James Somerton

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James Somerton is a Canadian YouTuber who became well known for his video essays that talked about media from a queer perspective. He was doing quite well, all things considered, ending November of 2023 with 337,000 subscribers.[1] However, this all changed in early December, when YouTuber Hbomberguy published a video proving Somerton to have plagiarized large chunks of his content[2] and Todd in the Shadows released a video showing that many of the claims that Somerton made were factually wrong.[3]

Somerton responded to this by making all of his content private,[4] only to upload an apology video near the end of the month, which he quickly deleted after it got large amounts of backlash before promising to make a better apology at an unspecific later date in a community post.[5][6] However, he gave apologizing another go in February 2024,[7] [note 1]and was quickly called out for much of what he said not making any sense. Later, Somerton uploaded a message on Twitter which implied he committed suicide, however he was later found to not only have been alive this entire time but also began using sockpuppet accounts to defend himself.[9]


Graphic Hbomberguy made showing how much of Somerton's video "Society and Queer Horror" was plagiarized. Rachel Brands, a writer affected by Somerton's plagiarism, was a fan of his work and a supporter of his on Patreon.[2]

On 12/2/2023, Hbomberguy published a video with the title "Plagiarism and You(Tube)," with the entire second half being dedicated to Somerton, primarily focusing on his habit of plagiarizing other books, articles, and YouTubers.[2]

Hbomberguy specifically took notice of Somerton's video "Evil Queens: A Queer Look at Disney History," which had numerous examples of large amounts of the video being taken from the book Tinker Belles and Evil Queens by Shaun Griffin.[10] Specifically, roughly the first forty-five minutes are plagiarized from Griffin's book, and once that is done Somerton goes on to do the same with an article talking about the Disney movie Mulan from a transgender perspective,[note 2]with a less than two minute bridge written by Somerton.[note 3] Hbomberguy also noted that Somerton's video "Unrequited: The History of Queer Baiting" was commonly the same as the book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo,[12] along with its documentary counterpart simply called The Celluloid Closet.[13][2]

This, however, turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg. As Hbomberguy went through Somerton's videos, he found that Somerton had copied, among many other things, a conservative blogger, a Cracked article on terrible movies with good messages, and even Wikipedia.[2]

Previous times he was called out[edit]

Although Hbomberguy was the person who brought Somerton's plagiarism to mainstream attention, he was far from the first to point it out. Hbomberguy specifically took note of a thread written by somebody who pointed out the numerous examples of plagiarism in his aforementioned "Evil Queens: A Queer Look at Disney History," video. Somerton went on to claim that this person was engaging in a harassment campaign against him (they weren't), causing them to be attacked by Somerton's fans to the point where they had to private their Twitter account.[2]

On another occasion, a blog called Seldom Musings wrote an article pointing out how James had plagiarized his blog post while talking about the anime Attack on Titan.[14]

Screenshot from Hbomberguy's video showing the use of Avila's content as source footage.[2]

The aforementioned video "Unrequited: The History of Queer Baiting" even got itself into some controversy before anybody had discovered the similarities between it and The Celluloid Closest, specifically a YouTuber named Alexander Avila—formerly known as Are They Gay—pointed out that sections on television shows such as Sherlock and Merlin were incredibly similar to videos he had made on the same topic, to the point of including some of the same jokes he did because Somerton had simply downloaded the video and put it into his. Somerton admitted this to Avila through Twitter DMs when Avila called him out on this, and a picture he posted to Twitter of his timeline while editing shows clear as day that he was using Avila's video in his.[2]

Times he attempted to defend himself[edit]

Description of Somerton's video before he was criticized for plagiarism.[2]

When these accusations were brought forward, Somerton said several things in an attempt to defend himself. Regarding "Evil Queens," he tried claiming that he credited the book from the start and simply marketed the video as an adaptation of the book in question, which is bluntly untrue. First off, when the original thread calling Somerton a plagiarist was published, he responded by acknowledging he failed to credit the book but said he is "learning as I go" and will "list a reference in the description though for sure." Checking the original video, Somerton made no attempt to reference the book he was taking large amounts of his video from, and only added a note which read "A major source of research for this video was the book" in question once he was criticized on Twitter. Second off, as mentioned above, he specifically started talking about films not covered by the book (which were also plagiarized), which nobody would do if they were simply trying to adapt a work.[2]

