Earlier this week, Colleen Ballinger, best known for her online persona Miranda Sings, uploaded a video simply titled ‘hi.’ to her third YouTube channel, Colleen Vlogs. In it, she addresses allegations against her relating to inappropriate relationships she had with fans who were minors at the time. She did this by, in an overwhelmingly surreal twist, performing a song on the ukulele. The video went so viral that if people didn’t know about the allegations before, they sure did now. People were hearing her name for the first time ever in the context of her denying that she was a groomer.

As Miranda Sings, Ballinger is one of the longest-lasting, most iconic creators on YouTube. Her satirical character, aspiring star Miranda, is instantly recognisable for her messily-applied red lipstick, affected nasal voice, striped shirt, and red pants. She has over 22 million subscribers across three YouTube channels. She had a Netflix show and a comedy special, and appeared in the Disney movie Ralph Breaks the Internet. She caters mostly to an audience of children.

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In the era in which she rose to fame, YouTubers fostered communities by interacting heavily with their fans – early YouTubers are a kind of precursor to Twitch streamers in how they fostered parasocial relationships for personal benefit. People had never had such easy access to their idols before, and these burgeoning celebrities had never been taught how to handle their fans. It is easy to neglect drawing boundaries with people that look up to you when you don’t realise the dangers of doing so. What Ballinger did points to a larger issue about what it means to get really famous on YouTube, especially in the early days when this kind of celebrity was unheard of. Nobody ever taught her that she shouldn’t overshare to fans, or treat them like friends. It’s common knowledge now, in an era where anybody can groom themselves into an internet micro-celebrity, but it wasn’t in the late 2000s. Being bombarded with fame and adoration makes a person crave validation.

It’s this culture that contributed to what Ballinger has been accused of, but it’s certainly no excuse. She has allegedly sent a minor a pair of underwear, asked him for pictures when he said “my ass looks good” in a group chat full of fans who were also mostly minors, and asked him if he was a virgin and what his favourite sexual position was. There are also videos of her where she spreads a child’s legs on stage as part of a fart joke, partially exposing their spandex in the process, and where she stuffs a bag of cheerios in her pants and asks a child to reach into the bag to get a snack. Her fame also gave her friends and family access to her fans, and her brother Trent Ballinger allegedly messaged a 13 year old fan saying she would look good pregnant, and that anything they talked about stayed between them.

These allegations have been floating around the internet for years, and Ballinger initially posted a video in 2020 apologising for her inappropriate behaviour, including racism, sending underwear to a minor, fatphobia, making light of causing her childhood pet to be put down, allowing a fan to do unpaid work for her social media, and oversharing with fans. New allegations coming from other ex-fans recently emerged, specifying inappropriate conversations about sex, body shaming, gossiping about other fans, sharing personal information about her own relationships, and video chatting with her young fans as often as five times a week for several hours at a time. It’s these allegations that Ballinger’s most recent ukulele-toting video was in response to.

I’m sure I don’t need to describe the video in detail – most of us have already watched it or seen the TikToks and the tweets. The video has four million views on YouTube. What I will say is that the backlash has not been so much about the allegations against her, but that her ‘apology’ for her behaviour was not so much an apology as a carefully crafted and inappropriately catchy musical denial that she had done anything wrong. What struck me immediately on my first watch of the video was how polished the performance was. She’d written an entire song, clearly rehearsed it many times, and even planted a fakeout where she pretended she was about to turn off the camera before breaking once again into song. It makes her look incredibly insincere, and therein lies the problem.

I do, broadly, agree with her message, just not that it quite applies to her. She talks – well, sings – about a ‘toxic gossip train’ fuelled by misinformation, how people on the internet love to dogpile on famous people to watch them fall, and that taking accountability isn’t enough for people that want to villainise people on the internet. This is all true. The internet can be a cruel place, with bad behaviour propelled by relative anonymity and how easy it is to dehumanise people you only know from behind a screen. However, Ballinger is very wrong in how she frames herself in this entire ordeal. She claims to have taken accountability for everything she’s done, and taken the step to draw boundaries with her fans, but in the same breath denies that she’s done anything other than act like a ‘loser’, which she rhymes in a couplet denying she’s a ‘groomer’. She insists she’s admitted to her mistakes, but then claims to be the victim of a misinformation campaign.

Yes, she was thrust into a hard-to-handle situation, and nobody really knew how to talk to fans back then. She thought the community she’d created were people she could trust and rely on. But for god’s sake, there are screenshots where she, as a 30 year old woman, asked children about their sex lives. Nothing she ever allegedly did tipped over the edge into criminality, but the fact that she responded to people saying they’d been hurt by her and the people around her with a song discrediting them is completely inexcusable, especially considering the number of people who have spoken up and the evidence they have openly shared on the internet. The fact is, if people didn’t know before, they know now. Ballinger has tanked her career, and I can’t imagine she can come back from this.

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