Entertainment

Here's Why The Future Of The Vlog Squad Is Really Uncertain

David Dobrik's collective is at the center of damaging controversies and allegations.

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Content houses have a lot of fan enthusiasm behind them, but also noticeably short shelf lives. One minute a content house is on top of the world, and the next, it’s shrouded in controversy. Nothing is more indicative of this than the rise and fall of the Vlog Squad. Established by David Dobrik in 2015 after joining YouTube, the collective once ruled the site with viral videos and millions of followers. However, in recent years, a slew of scandals — including sexual harassment and assault allegations surrounding various squad members — led to the group’s apparent dissolution. So, who is in the Vlog Squad?

At one point, the collective had up to 14 members, including David Dobrik, Jason Nash,Natalie Mariduena, Jeff Wittek, and more — not to mention a revolving door of celebrity guests like Justin Bieber, Kylie Jenner, Josh Peck, and John Stamos. Now, it seems the allegations surrounding the squad have led many members to distance themselves from the Vlog Squad brand. While Dobrik hasn’t formally announced the Vlog Squad’s demise, from all appearances, it seems the group is all but disbanded.

Who Is David Dobrik, Anyway?
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Dobrik was the face of the Vlog Squad and arguably their most famous member. He started as a Vine sensation, and his loyal followers journeyed with him over to YouTube. His channel became one of the most popular creator channels and still boasts over 18 million subscribers as of May 2021, despite years of controversy.

Negative criticism about Dobrik started popping up in 2017, when he tricked former Vlog Squad member Seth Francois into kissing Nash. Dobrik apologized for what he called “the Seth situation” in a March 16, 2021 apology called “Let’s Talk.” He said, “I’m sorry to Seth, because like I said, I just want to make videos where everybody in it, whether you’re participating or watching, is enjoying and having a good time, and I missed the mark with that one. And I’m really sorry. I truly, truly am.”

Then, in early 2020, Dobrik was criticized by the public for his history of making racist jokes. He apologized indirectly during the July 1 episode of his Views podcast called “Auditioning for SNL” while discussing the Black Lives Matter movement. “I genuinely feel awful about it," he said, admitting he was “ashamed and embarrassed” by his racially insensitive behavior in his past videos. "I'm going to do better actively, and I'm going to do that consistently, and you have my word for that, and I promise that. And if I'm anything, I'm a man of my word.”

Jeff Wittek’s Stunt Injury & The Aftermath
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The controversy continued when former member Jeff Wittek was severely injured in June 2020 while filming a stunt for a Vlog Squad video. The stunt involved him swinging on a rope dangling from an excavator, which was being operated by Dobrik. This didn’t end well for Wittek, who wound up falling into a shallow pool of water, subsequently fracturing his skull.

Nearly a year later, Wittek spoke out about his experience in an April 2021 YouTube documentary series called Don’t Try This at Home. In an episode called “How I Broke My Face,” the Vlog Squad member spoke out about his head injury and hospitalization. At one point, his doctor told him he nearly died in the accident. Wittek also revealed Dobrik didn’t talk to him for a month as he recovered from his injuries.

In a later episode of the documentary series, Dobrik accompanied Wittek on his trip to get eye surgery, at which point Dobrik explained why he disappeared when Wittek needed him most. “I’ve never been in a situation like this… I didn’t know the correct way to go about any of it. Especially [because] Jeff is such a tough guy, so you don’t know if you have to be there to baby him, or if that pisses him off,” he said. “[But] he said that he was happy we came on this trip with him, so that really paints a different perspective on what I originally thought he needed to heal.” Dobrik also apologized to Wittek for his role in his injuries. “I wanna be clear — I didn’t do it on purpose. The last thing I wanted to do was launch someone into the water. It was an accident, and it was one of the worst kinds of accidents,” he said.