On other occasions, Somerton attempted to defend himself through saying his videos are actually primarily written by his co-writer Nick Herrgott, and those who call him a plagiarist are actually accusing Herrgott of this. Hbomberguy talks about Herrgott in the video where he exposes Somerton, saying that he believes Herrgott is unaware of the plagiarism Somerton engages in (even noting that Herrgott would commonly preview sections of the scripts that Somerton plagiarized to the fan Discord server) and acknowledges that any of the sections Herrgott wrote were, from what he could tell, not plagiarized.[2]

Still, the fact that Somerton kept bringing up Herrgott whenever the plagiarism accusations came up shows that he was aware somebody could catch him, and makes it look like he was willing to allow Herrgott to take the blame for this if the sheer scope of his actions were ever exposed.

Reasons this occurred (according to James)[edit]

In his second apology video, James explains that the plagiarism was caused by him mindlessly copying and pasting points into his script merely for the purpose of creating a rough draft, which he would then expand upon and make more original later on. However, due to his memory issues in combination with possible ADHD, he was unable to remember exactly if he had managed to do such a thing already and which parts of his script were taken from other people.[7]

Of course, if James does have this genuine medical problem, obviously he deserves the sympathy of those around him. However, numerous factors get in the way of this explanation making any sort of sense. Most importantly, as YouTuber Lin Lin pointed out in her commentary on James, is that James did not merely just copy and paste the words of others into his script, he frequently changed words around in order to make it sound like this was something he came up with.[15]

Factual Errors[edit]

On 12/3/2023, one day later, YouTuber Todd in the Shadows released a 102-minute video noting 35 different factual errors that Somerton had made over the course of his various video essays. Todd also noted that he specifically limited this to claims that he could prove wrong, not even bothering discussing many of Somerton's generalities where it would be difficult for him to prove them right or wrong.[3]

Many of these claims seem to have been made with the goal of emphasizing the role of gay people in history, which there is nothing wrong with — on the condition that one isn't sacrificing historical accuracy to make these claims. Todd makes note of Somerton claiming that the homosexual pornography industry was responsible for the creation of Skype, when in actuality the people behind Skype had nothing to do with porn. On another occasion, he claimed that The Rocky Horror Picture Show saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy after the financial failure of Cleopatra, when the film in question that saved Fox was The Sound of Music.[3] (Somerton's timeline doesn't even make any sense given that Cleopatra was first released in 1963,[16] while The Rocky Horror Picture Show wasn't released until 1975.[17] For this to make any sense 20th Century Fox would have had to have been on the verge of bankruptcy for a decade, only to be saved by a film that was originally "A box office flop so ker-splatty it was pulled from the few screens showing it back in 1975."[18])

Other falsehoods see him fabricating examples of homophobia, such as when he claimed that their was a rise in violent hate crimes against LGBT people in response to murders committed by Jeffery Dahmer, specifically saying that his homosexuality was used in propaganda against gay men as a way to warn of their monstrous desires. In truth, there was a spike in hate crimes in certain parts of the country, although they were mostly harassment and threats as opposed to violence, and Dahmer's homosexuality was largely ignored by the homophobic, who instead used him as an intimidation tactic against homosexual men due to his status as a killer of homosexual men.[note 4] For a lighter example, he claimed that Nickelodeon moved The Legend of Korra to the internet because of its homosexual undertones.[3] In truth, Nickelodeon had been screwing with Korra in one way or another since its second season[20] and were totally fine with a homosexual couple appearing in the series.[21] (Nickelodeon said at the time that the decision to move the last season online was due to low ratings,[3] although it should be noted that after said low ratings were largely the result of changing time slots and little marketing on the part of the network.[20][note 5]

One rather telling lie came about when Somerton claimed that the post-AIDS epidemic gay rights movement was only interested in same-sex marriage and military service, specifically noting that they had no desire to combat employment discrimination. Somerton frames this as a takeover by "boring" homosexuals who were more interested in assimilation as opposed to the liberation of earlier generations. Although this shift did occur, Somerton's example of them not fighting employment discrimination was wrong, they actively did and even got President Bill Clinton to sign an executive order with the intention of fighting it.[3]

To sum up: Somerton is clearly interested in emphasizing the role of LGBT people in history, is rather sensitive to homophobia, and is more in favor of the liberationist goals of earlier movements as opposed to the assimilationist ideals of later generations, and all of that is fine on its own. However, James constantly got things wrong when spreading this narrative (while massively plagiarizing in the process), and that was the problem.

