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The Effect of Youtube on Our Society
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Published: Sep 19, 2019
Words: 654 | Page: 1 | 4 min read
- Anything can be seen on the site
- YouTube has a wide variety of content
- Expressing your creativity through YouTube is a major benefit
- People get to meet on YouTube
- Learning through YouTube
- A lot of people will see what you post
- YouTube, so anyone can see the videos you post
- Anyone for the most part can post a video
- There is violence on the site
- There could be issues of privacy invasion
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Social Media: YouTube essay
Today, social media play an increasingly more important role in the life of society because users spend a lot of time online and they view social media as an important source of information about issues which users are concerned with. YouTube, being one of the mainstream social media, allows users to share their videos online, create their channels and, thus, create their virtual communities united by common interests. YouTube also becomes a tool of the promotion of individuals and ideas because users can use the social media to promote themselves and their ideas. In such a situation, the distinct feature of YouTube is its performativity because users publishing their videos on YouTube focus on their performativity. Otherwise, they will not attract many users and become virtually useless for other users of YouTube but the authors of those videos (Lombe & Ssewamala 39). Hence, the performativity is not only the distinct feature of YouTube but also an essential condition of success of videos published on YouTube, whereas the public grows too concerned with the performativity that often leads to the failure of the audience to notice really significant and important issues, while perfomrability become prior to the cultural and social value of videos and messages published on YouTube. In such a way, the performativity of YouTube has a dubious effect, since, on the one hand, YouTube performativity makes it attractive and powerful social media allowing sharing visual data by users worldwide, while, on the other hand, YouTube performativity has a de structive impact on the existing legal and socio-cultural or ethical norms because often data published on YouTube violate basic rights, such as privacy or copyright, and offend existing ethical norms.
At the same time, social media became generators of the mainstream culture and new trends. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that the development of social media, like YouTube, opens new opportunities for the development of virtual social communities united by their common interests. Users spend more and more time online developing their virtual social relations online. Social media become an important part of their life and virtual communities created with the help of and within social media play an important part in the development of socio-cultural norms and standards that affect the development of basic ethical and cultural norms of people and influence their lifestyle substantially.
YouTube has become a highly influential media which is extremely popular among users worldwide. Today, YouTube has millions or even billions of users worldwide. This is one of the most popular social media along with FaceBook, Twitter and others. The popularity of YouTube is closely intertwined with the publishing opportunity offered by the social media because users can publish their videos both documentary and featured ones. In such a way, users get ample opportunities to share their videos instantly. At the same time, the distinct feature of YouTube is its perfomrability because it is the performativity of videos that attracts users and the more performable a video is the more users will watch it, the more popular it becomes.
Even though YouTube focuses on sharing videos mainly, the social media still opens wide opportunities for users to share their creative ideas and make them performable. Users may be driven by different concerns, while publishing their videos and sharing information with others. Some of them may be willing to publishing some interesting facts recorded by them in the real world, while others manifest their creativity with the help of YouTube.
YouTube allows watching diverse videos and channels which may vary in their content. However, the popularity of videos determines their availability to the audience that influences the perception of information by the audience. For instance, the video that has the highest number of views becomes more and more popular and becomes mainstream, even though in its essence the video may have little cultural value or poor messages (Warr 291). In fact, the point is to make videos performable. The overwhelming majority of users publishing their videos on YouTube are concerned with the popularity of their videos than their content. Such a competition encourages users to focus on performativity of their videos above all.
What makes YouTube really popular and mainstream social media is its performativity because the audience receive what it wants and expects from the media, the performance, the show and entertainment with the possibility of the further communication and even interaction with other users of YouTube. For instance, users publishing the video on YouTube may expect the positive feedback from other users. If they receive a negative feedback, they may become interested in creating a new video to match the public interests. In such a way, videos become more and more performable to gain the positive feedback from the part of other users watching them on YouTube.
However, often the quantity of views determines the popularity of videos in YouTube and users erroneously associate the quality of the video with the number of views. In other words, they may believe that if the video has a large number of views, than it is good and mainstream.
Furthermore, users can leave comments after the video that also contributes to the formation of specific ideas because users may conduct disputes as they leave their comments.
Furthermore, videos published on YouTube may encourage users to publish their video responses that contribute to the further attraction of the users’ attention to the issue that has become the subject of controversy or dispute between users.
The popularity of YouTube is, to a significant extent, determined by the interest of the audience in visual information. In fact, it is not the interest proper. To put it more precisely, users prefer YouTube because this social media provides them with visual messages which are preferable for the public than print messages for instance (Warr 290). As people perceive the information about the surrounding world with the help of vision, they naturally choose YouTube in place of other social media because they have an opportunity to receive visual information that facilitates their perception of messages conveyed via YouTube.
At the same time, it is necessary to take the commercial background and opportunities offered by YouTube to its users. For instance, users can benefit from the cooperation with advertisers but they need to make their videos and channels popular to attract more advertisers. In such a way, YouTube offers business opportunities for users that stimulates the development of diverse channels to meet current demands of the public or create new ones.
Social Media: YouTube essay part 2
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Essay on YouTube
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YouTube can be defined as a service where videos are shared by people who can also view other people’s videos, share, like and also comment on the videos. The YouTube service can be accessed through various devices which have internet access, for instance, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, and the desktops. As long as an individual has internet access, they will get to the YouTube website www.youtube.com where they will access the various videos (Burgess, Jean, &Joshua, 2018. P 44). The various videos which are available on the YouTube website include songs, talks, speeches, funny clips and other more. For general users, there is no sign up require just going to the site and clicking on the video that is of interest. For a person to upload videos on YouTube, they are required to sign up or create their YouTube channel.
Formation of YouTube
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The life of YouTube began where it was being funded by the investors, and it runs in a makeshift office in a garage. The first video to be uploaded was done by Jawed Karim which he did in April. The video uploaded was showing him attendance in a zoo with some elephants in a background. The first video to hit a million view was a video which was advertising a footballer celebrate by the name Gaucho Ronaldinho from Brazil.
Google noted the potential which youtube had, and they approached the co-founder with a price of $1.65 million in the year 2006, and the deal was done Google bought youtube at that price. In this year of purchase, YouTube had only 65 workers. As a way of making money from the YouTube website, Google introduced the adverts on the website (Burgess, Jean, &Joshua, 2018. P66). By the year 2012 that was when a first video was able to hit a billion views and from this time youtube is still developing and per now it is in the second position in the most popular website across the globe.
Main functions of youtube
Youtube become an integral internet part although it is not as old as the internet itself. Most of the websites are playing videos from YouTube, and they let people enjoy short and long videos of entirely everything. YouTube has developed to become one of the greatest stores like the website of people entertainment and knowledge in the world. Although it is very useful, it usually hides some things which are very interesting although they have less known features. The following are the most basic nor main things that YouTube does .
YouTube TV mode
YouTube has a TV mode. In this mode, the user is allowed to use the YouTube services as if they are using the smart television. In this mode the website provides an on-screen keyboard the video being viewed is a very high-quality video, and also it is friendly and simple interface video. The user will be able to enjoy the videos like it is on a TV screen.
User finds the videos of artists they like in one place.
Artists have created their various YouTube channels whereby they upload their videos (Burgess, Jean, &Joshua, 2018. P56). When an artist has a new song, most of them tend to release it on their YouTube channel. For those people who like the music of a certain artist, they will get to YouTube and access the playlist of their favorite artists. This is very advantageous also on the YouTube site there is a place where an individual key in the main name of the song or what they are looking for in YouTube and the site tends to give suggestions, and this makes it easy to find what interests a person.
The place to find the most popular video is YouTube
Sometimes there are things which are happening worldwide. YouTube has a list of the most popular videos whereby if the video is being watched a lot it is there in the list, and it will inform people of what is happening across the world. All the most popular each day are put on the same page, and people access what interests them on this page.
Movie watching is another key function of YouTube. The new movies and the old movies are posted through different channels in the YouTube. Watching movies at YouTube is legal, and it has been made easy and quick. Upon typing the title of the film on the search bar, the site will suggest what you are looking for it is just clicking and watching.
Live event watching
Live events may include sports like football, politician speeches, other prominent people speeches, and another live event. In the YouTube site, there is the option of watching live events. The live events can be streamed from anywhere across the globe.
The reason why youtube liked by teens
The service of YouTube is free to use (Abu-El-Haija et al. 2016 p145). It poses a great space where teens can discover the different things they like. Many teens access YouTube for some various reasons offered by you tube site, for instance, listening to music and watching the videos, funny clips watching, getting recipes, tutorials of various things and much more. The teenagers also make use of the video sharing services where they can follow their favorite bloggers of videos also they make subscriptions to other you tubers and the celebrities who they are interested.
