The pandemic has really set everything to shit, hasn't it? For so long, people from all over the world have – at one point or another – been confined to the walls of their homes; being outside became a luxury as opposed to an everyday activity; and Zoom hangs became our social lifeline.
In an effort to find some sort of escape among our bleak reality, people turned to entertainment to give them sanctuary. Some took peace in the uber-relaxing, world-building game Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Some felt solace in the fact that, while their life is crazy, it's never going to be quite as fucked up as those big cat owners'.
I found myself in both categories, but I also turned to a source of relaxation that's reliably been there for me in the past few years: Jenna Marbles.
Jenna is undeniably the pioneering queen of YouTube. She absolutely exploded onto the platform over a decade ago, before anyone knew what it really was capable of (these days we're under no illusions). Since then, she has steadily rode the ever-changing and ever-problematic structure of the platform and continued to thrive.
She prospered when lots of her OG contemporaries suffered dwindling views, with more shocking (see: idiotic) content from the likes of Logan Paul proving, sadly, successful. For her contemporaries who are still relevant, they were forced to adapt. Shane Dawson attempted to shake off his problematic roots, giving his content style a huge upheaval (the success of this 'good guy' metamorphosis has only recently crumbled) and Lilly Singh diversified her presence across platforms. But Jenna proved herself to be an enigma: her content, on paper, catered to no trend but her own whim and fancy, yet she continued to rise and rise and rise.
Then came June this year, when she uploaded a tearful and exasperated video, where she abruptly announced she was leaving the platform for an undetermined amount of time. She referenced some of the old scandals she has been a part of – donning blackface, slut shaming, racist jokes – and spoke about how the internet is purging itself of its toxicity, and profusely apologised.
"I am ashamed of things I have done and said in my past," Marbles said in her apology video. "I think I'm just gonna move on from this channel for now … I want to make sure the things I put out into the world are not hurting anyone."
It's not my place to accept her apology, and it's not my place to say that she should come back because she apologised. But Jesus Christ, I miss her.
In early 2017, I was unemployed, unmotivated and almost unable to force myself out of bed because I was so depressed. Life went on, and so did I, but I feel I was really looking for a temporary way out of my own reality where I wouldn't have to think about anything at all.
Naturally, that search led to me watching cute dog videos on YouTube. After I was watching some Pomeranians try (and fail) to jump onto lounges, I looked over to the recommended tab and saw a Jenna Marbles video, titled "Making A Tiny Living Room For My Dogs."
Jenna Marbles was a name I hadn't thought about since high school, I was five years out by that point. After I watched the video, I was annoyed at myself for depriving my brain of this content for so long.
I watched her turn the cupboard under her stairway into a tiny living room for her two Italian greyhounds, Peach and Kermit, and her namesake chihuahua, Marbles, three times on repeat. It was full of stupid jokes, dogs doing stupid things and an overall stupid concept – and that was exactly what I needed.
From then on, into my mid-twenties, I remained hooked. Every Thursday I'd watch Jenna, her partner Julien Solomita and her four dogs – with the recent adoption of greyhound Bunny – try various activities in the confines of her home.
She threw a mini pool party for her dogs; she put her hair and skin through hell testing and trying different products and procedures; she painted herself so she would camouflage to a chair in her living room. She made an entire dog bed out of soap because Kermit loves soap. When she hit the huge milestone of 20 million subscribers, she filmed herself taking a nap. The content was in part mindless, but equally as inspired.
Her content resonated with me so strongly because it was largely her making her own fun inside her home. For someone like me – an extrovert that suffers from pretty severe depression – it was a brief reprieve. Those Thursdays were something to look forward to. And, because her content seldom involved the outside world, it was a way for me to enjoy something that didn't also make me think about how grim I thought my own existence was.
And, over three years later, a lot of those life problems have since been solved. I still suffer from depression, but I'm employed. In fact, I probably work too much. Instead of introspective angst, now my mind tends to circle with the dark realities of the outside world – a global pandemic; police brutality; the inevitable heat death of the planet – so I still find myself looking for that escape.
Jenna Marbles and Julien Solomita co-hosted a podcast, the Jenna & Julien podcast, which also reached its end shortly after Jenna left YouTube, and she vowed to be off social media completely – a promise which she's yet to break. She's getting help and looking after her mental health, as her 20 million subscribers would want her to, but not having her videos appear in my feed every week has been a weird thing to get used to.
Not because her old content is boring. Not because there aren't other sources of escape on the internet or even on YouTube for me (shout out to you, Mamrie Hart). But because her YouTube videos were something I could count on each week to make me feel better, if only for a few minutes. While I don't exactly need that stream of content anymore, not having it available (you know, just in case) has been disarming.
She might never come back, and that's fine. Her mental health always comes first, and I have no choice but to hope she finds her happiness wherever she does given the countless times she made me laugh or smile. Alas, I know I speak for millions around the world when I say: I bloody miss Jenna Marbles.