No research (by their own admission)[edit]

When the plagiarism scandal broke, Herrgott defended himself by saying he couldn't have copied any books given "I don't read. I don't even watch other YouTubers. And these days, neither does James" just after telling the server "You heard it here folks. I don't do any research." Previously, while discussing getting claims wrong in regard to American fitness culture being connected to Nazi Germany, Herrgott said that "a lot of the claims (at least that I make) … are kinda based on just raw observation. I'm kinda fucking lazy and don't WANT to look things up so I just kinda take something and ruminate on it."[3] This explains why many of the incorrect claims in these videos come off as a list of half remembered statements that James is trying to put into a narrative, as opposed to the result of actual research — how could they be the result of research, they don't do any.

For the record, the claim that got Herrgott to drop the second quote was that the Nazis were responsible for the current body standards around the west. Todd pointed out numerous issues with this claim, including that white supremacists were obsessed with fitness long before World War Two and that the obsession with fitness the Nazis (along with the Soviet Union) had made Americans less interested in exercise, to the point where then-President Eisenhower had to be careful when he attempted to create a fitness campaign because he was worried it would remind people of what Hitler did in Germany.[3] If these are what they get when making observations, then their observations are frequently wrong, and they either need better information to guide them or they need a better understanding of how to turn information into a narrative.

Factual errors meet plagiarism (and sometimes just bad sources)[edit]

One of the bigger issues with just mindlessly repeating sources and claims you got from somebody else is, well, sometimes those sources are incorrect--and, in some cases, have been known to be incorrect for quite awhile. As mentioned above, one of Somerton's videos is plagiarized from The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo, however, given said book was published in 1981, that means the information in it runs the risk of being debunked by future research.

Going back to Todd, he specifically takes note of the claim that Katharine Hepburn, the famous actress, didn't believe homosexuality existed during her life. Todd found this claim was sourced to a book called Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz[25], which cited a book called Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir[26] that didn't actually have the story mentioned. (Todd also notes that another book[27] called it total bullshit.)[3]

Mind you, this is not to insult Russo. Todd even later said The Celluloid Closet is "a foundational text, [and] probably the most important scholarly work on its topic" on homosexuality in films from the time.[28] However, Russo, like all people, was not perfect in his research and sometimes fell for misinformation--hence why actual scholars are supposed to read works, even foundational ones like his, critically in order to make sure they don't accidentally believe an incorrect claim. James has no such desire to fact check the writings of others, he just wants to mindlessly repeat words somebody else wrote at the camera.


Another notable aspect of Somerton's work is just how commonly sexist it is. His video "The Troubling Thirst for Jeffery Dahmer" provides a rather notable example of this, where he specifically takes time away from plagiarizing to talk about how women are lusting after Jeffery Dahmer because of his status as a serial killer of gay men, despite also mentioning the infamous serial killer of women Ted Bundy as somebody a female audience has also expressed attraction to. On another occasion, he claimed that people who disagreed with him on the gay content of the anime Yuri on Ice were specifically straight women—how he knew such a thing, we have no idea.[2]

Sexism meets inaccuracies[edit]

On occasion, Somerton will double-dip and say factually untrue things while also making an incredibly sexist point. Once again while talking about the Dahmer fandom, Somerton made the claim that this group is both racist and sexist due to their habit of only shipping Dahmer with his one victim who was both white and straight. When Todd actually looked into this, he found no evidence that this group was particularly interested in shipping, and the ones who were frequently used other serial killers, with Todd being unable to find a single example of the ship Somerton claimed was so common.[3]

In another video of his, he argues that lesbians have historically had it easier than homosexual men, specifically using the example of lesbian author Radclyffe Hall not being convicted on obscenity after documenting multiple examples of lesbianism among ambulance drivers during the First World War in her book The Well of Loneliness[29] due to men being grossed out by lesbians and, as such, not wanting to convict anybody of mentioning it. In truth, she was convicted of obscenity and all the copies of her book were destroyed.[3]

Times he scammed his audience[edit]


In 2022, Somerton created an Indiegogo pitching a film studio he wanted to create called Telos, which would make films focused on LGBT stories and experiences. Although Somerton earned ten times the initial goal, he created nothing over the course of the following two years, with Somerton constantly changing what films would be their first released, making posters out of stock images, and not doing anything that showed he was interested in actually continuing the project. (Also, in typical Somerton fashion, one of his proposed projects was taken from a novel he previously promoted.)[2]