YouTube age restriction
For an individual to set up an account in you tube website, they have to be 18 years or the age of 13+, but their parents have to provide consent (Abu-El-Haija et al. 2016 p145). In Ireland, they have provided the rule that children who are under the age of sixteen are not allowed to be using the YouTube website. But to access the YouTube website, one is not required to sign up at all. The development of YouTube has made progress there is the children version of the available where kids can download for free.
The risks of YouTube
The YouTube website is a great place where people tend to discover new things but their things which teens and their parents should be aware of in the site. The things might be bad for the kids, and they include the following;
Content which is inappropriate
The YouTube website has over one billion users and the uploaded material is over 300 per hour. Some of the uploaded material might not be suitable to be watched by the children. The risk which a child can encounter the inappropriate material can be minimized by their parents. Minimization is done through flagging. When one comes through the material which they think it is inappropriate to be watched by the children they flag YouTube flagging is like contacting YouTube and telling them the material is inappropriate.
On the YouTube website, it is easy to get negative comments and also bullying this is specifically at the comment function (Abu-El-Haija et al. 2016 p105). Where people comment on the videos, they have viewed, and one can rely on the previous comments. Parents are recommended to disable the comments on the YouTube channel of their kids to avoid bullying. Disabling comment is done easily through the setting section, and it will help to reduce comments which are negative.
Tips on how parents can keep their children safe on YouTube
Privacy setting management; any video can be uploaded on YouTube, and any user can view the video. It is recommended for a parent to note the age of their children and note material which they can view. The age can be incorporated in the setting, and the children will be allowed to view only the videos which the parents have set. Also, a parent can secure the YouTube with an email account where the video determines whether it is good for children to view or not if it is not the email will ask for sign in the kid should not have the password.
Using the safe mode; the YouTube site has the safe mode in this setting the user is given the option of barring mature content. The option has to be switched on. Otherwise, it remains off. When the filter is on it will search the videos, and those with mature people content will be filtered out. The searched videos will not be available for the kid to view. The search filter setting is very accurate it can be termed as 100% accurate and parents are advised to switch the option on so that the can protect their kids from harmful material. Other ways through which parents keep their children safe is through setting up parental controls in the YouTube website and also comment disabling on the YouTube
YouTube is a platform where different videos are viewed, shared, liked and also commented at the comment section. Now YouTube is about fifteen years old, and it has developed to become one of the most used websites across the world. There are measures which YouTube take to protect children who are using the site. Also, there are different settings which a parent can put in place so that they protect their kids from harmful and inappropriate videos it is recommended for the settings to be put in place if a kid is using the site. Otherwise, the site is very effective in passing news making an advertisement and informing people about other things around the world.
Burgess, Jean, and Joshua Green. YouTube: Online video and participatory culture. John Wiley & Sons, 2018.
Abu-El-Haija, Kothari, N., Lee, J., Natsev, P., Toderici, G., Varadarajan, B., & Vijayanarasimhan, S. . “Youtube-8m: A large-scale video classification benchmark.” arXiv preprint arXiv:1609.08675(2016).
Bajde, Domen, Mateja Kos Koklic, and Jernej Bajde. “Back to consumption and production? Prosumers are negotiating the WMG lockdown on YouTube.” Journal of Consumer Behaviour14.5 (2015): 297-306.
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The video essay boom
Hour-long YouTube videos are thriving in the TikTok era. Their popularity reflects our desire for more nuanced content online.
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The video essay’s reintroduction into my adult life was, like many things, a side effect of the pandemic. On days when I couldn’t bring myself to read recreationally, I tried to unwind after work by watching hours and hours of YouTube.
My pseudo-intellectual superego, however, soon became dissatisfied with the brain-numbing monotony of “day in the life” vlogs, old Bon Appétit test kitchen videos, and makeup tutorials. I wanted content that was entertaining, but simultaneously informational, thoughtful, and analytical. In short, I wanted something that gave the impression that I, the passive viewer, was smart. Enter: the video essay.
Video essays have been around for about a decade, if not more, on YouTube. There is some debate over how the form preceded the platform; some film scholars believe the video essay was born out of and remains heavily influenced by essay films , a type of nonfiction filmmaking. Regardless, YouTube has become the undisputed home of the contemporary video essay. Since 2012, when the platform began to prioritize watch-time over views , the genre flourished. These videos became a significant part of the 2010s YouTube landscape, and were popularized by creators across film, politics, and academic subcultures.
Today, there are video essays devoted to virtually any topic you can think of, ranging anywhere from about 10 minutes to upward of an hour. The video essay has been a means to entertain fan theories , explore the lore of a video game or a historical deep dive , explain or critique a social media trend , or like most written essays, expound upon an argument, hypothesis , or curiosity proposed by the creator.
Some of the best-known video essay creators — Lindsay Ellis, Natalie Wynn of ContraPoints, and Abigail Thorn of PhilosophyTube — are often associated with BreadTube , an umbrella term for a group of left-leaning, long-form YouTubers who provide intellectualized commentary on political and cultural topics.
It’s not an exaggeration to claim that I — and many of my fellow Gen Zers — were raised on video essays, academically and intellectually. They were helpful resources for late-night cramming sessions (thanks Crash Course), and responsible for introducing a generation to first-person commentary on all sorts of cultural and political phenomena. Now, the kids who grew up on this content are producing their own.
“Video essays are a form that has lent itself particularly well to pop culture because of its analytical nature,” Madeline Buxton, the culture and trends manager at YouTube, told me. “We are starting to see more creators using video essays to comment on growing trends across social media. They’re serving as sort of real-time internet historians by helping viewers understand not just what is a trend, but the larger cultural context of something.”
any video that starts with "the rise and fall of" I'm clicking on it no matter the topic — zae | industry plant (@ItsZaeOk) February 23, 2022
A lot has been said about the video essay and its ever-shifting parameters . What does seem newly relevant is how the video essay is becoming repackaged, as long-form video creators find a home on platforms besides YouTube. This has played out concurrently with the pandemic-era shift toward short-form video, with Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube respectively launching Reels, Spotlight, and Shorts to compete against TikTok.
TikTok’s sudden, unwavering rise has proven the viability of bite-size content, and the app’s addictive nature has spawned fears about young people’s dwindling attention spans. Yet, the prevailing popularity of video essays, from new and old creators alike, suggests otherwise. Audiences have not been deterred from watching lengthy videos, nor has the short-form pivot significantly affected creators and their output. Emerging video essayists aren’t shying away from length or nuance, even while using TikTok or Reels as a supplement to grow their online following.
One can even argue that we are witnessing the video essay’s golden era . Run times are longer than ever, while more and more creators are producing long-form videos. The growth of “creator economy” crowdfunding tools, especially during the pandemic, has allowed video essayists to take longer breaks between uploads while retaining their production quality.
“I do feel some pressure to make my videos longer because my audience continues to ask for it,” said Tiffany Ferguson, a YouTube creator specializing in media criticism and pop culture commentary. “I’ve seen comments, both on my own videos and those I watch, where fans are like, ‘Yes, you’re feeding us,’ when it comes to longer videos, especially the hour to two-hour ones. In a way, the mentality seems to be: The longer the better.”
In a Medium post last April, the blogger A. Khaled remarked that viewers were “willing to indulge user-generated content that is as long as a multi-million dollar cinematic production by a major Hollywood studio” — a notion that seemed improbable just a few years ago, even to the most popular video essayists. To creators, this hunger for well-edited, long-form video is unprecedented and uniquely suitable for pandemic times.
The internet might’ve changed what we pay attention to, but it hasn’t entirely shortened our attention span, argued Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor of digital media technology at the University of Alabama. “It has made us more selective about the things we want to devote our attention to,” she told me. “People are willing to devote time to content they find interesting.”
Every viewer is different, of course. I find that my attention starts to wane around the 20-minute mark if I’m actively watching and doing nothing else — although I will admit to once spending a non-consecutive four hours on an epic Twin Peaks explainer . Last month, the channel Folding Ideas published a two-hour video essay on “the problem with NFTs,” which has garnered more than 6 million views so far.
Hour-plus-long videos can be hits, depending on the creator, the subject matter, the production quality, and the audience base that the content attracts. There will always be an early drop-off point with some viewers, according to Ferguson, who make it about two to five minutes into a video essay. Those numbers don’t often concern her; she trusts that her devoted subscribers will be interested enough to stick around.
