Crying for Attention

How has mental illness become a form of entertainment?

In an age of technology, virality can simultaneously be a needle in a haystack and a stumbled-upon gold trove. This creates controversy in followers and internet users about whether an influencer “deserves” their fame. But perhaps the elusive root of their success lies in the desires of their audience. For many of these unexplainably popular celebrities, mental illness is at the center of their content. And in this, they may be unknowingly selling a good that is in high demand. The product? Mentally ill “comedy.”

Another internet “comedian” feeding this habit is Nicholas Perry, known as Nikocado Avocado on YouTube. Perry blew up on YouTube in 2016 by uploading videos of himself binge-eating junk food. Nikocado Avocado’s videos mostly consist of him gorging himself on profuse amounts of food while mocking himself for his weight. Many enjoy this tragic mental and physical chaos as a perverse form of reality TV, remarking in the comments how they “like how he gets out of breath when he walks around his house.” Another user puts it simply as, “even if he is annoying he’s still entertaining.” These comments are prevalent under most of the YouTuber’s videos and are a shocking insight into the mocking of those who have binge-eating disorders, which is what popularized Perry in the first place.

Perry is not the only person who has gained “fame” from mental illness. Gabbie Hanna, a fallen-from-grace influencer, was recently the center of TikTok trends after a manic episode that caused her to post over 100 videos in less than 24 hours. In the past few months, she became a heavily discussed topic, not because of the mental health assistance she so clearly needs, but rather due to the spectacle of her “crazy” actions. While some quietly express concern for Gabbie Hanna, like TikTok user @zoecxja did in her comment “Is she having an episode… Lowkey concerned for her,” these concerns are drowned out by the overwhelming number of users who find comedy in her actions. For instance, after she posted a video of her filming herself violently screaming “help me,” the sound became a meme trending on thousands of popular videos.

Gabbie Hanna and Nikocado Avocado’s popularity holds a haunting truth, which was identified by YouTube user @Γιώργος Καλπαζιδη in reference to Nikocado’s videos: “We can all say he is crazy but we can’t stop watching him.” No matter how far we believe we have come, the internet’s steady output of mentally ill “comedy” proves that everyone still loves a train wreck.