Have you ever watched Preston? From Preston plays? On Youtube. I pray, for your good and mine, kind reader, that you haven’t.
I’m not going to link to anything. Out of principle. But a few Google searches will lead you to this scourge of man and beast.
Preston is a YouTuber. I’m told, by the youngster, that being a YouTuber is a thing now. Not in my day, kids. Make 20 million dollars by recording videos of myself playing video games? No way.
I’m afraid the answer is yes way. 2021 is a strange animal. According to Google, Preston’s net worth is 20 million dollars. Where did all that money come from? He plays Minecraft. And then uploads videos of himself playing Minecraft. Boom. 20 million dollars. Shut the front door. The back door too.
Preston makes other videos, too. Him and his good friends record themselves being jerks to each other. They call it pranking. I call it annoying. Then they pocket some more cash. What an age.
Why do I know so much about Preston, kind reader? That’s a great question. My children are hooked. They can watch Preston for hours. Back in my day we had good family shows like Scooby Doo or Inspector Gadget. Now? We have Preston.
God forgive us.
We actually banned Preston last week. Why? Our boys have been imitating some of Preston’s more irritating behavior. They’ve learned words like revenge and prank. So they prank each other. And then they get revenge. And then somebody hits somebody and everybody is on time out.
I never imagined I would be in favor of censorship. Banning literature. But Preston’s influence on my children has pushed me over the deep edge.
Look, I’m no proponent of high art over low art. But Preston’s art is low art. Bad art. I’ll stand behind my claim. It is pulp. Filth. No better than a bawdy French novel at the turn of the 18th century. Savages.
I’m kind of kidding. Mostly, people who categorize literature in the way I just did are classist, colonialist monsters. Privileging one set of values in favor of another. But there can be nuance in criticism, I suppose. Somebody needs to critique the waves of YouTube videos that are currently assaulting my children. The literary texts they are exposed to. TikTok. YouTube. Preston. Good Lord.
I’m not a critic. I’m a creator. But creation and destruction go hand in hand. I learn more about what I am building by figuring out what bothers me in things others built. Which doesn’t necessarily mean I have to destroy what others are doing. Just means I have to be mindful as I make what I make. There’s something profound in this thought. Something about the nature of deconstruction and construction. I’m not gonna parse all that out in this blog. I’m too busy ranting against Preston, that savage.
I really am for exposing people (and children) to as many different texts, ideals, and values as I possibly can. I’m never in favor of censorship. Of imposing my will (and ideas) on others as though there aren’t alternatives. I’m a literacy scholar. I’m all about learning to read. Paulo Freire, a scholar, says that reading isn’t just about words on a page. It’s about how we move through the world. I think Freire is really smart. I also thinking learning to engage and understand the text presented to us is essential for our survival. We should read widely and critically. So I do believe that watching a YouTube video is reading. And learning to read the world critically seems so damned necessary right now, as hordes of people fall prey to one social media post or another without thinking about who is pushing a certain version of a story and why.
But Preston? Well, Preston is garbage and nobody should ever watch it. Ever.
I’d probably be singing a different song if I was worth $20,000,000. Money changes the way you read a story. Power and privilege do too. A quick glance at the last ba-zillion years of human history shows us this pretty clearly.
But here’s something I know at the core of my being. I don’t like it when one person hits another. And I don’t like revenge. And it seems like the heart of Preston’s YouTube videos are a celebration of retaliation. Of violence as though it were humor. I’d like for my children not to celebrate violence, that’s all. There’s other, better things to celebrate about being a human being. And Preston, my friend, isn’t one of them.