“About half of my viewers watch up to the halfway point, and a smaller group finishes the entire video,” Ferguson said. “It’s just how YouTube is. If your video is longer than two minutes, I think you’re going to see that drop-off regardless if it’s for a video that’s 15 or 60 minutes long.”
Some video essayists have experimented with shorter content as a topic testing ground for longer videos or as a discovery tool to reach new audiences, whether it be on the same platform (like Shorts) or an entirely different one (like TikTok).
“Short-form video can expose people to topics or types of content they’re not super familiar with yet,” Maddox said. “Shorts are almost like a sampling of what you can get with long-form content.” The growth of Shorts, according to Buxton of YouTube, has given rise to this class of “hybrid creators,” who alternate between short- and long-form content. They can also be a starting point for new creators, who are not yet comfortable with scripting a 30-minute video.
Queline Meadows, a student in Ithaca College’s screen cultures program, became interested in how young people were using TikTok to casually talk about film, using editing techniques that borrowed heavily from video essays. She created her own YouTube video essay titled “The Rise of Film TikTok” to analyze the phenomenon, and produces both TikTok micro-essays and lengthy videos.
“I think people have a desire to understand things more deeply,” Meadows told me. “Even with TikTok, I find it hard to unfold an argument or explore multiple angles of a subject. Once people get tired of the hot takes, they want to sit with something that’s more nuanced and in-depth.”
@que1ine link in bio #fyp #filmtok #filmtiktok #videoessay ♬ Swing Lynn - Harmless
It’s common for TikTokers to tease a multi-part video to gain followers. Many have attempted to direct viewers to their YouTube channel and other platforms for longer content. On the contrary, it’s in TikTok’s best interests to retain creators — and therefore viewers — on the app. In late February, TikTok announced plans to extend its maximum video length from three minutes to 10 minutes , more than tripling a video’s run-time possibility. This decision arrived months after TikTok’s move last July to start offering three-minute videos .
As TikTok inches into YouTube-length territory, Spotify, too, has introduced video on its platform, while YouTube has similarly signaled an interest in podcasting . In October, Spotify began introducing “video podcasts,” which allows listeners (or rather, viewers) to watch episodes. Users have the option to toggle between actively watching a podcast or traditionally listening to one.
What’s interesting about the video podcast is how Spotify is positioning it as an interchangeable, if not more intimate, alternative to a pure audio podcast. The video essay, then, appears to occupy a middle ground between podcast and traditional video by making use of these key elements. For creators, the boundaries are no longer so easy to define.
“Some video essay subcultures are more visual than others, while others are less so,” said Ferguson, who was approached by Spotify to upload her YouTube video essays onto the platform last year. “I was already in the process of trying to upload just the audio of my old videos since that’s more convenient for people to listen to and save on their podcast app. My reasoning has always been to make my content more accessible.”
To Ferguson, podcasts are a natural byproduct of the video essay. Many viewers are already consuming lengthy videos as ambient entertainment, as content to passively listen to while doing other tasks. The video essay is not a static format, and its development is heavily shaped by platforms, which play a crucial role in algorithmically determining how such content is received and promoted. Some of these changes are reflective of cultural shifts, too.
Maddox, who researches digital culture and media, has a theory that social media discourse is becoming less reactionary. She described it as a “simmering down” of the hot take, which is often associated with cancel culture . These days, more creators are approaching controversy from a removed, secondhand standpoint; they seem less interested in engendering drama for clicks. “People are still providing their opinions, but in conjunction with deep analysis,” Maddox said. “I think it says a lot about the state of the world and what holds people’s attention.”
no u know what i HATE video essay slander......... they r forever gonna be my fav background noise YES i enjoy the lofi nintendo music and YES i want a 3 hour video explaining the importance of the hair color of someone from a show i've never watched — ☻smiley☻ (@smiley_jpeg) January 19, 2022
That’s the power of the video essay. Its basic premise — whether the video is a mini-explainer or explores a 40-minute hypothesis — requires the creator to, at the very least, do their research. This often leads to personal disclaimers and summaries of alternative opinions or perspectives, which is very different from the more self-centered “reaction videos” and “story time” clickbait side of YouTube.
“The things I’m talking about are bigger than me. I recognize the limitations of my own experience,” Ferguson said. “Once I started talking about intersections of race, gender, sexuality — so many experiences that were different from my own — I couldn’t just share my own narrow, straight, white woman perspective. I have to provide context.”
This doesn’t change the solipsistic nature of the internet, but it is a positive gear shift, at least in the realm of social media discourse, that makes being chronically online a little less soul-crushing. The video essay, in a way, encourages us to engage in good faith with ideas that we might not typically entertain or think of ourselves. Video essays can’t solve the many problems of the internet (or the world, for that matter), but they can certainly make learning about them a little more bearable.
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The best video essays of 2021
Introspection and the act of watching emerged as recurring themes across a year in which video makers responded to the realities of a continuing pandemic. Our poll of 30 video essayists, academics, critics and filmmakers highlights 120 recommendations.
18 January 2022
By Ariel Avissar , Cydnii Wilde Harris , Grace Lee
After ‘Year of the Virus 2: 2 Metres 2 Vaccines’, it’s no surprise that we’re presenting yet another poll inevitably marked by isolation and fatigue.
There have been numerous developments and projects of note, continuing the previous year’ s theme of collaboration. There’s been the forming of Video Essay: Futures of Audiovisual Research and Teaching , an academic research project led by Johannes Binotto at Lucerne University in collaboration with the University of Zurich, which has produced some fascinating work this year; the One Villainous Scene collaboration, for which Nando v Movies gathered 230 essayists on YouTube to explore their favourite villains; the TV Dictionary collection, for which 20 essayists followed Ariel Avissar’s open invitation to dabble in videographic ruminations on television series; and two more volumes of the Essay Library Anthology, ‘micro-essay compilations’ by members of the Essay Library Discord community, touching on the very relevant themes of ‘time’ and ‘death’ .
This year also saw the return of several big names, such as Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou (the team behind Every Frame a Painting ) in their contributions to Netflix’s Voir series, and Mike Rugnetta (former host of Idea Channel ), who began uploading essays to a personal account .
But even amid these excellent projects, not only have video makers continued to struggle within the realities of a continuing pandemic, even poll voters have been down from previous years, suggesting that many of us have struggled with not only finding the time to make but also finding the time to watch video essays this year.
That being said, many of the videos that have been made and watched seem to have turned their attention towards the very act of watching, a trend that’s perhaps unsurprising given the amount of time we’ve all been afforded with ourselves this year. Left to our own devices, it’s only a matter of time before we begin to look inward, and thus introspection marks a clear theme in this year’s most talked-about videos. This result may be even more inevitable than any undercurrent of fatigue or isolation, as what would a group of video essay enthusiasts love more than essays about essays and videos about videos.
There’s no shame in a little indulgence this year.
Trends and numbers
Of the 30 contributors to the poll this year (down from 42 last year), 20 are male, 9 are female and 1 is non-binary. Two thirds of them are based in Europe, one third in the USA . They are video essayists, academics, critics and filmmakers. They submitted a total of 178 votes, for 122 unique entries that span online video essays, essay films, documentaries, installations, television series and Twitter threads. These works were made – or published – this past year, by both established essayists and newcomers to the field; they range from 20 seconds to 6 hours in length, with the average length above 22 minutes (5 minutes longer than last year’s average).
Practices of Viewing , “a video essay series on new media and their many old histories” by Johannes Binotto, was the top-mentioned item, receiving a total of 13 mentions (of either the series as a whole or several individual entries). Also of note were: the collaborative TV Dictionary collection, which received 7 mentions (of either the project as a whole or of various individual entries); Screening Room: On Digital Film Festivals by Jessica McGoff (6 mentions); and What Isn’t a Video Essay? by Grace Lee (5 mentions). As previously stated, most of these are devoted to an exploration of the subject of video essays or videographic criticism and of various practices of consuming, engaging with and reacting to media images. This trend also extends to Max Tohline’s A Supercut of Supercuts (4 mentions), Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s Videography 1978 (4 mentions), and several other entries featured on the poll.
Of the essayists whose work is featured, 38% are female (up from 33% last year, and 24% the year prior) and 50% are male (down from 53% last year, and 68% the year prior), with the remaining 12% made by mixed-gender teams or non-binary essayists.