Still, the incident didn’t sit well with fans, with many saying Dobrik was seemingly willing to endanger his friends to create a viral video while failing to own up to his actions. As one fan said on Twitter, the incident was “the end” of Dobrik’s positive legacy.

Vlog Squad Member Durte Dom Accused Of Rape
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In March 2021, another former Vlog Squad member, Durte Dom — whose full name is Dom Zeglaitis — was accused of rape by a woman who chose to remain anonymous in a March 2021 interview with Business Insider. Zeglaitis released a statement via his Instagram Story in April 2021 denying he had taken advantage of the woman. "It is time to address the recent allegations that have come out against me. I want to sincerely apologize directly to the women involved in this incident," his statement said. "With that being said, as far as I am concerned, everything that occurred during the night in question was completely consensual.”

Zeglaitis was one of the Vlog Squad’s earliest members and was known for his inappropriate behavior and sexual innuendos. While viewers thought his behavior was played up for the sake of his on-camera character, the allegations brought into question how much was really for show.

The woman alleged Zeglaitis had intercourse with her when she was too intoxicated to consent. The assault allegedly occurred when the woman participated as an extra in a now-deleted 2018 vlog called “SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE PLAYED WITH FIRE!!” She claimed the Vlog Squad supplied so much alcohol to her and her underage friends, they were all incapacitated.

Dobrik’s Response To The Zeglaitis Accusations

Although Dobrik himself was never accused of rape, he caught flack for associating with Zeglaitis in the first place and allowing inappropriate content to be filmed and uploaded on his watch. The YouTuber also came under fire for only “distancing” himself explicitly from Dom after the negative press. (A deep dive through Dobrik’s channel revealed they were making content together up until 2019.)

Dobrik addressed these allegations in his March 2021 “Let’s Talk” video and claimed he always puts consent first. "Whether I'm shooting with a friend or shooting with a stranger, I always make sure that whatever the video I'm putting out, I have the approval from that person," Dobrik said. "And I also acknowledge where there's times a person can change their mind, and they decide that they no longer want to be associated, they no longer want to be in the video that I'm putting up. Then I'll take the video down."

In a second apology posted a week later on March 23, he said, “I was completely disconnected from the fact that when people were invited to film videos with us, especially videos that relied on shock for views or whatever it was, that I was creating an unfair power dynamic. I did not know this before.”

Natalie Mariduena, Trisha Paytas, Carly Incontro, and Erin Gilfoy Respond
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Other members of the Vlog Squad spoke out about the allegation against Zeglaitis. Natalie Mariduena — Dobrik’s long-time assistant and family friend — fiercely condemned Zeglaitis in a March 2021 statement. "I've spent a lot of time thinking about the recent allegations, and because of the severity, it's taken me time to process," she said. "Like many of you, I'm upset and angry and do not condone the behavior detailed in the article or any sexual misconduct/abuse for that matter." Mariduena hasn’t posted Dobrik to her Instagram page since March.

Trisha Paytas, a former Vlog Squad member who had previously called Dobrik out for “manipulative” behavior in February 2019, had a lot to say about the 2021 allegations allegation against Zeglaitis. She slammed Dobrik, calling his apology “fake,” and told him to take accountability for the situation. "If you make a mistake, own up to it. Don't say 'I'm sorry. Everyone's putting pressure on me, so now I have to make this fake apology,'" she said.

Squad members Carly Incontro and Erin Gilfoy, who run their own channel separate from the Vlog Squad, spoke out about the Zeglaitis allegations in a March 22 video. “The article came out, we read it the same time as you guys, and I mean obviously we think it’s disgusting what happened, and none of that is okay,” Carly said, adding they “do not condone that at all.”

“As someone who has experienced sexual abuse myself, I know how traumatizing it can be,” Erin added. “To be exposed like that and like, shared with all these people [via the vlog], I’m sure is really hard.”

As of May 2021, David hasn’t posted on any of his channels in over two months. The Vlog Squad has always had a revolving door of participants, but it seems like the door may now be completely closed.