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24/01/2020 Communication Science news and articles

The American Dream of Shane Dawson

The American dream had many different faces throughout the decades. Ada looks into its current state, and takes Shane Dawson as an example.


The American Dream has had many faces throughout the decades. From the happy suburban family in their car to Paris Hilton’s mansion in L.A., it has dominated the world’s imagination for decades, fueling dreams of emigration throughout nations. However, lately the dream has had plastic surgery, as its core is being shifted from actors’ lofts and directors’ mansions on the hills into YouTubers’ houses. Shane Dawson is one of those YouTubers and he hasn’t been riding the wave of this change as much as he has been creating it. He is, in my opinion, the embodiment of the New American dream. 

The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star
As Shane makes his bed with his fiancé Ryland, the sunset light hitting his bedroom, he represents a new generation of hope. He lays on the clean sheets with his dogs at his feet and he reflects on his poor upbringing and bad investments. He then leaves the house in jeans that have ripped at the seams and boards YouTuber Jeffree Star’s private jet to go to the mogul’s new makeup launch. This scene presents the first of a series of dramatic juxtapositions that characterize Shane Dawson’s last series: The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star. In it, he retells in detail the journey of creating a makeup and merchandise collection, starting from a crazy idea between friends and ending with the duo cashing in more than 10 million dollars. 

Wealth is no tourist in the shared image of an idealized American lifestyle

Old Money Goes Bedazzled
Wealth is no tourist in the shared image of an idealized American lifestyle. How this wealth is expressed, however, has drastically changed over the years. At the start of the century, public displays of one’s affluence were considered to be in bad taste, alongside the many rules of what was once a more elitist and elegant upper class of white, Anglo-Saxon and protestants aristocrats. As time went by, however, games of polo, country clubs, cufflinks and pearl necklaces all became bigger, shinier and gilded. 

Notions that were once taken for granted, such as that the nouveau riche had bad “kitschy” taste were challenged by the likes of Paris Hilton and her rich heiress friends. By all means, Hilton was supposed to belong to the same class that would collect imported books and go on sailing trips, and yet, she chose pink bedazzled track suits and champagne bottles in clubs’ VIP areas. Through a symbiotic relationship with the media she quickly became a poor man’s idea of wealth.

The Beautiful World of Shane Dawson
Today, however, elitist and out-of-touch behaviour annoys more than it fascinates. Jeffree Star is a great example of this, as an incredibly rich businessman with a vault full of bags that could pay off my tuition for this and another seventeen bachelors. This is also where the issue resides, as we are entertained by insane Gucci shopping sprees and expensive holiday trips to Bali imagining ourselves in their place, until we are too focused on thinking about how that money could pay for our wife’s healthcare bills or our children’s education.

There is thus a thin line between amusingly trashy displays of prosperity and non-empathetic, on-the-nose bragging. Shane Dawson is what, ultimately, brings Jeffree Star back on the successful line of this dichotomy. He owns a house big enough to go around it in a golf cart and yet he is praised as a poor man that stumbled in a liquid world. 

A Beautiful American Dream?
This series, with its ironically named first and last episode (respectively “The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star” and “The Beautiful World of Shane Dawson”), goes from showing you a man in a place where he belongs to one that does not. For Jeffree Star waving to his thousands of fans from a makeup store, we go to Shane Dawson expressing his fear of flying and his insecurities about his body. Nevermind that he is flying in a private jet and nevermind that he has a personal trainer for his in-house gym. 

He embodies, for all of us, a man who made it and who did it through YouTube. Shane does, thus, symbolize the start of a new vision of the American Dream, that is still being molded from the ruins of brick villas and neon malls into a digital house. 

Cover: Twitter/@Shane Dawson

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