The videos are overwhelmingly presented in English (95%) and are predominantly from the US (36%) and the UK (22%), followed by 23 other countries (mostly in Europe), marking a gradual rise in the number of countries featured in the poll. The dominant focus in terms of medium, though somewhat less so than in previous years, remains film (63% of videos), with television a more significant – though still distant – second (13% — up from 5% last year). 23 of the videos (or 19%) were published in various online academic journals, primarily [in]Transition (10 entries) and Tecmerin (5 entries).
Besides voting for their favourite video essays of the year, contributors were also given the option to suggest video essayists to be featured on our new ‘Emerging voices’ section, which seeks to spotlight new makers of note, whose work this year was significant or impactful, and who are well worth keeping an eye on in the following years.
This year has been one not just of self reflection, but of discovery. In light of all the discoveries we’ve been making, we wanted to use this year’s poll to spotlight new voices who have emerged this year. We asked our peers to submit individual essayists that they believed had truly struck out anew this year, be that through debuting their first works, or by significantly expanding their own profiles.
One journey many of us can relate to is that of finding our voice throughout our academic progression. Many of our emerging voices are students whose works originally developed as academic assignments. Emily Su Bin Ko, from the University of Massachusetts, was one such creator. For her latest piece, the pointed videographic exploration Citizen Kane: Transcending Bazin’s Dichotomy , she was singled out by both Barbara Zecchi and Adrian Martin as having demonstrated her analytical talent, an engaging style and a thought-provoking voice.
Another was Niki Radman from the University of Glasgow, who made her debut this year with the video essay eye/contact , and was noted by Ian Garwood. The piece explores the work of Barry Jenkins through a critical supercut, and demonstrates an exciting mastery of the form and an ability to poetically communicate her ideas.
Matthew Smolenski from the University of Warwick was suggested by Katie Bird as another newcomer of note for their video essay Here, There and Everywhere: Movement in the Beatles’s Fiction Filmography , which deftly addresses movement and sound on screen through the context of the Beatles’ filmography.
Myrna Moretti from Northwestern University was also praised by Katie Bird. Her work, Friends from TV on the Internet , made for the Desktop Documentary Seminar at SCMS 2021, manages to be both lighthearted and poignant as it explores fandom, nostalgia, and climate anxiety.
Not all submissions received were discovered through traditionally academic spaces. Some were video essayists who have been accruing greater audiences on YouTube. Maia, known as Broey Deschanel , was put forth by Dan Schindel for her well-researched and thoughtful analysis of pop culture subjects. Her works on Sofia Coppola and Love Island were mentioned specifically, and while she has been working steadily since 2018, her work of this past year has been exceptional.
Yhara Zayd was also recognised by Dan Schindel for the uniqueness of her topics and the finesse of her analyses. Since 2019, she’s been creating thoughtful and original critiques on everything from Skins US to Reefer Madness (1936), and an acknowledgement of her work is well-deserved.
Corinth Boone is a cartoonist, animator, and now video essayist, with the debut of her piece, So I Decided to Watch All the Lupin III Movies . She was specifically hailed by Shannon Strucci for her wit, editing skills, and the well-researched manner of the work.
Finally, Sophie from Mars was suggested by Grace Lee. While she has been successfully analysing media and culture for many years now, Sophie was specifically heralded for the achievements of their work of the last year, the skilful honing of their visual style, and an affecting personal point of view.
Growth is a term that is wholly dependent on context. Thus, the creators selected for this emerging voices section represent the diversity of the videographic community itself, and we’re pleased to share each of their stories.
All the votes
Film theorist, curator and occasional video essayist, Charles University in Prague and Národní filmový archiv
Screening Room: On Digital Film Festivals by Jessica McGoff
Throughout the pandemic, I have become fascinated with the idea of extending the screen-mediated experience of the world beyond the actual computer or smartphone interface. Chloé Galibert-Laîné already explored this notion in 2020’s Forensickness ; this year, Jessica McGoff utilised the ‘desktop cinema without the desktop’ approach to reflect on attending digital film exhibitions within the spatial monoculture of her apartment. A paper-made quasi-cinematic dispositif crushed by an intervention of a fluffy cat is only one of the many playful experiments McGoff stages to invent new ways in which we can exploit the limitations of the pandemic against the grain.
The Elephant Man’s Sound, Tracked by Liz Greene
One of the great potentialities of videographic criticism is giving insight into the research process in all of its stages and facets. Yet, rarely do videographic essays delve into such meticulous depth as Greene’s investigation of her ongoing encounters with The Elephant Man’s soundtrack. One minor detail – a strangely cleaned-up line of dialogue – serves as a MacGuffin that sparks a journey across often obscure or intimate research artefacts and software interfaces. The essay highlights the alignment between research and post-production as material processes whose gaps, fissures, and excesses tell their own stories.
The Thinking Machine #48: Videography 1978 by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin
Examination of continuities and discontinuities between analogue and digital images is another area where videographic criticism thrives. Besides the works of Johannes Binotto, whom I mentioned in previous polls and who continues this line of work in the Practices of Viewing series, a moving autobiographical essay on films as material artefacts was created by López and Martin. Videography 1978 offers a fresh look on the ‘unattainable object’ issue, highlighting, for example, the non-identity of analogue and digital frames. The essay testifies that despite the (often justified) criticism, cinephilia as a mode of watching and analysing films remains relevant.
Mediated Auscultation by Emilija Talijan
Out of this year’s essays published in [in]Transition, Talijan’s exploration of the relationship between cinema and the stethoscope resonated most closely with me. I generally appreciate when videographic works reach toward a broader context of audiovisual culture, particularly of its very origins, and Mediated Auscultation finds the proper equilibrium between structured argumentation and formal experimentation. The stethoscope’s technological possibilities deconstruct the audiovisual unity of film back into a multiplicity of deranged, often impenetrable images and sounds, with a nerve-racking heartbeat rhythm always hovering around.
Train Again by Peter Tscherkassky
Once again, my list would not be complete without at least one experimental found footage film. Tscherkassky’s treatise on the ever-present bond between trains and cinema overflows with allusions to early cinema and the avant-garde, yet achieves to marry the old with the always already new. The Austrian artist’s vintage analogue deformations join forces with digital pixelation to show the train-image for what it is – a constantly trembling and crumbling entity on the verge of destruction and rebirth.
Video essayist and media scholar at Tel Aviv University
Viewing the world outside from the comfort/prison of her room, McGoff offers a perceptive meditation on contemporary ways of seeing that is as irreverent as it is reverent. Quintessential viewing for the pandemic era. Make this a double feature with McGoff’s My Mulholland from last year, which likewise investigates the superimposition of online and offline experience.
I am Sitting in a Room, Listening to Mank by Cormac Donnelly
Sitting in a different room, Donnelly offers a sonic counterpoint to McGoff’s, offering a fascinating examination of the sonic soundscapes that envelop us all as we sit, in our own rooms, watching and listening (though perhaps not listening as attentively as we ought to). Make this a double feature with Donnelly’s Sonic Chronicle Post Sound from last year, which investigates (diegetic) sonic soundscapes.
Practices of Viewing by Johannes Binotto
Like McGoff and Donnelly, Binotto’s fascination is with the way we interact with images and sounds, and this phenomenal series, consisting of five entries to date, is a must-watch for anyone interested in the way technology mediates images and sounds, and the possibilities it opens up for interfering with and complicating its own mediation. My personal favourite is the one on screenshots , but it’s dealer’s choice, really. Make that last one a double feature with Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s Videography 1978 , Binotto’s explicit source of inspiration, which also explores technologies of viewing – and their pre-digital antecedents.
Irani Bag by Maryam Tafakory
Made as part of the Monographs series of essays on Asian cinema commissioned by the Asian Film Archive last year, which is finally available online now, Tafakory’s soulful and mesmerising video employs excerpts from 24 Iranian films to interrogate the ways in which a handbag can serve as a surrogate for bodily contact, enabling the performers to “touch without touching”. Make this a double feature with Tafakory’s longer essay film follow-up, the upcoming Nazarbazi ; it is a meditation on the subject (and absence) of touch in Iranian cinema that is powerful, reflective and, yes, touching.
A History of the World According to Getty Images by Richard Misek
Misek offers a thoughtful and ever-timely exploration of the ways in which commercial archives mediate – and commodify – our access to the past, and offers a mode of resistance in the form of a direct intervention. Be on the lookout for it when it comes out sometime next year; in the meantime, whet your appetite with this shorter, early iteration of the project titled Captured Images , which can serve as a sort of trailer for the longer film – and also stands on its own.
