Content warning: ableist slurs, ableism, slut shaming, mention of rape culture
Miranda Sings is considered one of the trailblazers of the YouTube community. Colleen Ballinger, creator and actress of the character, made the channel in 2008 and it has since exceeded 1.2 billion views and 7 million subscribers.
For me, Miranda Sings was one of the first YouTubers I watched and thus I have a personal attachment to her. If I had a long, hard day at school, I would always come home and watch Miranda videos to relax and entertain me. I have even dressed up as the character two years in a row for Halloween, and occasionally I catch myself singing like her.
However, as with everyone we look up to, it is essential that we are critical of the ways in which they are problematic.
The biggest problem is Miranda Sings’ characterization. While it has never explicitly been stated whether or not she has a disability, mental or chronic illness, it could be said that her characterization is based off of harmful stereotypes of people from that community. She is portrayed in a way which highlights her disconnect with reality and much of the humor produced is because of the fact that she is unable to comprehend certain ideas, is slow or does something in an odd way. This is ableist.
Even though Colleen has stated that the character originated from teenage girls on YouTube whose singing was “terrible, but they were so cocky”, it is clear that the character has evolved to include many ableist stereotypes. She is often depicted as having a speech impediment, being unintelligent and being quick to violence. These are all stereotypes often associated with people with disabilities, mental and chronic illnesses.
Miranda Sings has also had a history of slut shaming and has made a catchphrase out of telling women wearing revealing clothing to ‘not dress porn!’ Whether or not this is done ironically, it has become an iconic phrase many fans celebrate and love and of course the audience at home laughs. This normalizes slut shaming and ultimately rape culture as it is painted as something which should be obviously entertaining. Especially considering that much of Miranda Sings’ audience is impressionable young kids and teenagers, normalizing rape culture is not something that should be encouraged.
Colleen also continually perpetuates harmful ideas outside of the character. Her personal YouTube channel is called “PsychoSoprano”, ‘psycho‘ being an ableist slur that has had a history of oppressing people who have been diagnosed with psychosis. She also commonly uses the slurs ‘crazy’, ‘insane’ and ‘spaz’ in her videos.
Not to mention that in February 2014, she made a video with fellow YouTuber Ricky Dillon in which they invented the “Are You Dumb Tag“. She has also made videos titled “Testing Dumb Pinterest Hacks“, “You Sound Dumb Challenge“, “My Crazy Drunk Experience” and “Insane Hawaii Vacation & Moana Premiere“.
No matter how problematic Miranda and ultimately Colleen are, the problem is the larger issue of normalized ableism in our society. She isn’t the only person in the world to ever use ableist language as it has been normalized to the point where it is a part of our everyday lives. That still does not mean that she shouldn’t be held accountable though.
At the end of the day, I don’t hate Colleen and I certainly don’t believe that she is purposefully and knowingly perpetuating harmful ideas. I continue watching both Miranda Sings and Colleen’s channels as in many ways they have helped me cope with the struggles of my teenage years. I have generally positive memories associated with them and I simply cannot deny that I enjoy watching their videos. However it is always important to critique things that are problematic, and Colleen Ballinger is no exception.