Possible lying about his income[edit]

Throughout his time on YouTube, a couple of people thought that Somerton was intentionally making himself look poorer than he actually was in hopes it would encourage his audience to subscribe to his Patreon. On one occasion, after Somerton posted a video saying that he had lost half of his Patreon supporters, Dan Olson replied by questioning how this could happen given that Somerton had not experience any noticeable drop in subscribers.[30] Olson later said that he saw James get 1,200 new Patreon supporters in one day because of this announcement,[31] with Somerton's monthly income potentially being as high as $18,000.[32]

This especially got Olson's attention because shortly before this point Somerton had uploaded his Telos pitch video, which used a camera and accessories that totaled around $7,000.[33] Olson also noted that three weeks after saying his income had taken such a nose dive Somerton might need to shut down his channel, Somerton bought a camera costing around $8,000.[34]

Due to this, Olson outright said, "I'm convinced he was just lying about this income shock in the first place."[35] Instead, Olson believed that he did this "because he was salty about getting dragged and felt owed a win."[36] Specifically, Olson noted that he had just spent multiple days "getting absolutely *roasted* … just dragged across the pavement and read for filth"[37] after saying that sex workers should be treated as a mental health service.[38]


Following the release of Hbomberguy and Todd in the Shadows videos, Somerton would initially deny the allegations levied towards him. He would post on Patreon claiming that the allegations Hbomberguy brought up were "nothing new", and that his video only addressed one "disproved" case. He would later immediately wipe his online presence, deleting his Twitter account, Discord server and his Telos website. James would release one more post on his Patreon before before deactivating that as well, where he apologized and promised to provide a further statement in the future. His co-writer Nick Herrgott would later release a statement condemning James's actions, and confirmed to have cut ties with him. James would also private all of his YouTube videos later that month.[citation needed]

On 12/20/23, Somerton would release a video titled "I'm sorry", where he attempted to apologize for his past actions. James would apologize to all the writers affected and promised to make things up to them, saying he could make his old videos public again and send the ad revenue to the Hbomberguy team for distribution. He also said he planned to make more YouTube videos in the future as well as reopening his Patreon for those who wanted to cancel their pledges. The video was received very poorly, with many people criticizing James for not mentioning his plagiarism, his failure to properly address his controversies, his attempt to reflect some of the blame on Nick, and his decision to reopen his Patreon. Viewers were also critical to how James opened his video where he claimed he'd been released from the hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Others noted James's poor mental state as he's seen unable to control is emotions, saying that he should've made an apology when he was in a better state of mind. The video was deleted few hours after it was uploaded, and his Patreon was deactivated again. James would later post on his community tab that he would write a better thought out apology in a later date once his mental health improves.[citation needed]

As of February 2024, his YouTube channel would lose more then 91,000 subscribers.[citation needed]


  1. The fact that it had the same title as a series from Hbomberguy rubbed many the wrong way, especially given Hbomb was the one who called him out in the first place. To quote Aeron Tempest "It is very possible that this was done as a tongue and cheek reference, but I care not. The chief cornerstone of your drama was your plagiarism and the first thing you do is nick the naming conventions of the man who called you out in your apology video? Are you serious?"[8]
  2. Specifically the article "The Groundbreaking Queerness of Disney's 'Mulan'" by Jes Tom.[11]
  3. Said bridge containing a total misunderstanding of Disney's "Gay Night" controversy. Somerton says it was created by Disney, who pocketed the money despite having promised to give it to the Aid for AIDS foundation. In actuality, a private organization called Odyssey Tours rented out Disney's park for the night and they were the ones who pocketed the money. It should also be noted that Somerton says Disney kept "all of the profits" from the event, when donations were made, even if they were not nearly as much as the organization behind the event advertised.
  4. Somerton even notes this, although he adds the odd detail that Dahmer's sexual orientation was ignored by the media at the time of his trial because of fear doing so would make them look homophobic, he gives no evidence of this, and a FAIR article from the time notes that local media was actually obsessed with mentioning how Dahmer's murders took place after "gay orgies," with Rush Limbaugh even blaming the gay community for the police never investigating Dahmer before that point.[19]
  5. It should be noted that the most likely explanation for this is a long-standing internal issue Nickelodeon had where they would cancel basically any show they had in favor of airing their hit cartoon Spongebob Squarepants more frequently. As one article from CBR put it "Animation fans have also accused Nick of replacing new shows that aren't immediate hits in favor of airing more SpongeBob reruns over the years."[22] Even shows that weren't cancelled, including ones that many felt went on for longer than they should have like The Fairly OddParents[23] were constantly on the verge of cancellation for failing to get the ratings Spongebob did, with Fairly OddParents specifically nearly being cancelled four times for this very reason.[24]