Mad Men ’s ‘Babylon’ by Ariane Hudelet
Hudelet patiently and diligently traces multiple intertextual threads offered by a song featured on an early episode of Mad Men, presenting the kind of thorough, insightful and enjoyable analysis that I, for one, would love to see dedicated to more works of television in videographic form. On that note, make this a double feature with Occitane Lacurie’s Prendre conscience / perdre connaissance , a fascinating desktop examination of intertextual relations between Westworld and Last Year at Marienbad.
A Supercut of Supercuts: Aesthetics, Histories, Databases by Max Tohline
And finally, Tohline’s epic, feature-length reflection on the supercut is a comprehensively impressive (or impressively comprehensive?) investigation of one of the digital age’s most viral videographic genres. Over its 130 minutes, Tohline examines the supercut’s aesthetics, structures and effects; its complex and multiple contexts and histories; and its relation to technology and ideology, as a simulation of database logic. The analysis is coherent and persuasive, and the diverse perspectives are highly informative and enriching. No need for a double feature on this one (though I dare you not to look up any of the numerous supercuts sampled in the video).
Lecturer in media and cultural studies, video bricolageur, leading videoessayresearch.org
I feel absolutely unable to have an overview of what work has been done in the field throughout this year. Instead the video essays on my list are all works that I came across not because I was searching for them but purely by accident, strangely in-between, and when I least expected them. Each of them hit me sideways so much that I still don’t want to recover from what they did to me.
How to Perform Teaching During a Pandemic Spring Session, 2020: GENDER STUDIES , Rain & Cats Cut by Dayna McLeod
I was watching Dayna McLeod’s haunting take on Lynch’s Wild at Heart when I came across this other piece that perhaps many would not even consider a video essay. McLeod performs the performance of someone who has to perform gender studies (and its interest in performance) under the circumstances of COVID remote teaching and being constantly interrupted. This is really wild, unpredictable, intellectual, clever, very funny, but – and this gets me the most — so extremely touching in its acknowledging one’s own awkwardness and vulnerability. We always joke about the things that hurt us most.
3 x Shapes of Home by Elisabeth Brun
What would seem as a purely conceptual and abstract research on how to investigate landscapes through different film practices turns out to be like a poem by Whitman, encompassing the most intimate and the most universal. A film in which the sudden freeze of an image and the humming of the filmmaker cuts me so much I start to cry. A crab gently poking at the camera is a sight I will keep dreaming of.
RETOURNE - TOI (Reading Ovid’s ‘Orpheus & Eurydice’ in Portrait of a Lady on Fire) by Catherine Grant
I thought I already knew this video but when seeing it during a workshop I was shocked by how much it affected me. It left me overwhelmed yet at the same time made me want to work myself in exactly this state of overload. I guess I heard the Althusserian interpellation in the title. And it is fitting that I had to return to this video to find out its unique power since it is about the hypnosis of repetition, both on narrative and formal level.
The Conversation is the Confessional by Max Tohline
I probably should have picked Max’s incredible jumbo jet of a video essay on the supercut, but this one means a lot to me because it is among many things also a personal present. Seeing a collection of video essays students of mine made on The Conversation, Max not only fell in love with them but wanted to join our group by contributing his own thoughtful, sensitive, and complex analysis of the religious under- under overtones in this film. Like a confession of its own. What a gift!
The Archival In-Between by Evelyn Kreutzer and Noga Stiassny
I don’t know how to talk about this one because it attempts what must remain impossible, approaching the unapproachable. It uses archival material that I am not sure anyone should ever use again but of which I am also convinced that it must be seen. The video’s impossibility seems to me the impossibility of the archive per se Foucault wrote about. So how then even to begin to make this video? It gives no answer but begins and remains beginning. Like the crackling noise on the soundtrack: a needle in the empty grooves of a record before the music starts.
Vertigo - Making Space. A 3D Video Essay by David Bucheli
Who hasn’t fantasised of seeing Vertigo in 3-D? David’s video fulfils the dream but does so by rendering it a disturbing nightmare. There are moments when the 3-D-effect works as one would think it is supposed to, giving us Scotty and Madeleine as seemingly graspable bodies but even more fascinating are those moments when the images we see on left and right eye no longer align but completely diverge, fall apart, splitting your consciousnesses in half. The longer I watch the more I fear this video will damage my brain irrevocably.
TV Dictionary — On Becoming a God in Central Florida by Clair Richards
This was a triple surprise. A video on a series I had never heard of before by an essayist I hadn’t known before focusing on a term I never cared about before. Watching admiring the scene it picks and how it dances together with the text I ask myself: What is the strength of a video essay? For me it’s not tech-savviness nor the amount of material or concepts it works with. I think it’s rather the willingness to make yourself be seen doing something you haven’t yet nor ever will have mastered. It’s not a confidence thing.
Assistant professor, communication, University of Texas at El Paso
The Elephant Man ’s Sound, Tracked by Liz Greene
Greene’s video leads the viewer through a unique historical investigation of initial discovery, possibility, and lingering questions in a way that allows the viewer to feel how answers to a production’s history are many, and regularly conflicting. Unlike most historical presentations that simply point at the ‘evidence’, Greene allows us to literally ‘search’ and ‘flip the pages’ alongside. Greene focuses on equivocation, back tracking, and talking around, and what is largely left unsaid in many of the interviews. This project cuts around auteurism, without being a critique and articulates Splet amongst a larger set of industrial and and national forces.
Long Take, Pop Song by Ian Garwood
Nothing brought me more joy this year than this little pop diddy composed by Garwood and sung by Anna Miles ear-worming its way into my daily thoughts. Beyond the catchiness of the tune that directs this video on the important of pop music in a scene from Before Sunrise, Garwood brings in a pop aesthetic to the video with the use of animated and freeze frames, turning the conceit of the Before Trilogy into a comic book that takes place within the span of a pop song. It is a delight and a treat to see criticism have fun.
From now on, I won’t be able to watch Jeanne Dielman without also seeing McGoff’s own sink. This moment where a small scene of washing dishes floats about McGoff’s sink (the lines of the tiles almost matching) last only 6 seconds, but the gesture speaks to the intimacy and vulnerability of McGoff’s style. Her now signature approach to desktop, combined anew with the casual recordings of daily life (the record, the cat, the windows, the screens, the screens, the screens) offers a critical and personal glimpse into something that felt/feels all too familiar over the past years.
The TV Dictionary project by Ariel Avissar and various
Ariel Avissar’s TV Dictionary project was enormously generative for my own thinking about what diverse and creative experiments could be produced out of a simple prompt. I was inspired to create my own lists of terms and shows I would apply them to, and though I never made one, this speculative edit was a thrill. There’s too many videos to celebrate. But Libertad Gills and Juan Llamas Rodriguez tapped into the layering of their terms ‘ experience ‘ and ‘ comfort ’: how their shows feel to viewers and what is felt between characters in a moment or shared series of moments.
Beyond inspirational, and field changing, nothing made me want to throw in the towel on making more than seeing Binotto’s playful, critical, and incisive video series Practices of Viewing. Each one challenged our ways of ‘seeing’ and making, each one carefully bringing in new techniques to test the boundaries and possibilities of videographic form. But whatever trepidation I felt, was always overshadowed by the openness and curiosity that grounded each of Binotto’s experiments and his welcomeness as a videographic maker joyfully throwing out these gambits for the rest of us to up our games. But, MASK did me in.
Mourning with Minari by Kevin B. Lee
I’ll need to sit and rewatch Lee’s video essay many more times before I’ll have words good enough to match his evocative “gathering of images” of grieving through making, of holding space, and of breathing this memorial into being. By walking us through Minari, Lee leaves room for the questions trauma and white supremacist violence has left in its wake. By showing what has been made invisible, Lee similarly works through what it means to “manage the politics of presence” in the film and in US visual culture writ large, not to see these images as ‘empty’ but as open
De la femme by Caterina Cucinotta and Jesús Ramé López.
Stitching and Cutting, Stitching and Cutting, Stitching and Cutting! The repetition and overlap of the manual labor of production (seamstresses and editors) woven together with the metaphorical and literal fabrics of the film: its costumes and film strips. A gorgeous meditation on the gendered craft work of Hollywood production using both scraps of fabric and trims of film: materials on display and also what is not meant to be seen. The multi-screen side-by-side creates simple unexpected patterns and delightful sonic parallels to the sewing machine and the editor’s splicing. With these workers we get close in, slow down, and reconfigure.
