slightly unsettling feeling about someone being able to hold so much capital in the streaming economy, who can sway it whichever way he wants if it so suits his purpose. When Twitch first knocked Dr Disrespect off the platform, skepticism was widespread, but it didn’t prevent his large fanbase from painting Twitch as the villain even though they have no intimate knowledge of the circumstances involving his ban. This is reminiscent of PewDiePie’s years-long beef with YouTube where the platform was antagonized for acting too harsh against his gaffes, and much like in the case of Felix Kjellberg, it’s unclear whether Beahm will ever face proper reprimand for his missteps barring a ban from Twitch that has proven so far to be largely inconsequential.
When you’re that big and powerful like Dr Disrespect is, abiding by any measure of accountability is mostly an afterthought — it means that the only people he’ll have to answer to are the top brass of platform holders, and they’re shown themselves particularly averse to exercising any editorial control at this current stage. This level of outsized influence doesn’t come without its own curses — despite being in the good graces of his own community, the Doc is not at all immune from replicating the cultural failures of the platform he used to call home; and the longer he stays embedded into that culture, the further the risks are amplified.
There used to be a time when creators were clamoring for the attention of the mainstream, but today’s online stars are underdogs no longer — Dr Disrespect came from humble beginnings sure, but we’d be remiss to still treat him as a rookie. The internet’s most-prestigious atout for a while was the absence of gatekeepers and any need to comply with traditional media’s basic standards for public-facing conduct, but as creators grow (and sometimes surpass) the size of traditional media conglomerates, they have greater standards to appease — the Doc can either choose to oblige them, or otherwise embrace wilful oblivion.
Being as popular as the Doc is, it comes with a lot of responsibility that is not always so obviously wielded to great ends — in a state of general apathy, statements of much substance aren’t as naturally occurring; it’s why despite many years of streaming, Beahm’s political views remain largely undefined. To be clear, no content creator should be under any compulsion to express their more intimate views on the current state of society, but to have one of the most influential streamers not take a page from the DrLupo playbook is puzzling to say the least.
When you have that much power, the decision to not deploy it at every turn to benefit the whole of society is a conscious embrace of complicity. In the midst of an economic recession where some have barely enough to eat, much less afford internet to tune into the Doc’s streams, his voice could stand to be louder about everyday inequities — instead, he chooses to be silent; and not to read too much into his intentions, but we sure could use more attention paid to issues of grave importance. Whether Beahm will ever break his streak of indifference to do that, is still very much up in the air.