The reality-show villain has evolved. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the YouTube villain.
Look no further than Jake Paul, a YouTube-generation successor to platinum-blond miscreants like Spencer Pratt of “The Hills” and Johnny Fairplay of “Survivor,” mixed with a little bit of the “Jackass” crew.
Paul, 20, an actor on the Disney channel show “Bizaardvark,” has 8.5 million followers on Instagram and more than 8.5 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. But a local news clip from Los Angeles that featured him infuriating his West Hollywood neighbors introduced him to a different audience this week.
“The neighbors hate me,” he says proudly in the spot, which features him jumping atop the local news van and mocking a reporter’s shoes, as well as shots of his eager young fans hanging out in the street. Told that the neighbors are complaining that he’s turned the street into a circus, he responds, “I mean, but people like going to circuses, right?”
“It used to be a really nice quiet street and now we’re just this war zone,” said Maytal Dahan, the only neighbor named in the piece.
The station, KTLA, reported that a neighborhood meeting is planned for next week to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit against Paul, who did not immediately respond to questions sent through a publicist.
After the story went viral, Paul on Wednesday leaned into the criticism on Twitter.
“Crazy how many ppl care about me being a ‘bad’ neighbor,” he wrote.
Although Paul is largely a stranger to the over-25 set, his many devoted fans know he has taken something of a heel turn in recent months, engaging in reality-show style feuds with his rumored romantic connection Alissa Violet; his brother, Logan Paul; and other celebrities on the platform, including the star PewDiePie. A rap song Paul released with some of his housemates quickly became one of the most disliked YouTube videos of all time.
And that was before the local news clip exposed him to a new generation of haters — and in some cases, fans.
“This is definitely the evolution of the fame I was going for,” Pratt, whose time on the reality show “The Hills” was spent antagonizing one of its stars and fan-favorites, Lauren Conrad, said in a phone interview on July 19. “When I saw the clip, I was definitely jealous.”
It is virtually impossible to know whether Paul’s personal drama is authentic. Like the characters on a reality show, the network of YouTube stars in which he exists thrives on soap-opera-style plotlines that may be exaggerated or entirely false. In many of his videos, he is energized to the point of mania, engaging in stunts including building a giant water slide in his backyard and having the image of a large gun tattooed on his leg in response to a “Wheel of Fortune”-style game.
But Paul’s antics disguise an ambitious entrepreneurial nature and an understanding of social video that allowed him to drop out of high school and move to Los Angeles when he was 17.
Before becoming a Disney star, he had sharpened his filming and editing chops on the now-defunct video platform Vine when he was still a high school wrestler in Westlake, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. His brother, with whom he used to film videos when the two were preteens, was also starting to use Vine. He has said the competition inspired both of them to learn more quickly.
“We basically started studying the platform and figured out how to make a better video,” Paul told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2016. “In less than three weeks, one of the videos went viral, and we both gained 5,000 followers.”
Once in California, Paul took improv and acting classes, eventually landing a role on “Bizaardvark,” a show about a YouTube-like social media channel called Vuuugle. He also began to foster a network of YouTube stars, signing them to contracts with his company, Team 10, which he calls a social media label. He helped them produce and edit their videos and often allowed them to stay at his home in West Hollywood. (Violet was Team 10’s first member.)
He has named Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher and Dr. Dre as role models, and according to a podcast interview posted to YouTube in March, he’s interested in becoming a mogul who also acts, preferably in blockbusters.
“I’d like to be a superhero or a supervillain in a huge action movie,” he told the podcast’s host, Lewis Howes. “I want to play like the Joker or something like that.”
In making those dreams a reality, Paul will have to jump the chasm between the D-list and the A-list that has stopped others short. It may be hard for him to shed his troublemaking image for something more mature.
“All due respect and not to player-hate here, but if you’re trying to be an actual actor, running around on the streets like a fool, making a scene with KTLA is not going to get you there,” Pratt said.
He contrasted Paul with movie stars like Woody Harrelson, who can be hated in one role and then loved in their next film.
“He’s not playing the role,” Pratt said. “If you hate Jake Paul, you just hate Jake Paul.”