Steven E. de Souza
It’s a Christmas movie. Bylines: @nytimes @LosAngelesTimes @EmpireMagazine @FadeInMagazine @SightSoundMagazine
Listening to Toy Story by Andrew Saladino (The Royal Ocean Film Society)
The almost purest representation of a literal ‘moving picture’, animation’s inevitable accommodation of sound would seem an afterthought hardly worth a thought, its early scores dismissed even by its applicants as ‘mickey mousing’. A century on, any imagined deficiencies of bandwidth inherent in the medium compared to live action demands sound loom even larger in its duty to inform and enhance a narrative.
Here’s Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult to Understand (And Three Ways to Fix It) by Ben Pearson (Slashfilm)
After nodding my head sagely at Andrew Saladino’s essay how diligently animation endeavors to add depth, clarity and content to its simulacrum of reality, I’m now shaking it in dismay at Pearson’s analysis of live action’s race in the opposite direction, coupled with minor relief that it’s not just me, I don’t actually need a hearing aid.
The Coolest Stunt You’ve Never Heard Of by Adam Tinius (Entertain The Elk)
It’s the rare filmmaker who didn’t start down the storytelling path in childhood, in backyards populated by cops n’ robbers, cowboys, pirates, and — most of all — imagination. Sometimes less is more, and we were right all along: simply pretending may be the best trick of all.
Golden Ratio in Cinema by Walter Murch
The Aesthetics of Evil by Lewis Michael Bond and Luiza Liz Bond (The Cinema Cartography)
Where would we be without our villains? (I know where I’d be, still teaching ESL at John F. Kennedy Junior High School in Willingboro, New Jersey — Go, Gryphons!) But in a world of increasingly grey tones, with black and white cowboy hats and their corresponding matching horses long dispatched to Boot Hill, how do we signal Villainy before it even opens its mouth? Here, Luiza Liz Bond and Lewis Michael Bond crack the color code; let the Pantone chips fall where they may.
Queen’s Gambit : What Makes a Story Cinematic? by Adam Tinius (Entertain The Elk)
People sitting silently in chairs glaring daggers at each other over seven hours of film will be edge of the seat suspense, said no one ever.
Scott Frank: Hold my beer vodka.
Voir, episode 6: Profane and Profound by Walter Chaw (on Netflix )
Just in time for its 40th anniversary, Walter Chaw spares no superlatives in his pedestaling of 1982’s 48 HRS . as a watershed work of not only genre, but as a seminal, crucial and long overdue vivisection of contemporary society. In an essay flaying metatextual layers aside, he shows us the racism that’s the apex tentpole of the American power structure, and unpacks this archetypical ‘buddy comedy’ as a poisoned chalice of popcorn, its bitter taste sweetened by heaping doses of comedy.
Who am I to disagree?
Host, The Video Essay Podcast ; creator, ‘ Notes on Videographic Criticism ’
These seven videos/projects/films, for me, epitomise the greatness of this form: they provide a new way of seeing and engaging with familiar images, sounds, and mediums. Each taught me how to be a better watcher, listener, and reader. They inspired me, and I look forward to returning to them time and time again in the years to come.
A Fish with the Movie Camera: Lucrecia Martel’s Pescados as Metacinema by Barbara Zecchi
All Light, Everywhere by Theo Anthony
What is Neo-Snyderism? by Ariel Avissar
The Rise of Film TikTok by kikikrazed aka Queline Meadows
Citizen Kane : Transcending Bazin’s Dichotomy by Emily Su Bin Ko
Maggie Mae Fish
Actor, writer, film video essayist
The Day Rue ‘Became’ Black by Yhara Zayd
I love all of Yhara’s work, but this video in particular touches on a moment I remember in real-time — the backlash against a canonically young Black girl in the Hunger Games books, who when brought to life in the films illuminated the stunted imagination and racism in YA audiences.
Bo Burnham’s Inside and ‘White Liberal Performative Art’ by F.D. Signifier
F.D. Signifier is one of the most cuttingly insightful media critiques, and his work on Bo Burnham’s quarantine ‘masterpiece’ hits into why this type of art can ring hollow or shallow for as many people as it resonates with.
Rac(ism) & Horror by Khadija Mbowe
Khadija is funny, snarky, our ‘Millennial Auntie’ and in this video becomes a film professor to give an overview of the intersection of Blackness and the horror genre. It would be at home in any university course on the subject, but Khadija goes full out swapping costumes and sets to give as much entertainment as insightful analysis of a broad and deeply important topic.
Video essayist and filmmaker
What Isn’t a Video Essay? by Grace Lee (What’s So Great About That?)
The video essay is a notoriously hard genre to define. Grace Lee expertly uses the form to examine itself and avoids easy or cliché answers, appealing instead to our subjective intuition.
What Distinguishes the Great Existential Films? by Tom van der Linden (Like Stories of Old)
2021 came as a year of personal video essays. Blending a reading of real-world spaces and film, Tom explores his love of existential cinema through his love of empty churches.
The Game That Won’t Let You See All of It by Jacob Geller
Geller looks at how a video game, several films, and a TV show use their structure to examine the passage of time.
Midsommar ’s Audiovisual Tricks by Spikima Movies
Sometimes video essays serve a very practical purpose. Ari Aster’s Midsommar got under my skin, and I wanted to know why. But I was too unsettled to dive deeply enough into Midsommar’s world to figure out why for myself. Fortunately, Spikima does the dirty work of thoroughly answering that question in this essay. Does knowing a film’s tricks make it less horrifying?
How Movies Helped Me Process My Mother’s Death by Adam Tinius (Entertain The Elk)
Adam Tinius, from Entertain The Elk, offers a deeply personal and emotional examination of how losing his mother to cancer compared to representations of death and grief in film.
EraserNomad by Liz Greene
Greene discovers an implausible but compelling visual link between Nomadland and Eraserhead. There’s a strange echo in how Jack Nance and Francis McDormand navigate these spaces. Perhaps their characters are haunted by a similar ghost.
Senior lecturer in film and television studies, University of Glasgow
Not that anyone will be checking back, but my list this year features only names who I have not picked for previous polls.
Marion Cotillard Doesn’t Exist (And This Is the Proof) by Elena G. Vilela
Not that anyone will be checking back, but my list this year features only names who I have not picked for previous polls. I love the ‘Truman Show’ conceit of this video, which is superbly realised through dead-pan narration and an incredibly astute selection of clips.
This is an exhaustive, yet consistently enlightening and accessible, treatise on the supercut. Three years in the making, Max Tohline’s feature-length essay identifies a dizzying array of precursors to the internet-era supercut, as well as pinpointing its aesthetic and ideological effects.
This is a fascinating essay that makes an imaginative and persuasive association between the technology of cinema and the stethoscope. Its philosophical analysis of cinematic listening is pursued through a wonderful selection of clips.
Practices of Viewing: Muted by Johannes Binotto
On the one hand, Johannes Binotto’s Practice of Viewing could be seen as something of a video essayist’s manual, each entry itemising a technique associated with video essay-making processes. However, there is nothing textbook about the way these techniques are discussed: the address is passionate and wide-ranging, offering enlightenment on why these processes fascinate, rather than a ‘how to’ instruction. I’ve chosen this particular entry as it aligns with my interest in sound. It also provides an ending that resonates uncannily with the preoccupations of Mediated Auscultation – so watch them as a double bill.
[Safe] and The Neon Demon in Dialogue by Oswald Iten
Like Binotto’s work, Oswald Iten’s three-part experimental mash-up of [Safe] and The Neon Demon is accessible through videoessayresearch.org , a research website that should be bookmarked by anyone interested in the development of videographic criticism. Each of the videos combines the films according to a different founding principle, providing captivating evidence for Jason Mittell’s claim that formal parameters lead to content discoveries.
TV Dictionary — Bron/Broen ( II ) by Barbara Zecchi
Ariel Avissar’s curation of the TV Dictionary series was a highlight of the year, one in which I was happy to indulge as both creator and viewer. I’m really interested in the range of approaches adopted to address the same brief: to encapsulate a TV series in one word. Barbara Zecchi chooses a distinctive path by allowing a scene to play out at length first, before introducing her chosen word, and then letting the scene resume, now understood in the light of that word. I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing the pivotal word (but it made me laugh)!
Picturing the Collective: Seven Days in May by Libertad Gills
One technique showcased in the TV Dictionary series was to let a scene play out with minimal, yet still integral, textual commentary. Libertad Gills, who added an entry on Derry Girls to the collection, adopts a similarly minimalist approach to her use of captions in this video, which runs through a sequence from Affonso Uchoa’s Seven Days in May. The result is an explanatory scene analysis that displays the lightest of touches.