  1. James Somerton
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Plagiarism and You(Tube)
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 I Fact-Checked The Worst Video Essayist On YouTube
  4. James Somerton has privated every video on his channel.
  5. Another Bad Apology to Finish 2023
  6. James Somerton called out for “manipulative” apology amid Hbomberguy allegations
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Measured Response
  8. https://twitter.com/AeronTempest/status/1762532622507348317
  9. James Somerton Suicide Hoax
  10. Tinker Belles and Evil Queens by Shaun P. Griffin (2000) NYU Press. ISBN 0814731236.
  11. The Groundbreaking Queerness of Disney's 'Mulan'
  12. The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies by Vito Russo (1981) Joanna Cotler Book. ISBN 0060137045.
  13. The Celluloid Closet (1995) IMDb.
  14. James Somerton Plagiarized Me
  15. James Somerton "Apologised"...
  16. How 1963's Cleopatra Nearly Ruined 20th Century Fox
  17. The Rocky Horror Picture Show cast: Where are they now?
  18. The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The film that’s saved lives
  19. Outings and Innings
  20. 20.0 20.1 Trivia / The Legend of Korra
  21. Korrasami is canon.
  22. 5 Nickelodeon Series Unjustifiably Canceled (& 5 That Went On For Too Long)
  23. Seasonal Rot / The Fairly OddParents!
  24. Trivia / The Fairly OddParents!
  25. Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz by Kenneth L. Geist
  26. Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir by Garson Kanin
  27. Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann
  28. ""The Celluloid Closet" is, like, a foundational text, probably the most important scholarly work on its topic, and inside it is this absolute bizarro take that I could find no evidence for -- a good case for holding some amount of skepticism of even reputable sources" from @ShadowTodd
  29. The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall (1928) Jonathan Cape.
  30. I'm gonna be honest: I don't believe you and this vid feels gross and exploitative. Like, revenue declined by 50% while subs remained functionally the same? That's just not how things work in this business; either you made a mistake, there was a glitch, or you're lying. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (8:41 PM · Apr 1, 2023) Twitter (archived from April 1, 2023).
  31. 1200 new patrons in one day. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:05 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:43:06 UTC).
  32. Since I simply don't believe the income shock was real in the first place that would put his post-"Maybe the end" Patreon income at around $10,000 per month. US. Add YouTube income, he's spent the last seven months making around $18,000 per month. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:07 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:43:15 UTC).
  33. You don't use your best camera as a prop, you use your second best camera as a prop. So being an obsessive weirdo I needed to know, and I watched his BTS stuff until I spotted his main rig, a $6000 camera with about $1000 in accessories. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:05 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:40:28 UTC).
  34. Three weeks later he brought a brand new Sony FX6v for $8000 CAD to add to his pile of cinema cameras despite the fact that he was, but scant moments earlier, in such a precarious position that a single bad month would kill his channel. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:08 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:43:39 UTC).
  35. Now, this unfolds in kinda two directions. The first is that I'm convinced he was just lying about this income shock in the first place. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:05 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:41:58 UTC).
  36. There's a million theoretical edge cases about what maybe happened and if maybe he just misunderstood the data or saw a glitch and panicked, maybe one of those happened, I don't believe it, I think he just lied because he was salty about getting dragged and felt owed a win. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:05 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:42:04 UTC).
  37. He spends several days getting absolutely *roasted* for this, just dragged across the pavement and read for filth, and doubles down in the replies the whole way. by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:05 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:41:49 UTC) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:41:49 UTC).
  38. Then March 29th James posts this whole incel screed on Twitter about how sex work should be "subsidized as a mental health service." by Dan Olson @FoldableHuman (9:05 PM · Dec 4, 2023) Twitter (archived from 6 Dec 2023 17:41:40 UTC).