Art critic, kritikosatlasas.com
Josephine Massarella: One Woman Walking by Stephen Broomer
The Moment of Recognition: Phantom Lady and Sorry, Wrong Number by Patrick Keating
Silence in The Passionate Friends by Oswald Iten
The Thinking Machine #50: Nicholas Ray — Notes on Style by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin
Practices of Viewing: F. FWD by Johannes Binotto
Screen media-maker and publisher of scholarly video essays, and a former professor of screen studies (Website: https://catherinegrant.org )
Her first video essay and a superbly engaging work on Gen Z’s latest hub for film appreciation by the video essay’s MVP in 2021, which Queline followed up with another excellent study, The Two Worlds of Wolfwalkers . If these two huge achievements weren’t enough, Queline was also instrumental in the wonderful Essay Library Collaboration Project. Join the Essay Library Discord and check it out. And listen to Will DiGravio’s great conversation with her at the Video Essay Podcast ..
We were very lucky, at [in]Transition, the peer-reviewed video-essay journal I co-edit, to be able to publish some marvellous entries by new makers in this emergent scholarly field. Of the three I am highlighting here, one of the strongest in scholarly terms was this work that explored how one form of media (the stethoscope) might reveal something about another (cinema), and in so doing revisited some essential questions of cinema’s medium specificity in a supremely original way.
TERROR NULLIUS Unmixed by Caitlin Lynch
Given the ubiquity of global remix culture, Caitlin Lynch’s highly original proposal for a videographic research methodology designed to tackle this culture deserves a lifetime achievement award! What an amazingly useful concept ‘unmixing’ is, especially when it comes to deeply political work, like that by Australian collective Soda_Jerk. I can only agree with peer-reviewer Jaimie Baron who wrote that TERROR NULLIUS Unmixed shows that ‘the activities of remixing and unmixing, alternating in a potentially never-ending cycle, may constitute a productive strategy for grappling with our mediated traces of history, to which a definitive and closed meaning can never be attached.’
Stories of Haunted Houses: Female Subjects and Domestic Spaces in Contemporary Gothic Films and TV Series by Chiara Grizzaffi and Giulia Scomazzon
My personal favourite video essay on television and film, published in 2021, was co-authored by a new maker (Giulia Scomazzon) and by someone who is better known so far for her brilliant writing on video essays, my [in]Transition co-editor Chiara Grizzaffi (author of the great book I film attraverso i film. Dal «testo introvabile» ai «video essay»). Their collaboration produced a substantial and satisfying work, with affect like no other — a perfect combination of poetic, personal and scholarly approaches to contemporary female gothic films and tv series.
Outside the Lines by Dayna McLeod
One of the most exciting developments of 2021 was the turn to video essays made by established found footage and experimental film artists. Dayna McLeod is an internationally known Montreal based performance artist and video artist whose work often touches on topics of feminism, queer identity, and sexuality. In her first ever online video essays — on Lynch’s Wild at Heart — she shakes up the videographic universe with a wonderful fusion of personal-essay-filmmaking in a film critical vein. I really love what Dayna achieves in the incredibly concise and powerful frame of Outside the Lines.
Stephen Broomer is an internationally renowned experimental filmmaker, film preservationist, and scholar of Canadian cinema. His new turn to video essays in 2021 was both brilliant and prolific, resulting in two new series of high quality work: Art & Trash , which premiered in February 2021 with a twelve-episode first series of video essays on underground, avant-garde, psychotronic and outsider media, which his essay on Josephine Massarella inaugurated; and Detours, an equally rich new videographic series on the bruised soul of film noir . 2021 was an incredibly productive year from a remarkable filmmaker. I can’t wait for more.
TV Dictionary — Derry Girls by Libertad Gills
My final vote in the poll (as I will retire after a long but happy stint as participant in it this year) goes to yet another young filmmaker, long interested in found footage, who is now making online video essays. Libertad Gills made my very favourite video essay, to date, in Ariel Avissar’s wonderful collaborative project TV Dictionary . Her work gets at the heart of what’s so brilliant about Derry Girls, which is no mean feat in three and half minutes, and reminds us, along the way, what a work of genius the series is.
Postdoctoral Fellow at IULM University. Co-editor of [in]Transition
Montegelato by Davide Rapp (watch trailer )
Screen Glare by Enrico Camporesi, Stefano Miraglia
Rites of THE PASSAGE by Catherine Grant & Deborah Martin
The Thinking Machine #49: The Burning House by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin
A Woman’s Place: Home in Cinema by Louise Radinger Field
Practices of Viewing: Screenshots by Johannes Binotto
How Good Filmmaking Brings a Script to Life by Michael Tucker (Lessons From the Screenplay)
Cydnii Wilde Harris
Film scholar and video essayist
I’ve always loved a good homework assignment, and I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing everyone’s responses to Ariel’s prompt. Every one I’ve seen has been a standout. I particularly really enjoyed those that used the video essay medium to play with form and tone, and really capture the essence of their chosen tv shows. But one that stuck with me in particular was Ariel’s own on Seinfeld : A real punch of text, editing, laugh tracks, and humor for the tv show about nothing. A’s all around.
Johannes’s Practices series has been such a marvel throughout the year. With every new entry, I’m confronted with his genius, and it’s been really inspiring to bear witness. Muted in particular really resonated with me. The whole series feels like an interrogation of film history, media present, while somehow remaining deeply meditative and personal. Johannes’s work, without fail, always leaves me feeling invigorated, about what I’ve just seen, and what I could possibly do.
Rio Bravo Diary by Will DiGravio
Watching the Rio Bravo Diary unfold all year has been such a treat. I didn’t grow up with any real affinity for the western, so to read Will’s essays about what this film in particular meant to him growing up and coming of age really helped me reappraise this specific film. His transparency has been really revelatory to see, and I really appreciate how he’s invited us all to get to know him a little better through this year-long project. Further, the consistency and discipline of dealing with a single text for a full 365 is such an interesting experiment in the first place.
It is so, so cool to see someone top themselves so consistently. The things Jessica accomplishes here, the introspection, the way she was able to tackle the issue of accessibility while also broadening the topic, the interplay between film, the internet, and the various windows surrounding us all from literal glass panes to phone, tablet, tv, and theater screens. I don’t think I’ve ever wished a video essay would keep going while also being so impressed by how perfectly it ends. It’s just so dynamic in every sense of the word, and incredibly well done.
let’s talk about sexless media | feminism, christianity, violence, etc by wit and folly
This is a video essay that somehow managed to synthesise an online conversation with such care and context that I can’t help but share it with friends. What they accomplish is one of my favourite forms of video essays on YouTube. It’s informative, well researched, yet personable and accessible. Their argument flows really nicely, and the citations do a lot to back up the personal statements made. It also really nicely laid out something that maybe I had felt about a recent media trend, but hadn’t yet been able to articulate myself. If I had to answer the question of sex scenes in films, I would simply point to this video essay as my answer.
Gab the Goat (ft. Yhara Zayd): A Celebration of Gabrielle Union & An F-U to Colorism and Tokenism by Melina Pendulum
I’m so happy I waited to submit, because these are two of my favourite video essayists discussing one of my favourite actresses (I’m also happy because it means I get to nominate them both under a single entry). I think sometimes we have a knee jerk reaction to group projects, and I think this video essay is a perfect example of how to combine two distinct voices and visions into a single project. The exploration into Union’s career is long overdue and so deserved. I think what struck me most was how strong the voice was. They make no apologies for their stance, and really challenge Hollywood to not just reflect but act. They really manage to ask some tough questions of not just the Hollywood system, but those that benefit from it. It’s theory with praxis and it’s all deliciously powerful.
Film scholar, video essayist, animator, PhD researcher
‘The Lighthouse’ (2021) by Leonardo Govoni, Cristina López Caballer, Mehran Abdollahi
Amuse-œil by Eric Faden
Barbara Stanwyck Rides Again by Shannon Harris, Catherine Russell
Sound and Silence in Gravity: Fidelity vs Intelligibility by Jordan Schonig
Special Mention: A Supercut of Supercuts by Max Tohline.
Associate professor in audiovisual arts and cognition at University of Groningen, NL / co-author of Film Studies in Motion: From Audiovisual Essay to Academic Research Video
A wonderfully rich follow-up of Visual Disturbances (on my S&S best of list of 2019) on the analytical urge of ‘interrogating’ filmic images, obsessing on a rather invisible 1.14-second-long shot from Citizen Kane, and on those ‘small gifts for the eye’ that subtly but abundantly appear in Playtime. Like I said earlier: Faden’s care for quality is admirable and inspiring.
Mike Figgis on Timecode and Split-Screen Cinema by Leigh Singer
The COVID pandemic has normalised a once special technique of split screen, forcing its ‘cubist psychology’ on us while locked in our homes with only virtual split-windows to the world. Singer’s interview with Mike Figgis, director of the quadruple split screen film Timecode, is a highly informative, superbly comprehensive, and abundantly illustrated walkthrough of the (cinematic) history and effect of the technique.
Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, but as an ethnographic documentary exploring the life of lighthouse keepers in the early 20th century, directed by Robert Flaherty. An ‘ethnographic screwmeneutics’ project by the students of my Videographic Criticism course at the University of Groningen.
A massive (two hours!) video on supercuts, covering every possible angle on the technique, thereby forcing all the other supercut-researchers to find another subject of study.
Keating, with his signature analytical thoroughness, walks us through his audiovisual thinking process, distinguishing between camera movements delivering characters’ ‘revelation’ and ‘recognition’.
VR supercut diorama, the first of its kind, piecing together 180 films, TV series and commercials of the Monte Gelato waterfalls (near Rome) in 3D and with spatialised audio. Great idea, incredible effort, and superb implementation. Cinephile goosebumps are guaranteed!
Associate professor in media studies, University of Amsterdam, organiser ASCA videographic criticism seminar
The Black and White Coffee Set by Barbara Zecchi
Barbara Zecchi’s The Black and White Coffee Set is brilliant in its simplicity. The focus on one prop (he black-and-white coffee set in Ana Muylaert’s Que horas ela volta?) and the way the design of the audiovisual essay aesthetically repeats it, effectively work together to show the narrative importance of a seemingly mundane object. While its playfulness makes the audiovisual essay enjoyable to watch, its more ‘serious’ argument about Brazilian class and race relations remains clear throughout.
Staring Back by Sara Delshad
Although Staring Back works perfectly well as a study of auteurism, convincingly showing a signature style of filmmaker Chris Marker, Sara Delshad’s audiovisual essay stands out for me in the way it forces the viewer to become aware of their own subject position. The audiovisual essay highlights the human and non-human animal subjects staring back at the camera and, in extension, at the viewer. Those moments when the subjects answer the viewer’s gaze evokes a feeling – at least in me – of being caught staring. Delshad cleverly uses slow motion and freeze frame to enhance this sensation.
Sonic Chronicle, Post Sound by Cormac Donnelly
Some audiovisual essays really teach you something new. In Sonic Chronicle, Post Sound, Cormac Donnelly applies R. Murray Schafer’s definition of the soundscape to sonically analyze the newsrooms scenes in Zodiac, The Post, and All the President’s Men. Donnelly uses both sonic and visual techniques to make sound tangible, enabling those with untrained ears, like myself, not only to pay attention to, but also make sense of sound.
Postdoctoral researcher, Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf
Practices of Viewing: Mask by Johannes Binotto
I always attempt to curate my suggestions for the annual best video essays lists in a way that represents the breadth of video-essayistic output. Binotto’s Practices of Viewing series reflects sophisticated, in-depth, and yet very accessible and informative introductions to film-analytical concepts that are very suitable for both teaching purposes and film-scholarly thinking more broadly. I like Mask in particular because it evokes multiple layers of cinematic framing and spectatorship that seems to speak intuitively to our current moment of increasingly ‘masked’ experiences of the world.
Silence and Words: Voice-over and Trauma in Coixet & Campion by Barbara Zecchi
Barbara Zecchi’s video essay is a powerful, deeply affective video on cinematic sound, specifically the transcendence of internal and external sound (experience and narration). As a sound scholar, I always look and listen for videos like these.
The Typewriter (Supercut) by Ariel Avissar
Ariel Avissar’s video is less an academic video essay than it is an impressive, entertaining, and insightful supercut of a single object/motif across numerous media sources that is simple in its conceptual premise but very sophisticated in its execution and certainly provocative of critical reflexion.
TV Dictionary — Marcella by Barbara Zecchi
Like the entire TV Dictionary series (curated by Ariel Avissar), Barbara Zecchi’s video on Marcella turns the seemingly narrow pairing of a dictionary entry to a TV series into a multi-faceted, scholarly evocative, and visually stunning exercise. I like the whole series but so far this entry has been my favorite.
I don’t know what I was doing this year, but apparently it wasn’t watching a whole lot of videos, so no ‘hidden gems’ from me this year. But these three entertaining and engaging videos, while popular in terms of views, may have slipped through the more academic net. So enjoy!
Space Jam 2 is a Lie by John Walsh (Super Eyepatch Wolf)
I’m a sucker for some fiction, and Super Eyepatch Wolf sure knows how to have fun with the video essay format, making some of the most creative uses of the form. This video was a stand out for me this year.
The Battle of SHARKS ! By CGP Grey
A charming story of the battle between art and city council planning permission, I don’t know if I’ve ever finished a video feeling more giddy and delighted. Review from my mum: “That video is worth more than every other video on YouTube put together, and deserves an award.”
CO - VID s: the 90’s neoliberal fantasia as experienced by daria morgendorffer, millennial by Ian Danskin (Innuendo Studios)
A wonderful defense of a defense of millennial teens, and an account of millennial nostalgia, which I am already nostalgic for. Ahh 28th Jan 2021, when I was still so full of hope for the year ahead. Ian Danskin continues to make exceptionally engaging videos from a deeply personal perspective that perfectly balances anecdote and academia.
Kevin B. Lee
Video essayist and educator; @alsolikelife
Three Minutes: A Lengthening by Bianca Stigter (watch trailer )
Three minutes of home movie footage taken in 1938 are explored through an impressive array of videographic techniques to create a vast and deeply moving contemplation on lives lost and history regained.
Also: ‘One Thousand and One Attempts to Be an Ocean’ by Wang Yuyan (watch trailer ), whose epileptic temporality goes in the polar opposite direction to achieve its own revelatory experience of the extreme online present.
Home When You Return by Carl Elsaesser (see details )
Stretching and blurring the boundaries of video essay, experimental film and home movie, traces of a 1950s homemade melodrama by amateur filmmaker Joan Thurber Baldwin intermingle with a mournful homage to the author’s grandmother and her vacated home. A powerful mélange of cinematic and domestic spaces, past and present.
Also: Screening Room: On Digital Film Festivals , by Jessica McGoff
Launched this year, this series currently consists of five video essays, each concerning a different method through which viewing is mediated (muting, screenshot, pausing, fast forwarding, masking). With an arresting combination of playfulness and obsessiveness, Binotto re-performs and reflects upon the techniques that govern spectatorship.
Also: Amuse-oeil by Eric Faden
What Isn’t a Video Essay? By Grace Lee (What’s So Great About That?)
YouTube video essays have generally bloated into hours-long vlogfests to maximize monetization algorithms, but here is a rigorously crafted tour de force that rewards rewatching for the many memeic details it contains. It breathlessly performs a mind engaging the internet on its own terms, utilizing the temporal and audiovisual affordances of always-on networked life to reflect thoughtfully back upon itself.
Also: The Scholarly Video Essay by Ian Garwood. Garwood demurs from calling this a video essay, but they certainly demonstrate how pre-recorded lectures can evolve from a lowly COVD -era necessity into an arresting videographic form in its own right.
This was released just around last year’s poll; since then it’s become a go-to reference for film dinosaurs like me to make sense of how film culture can thrive among a new generation and its preferred platforms.
Also, this .
Transitional Moments in Cinematic Virtual Reality by Sarah Atkinson
A critical and revealing interrogation of the gender (en)coding of virtual reality as it has been presented in cinema, implicitly calling for a more inclusive re-coding of these mediums not only as a means for entertainment but for social co-presence.
Also: Michael Ironside and I by Marian Mayland (watch trailer )
The Best Simpsons Episode is About Losing Everything You Love by Jacob Geller
As also evidenced in his The Game That Won’t Let You See All of It , Geller is able to narrate the YouTube video essay and its pop culture preoccupations into areas of uncommon sensitivity and existential poignancy.
Also: Mad Men’s Babylon: Mapping out a Musical Metaphor by Ariane Hudelet
Film critic and audiovisual essayist
Satirical pastiches are good when they are accurate, and this one is so accurate it manages to satirise several things at once, from nerd-fan culture to the Kogonada craze.
Prendre conscience / perdre connaissance by Occitane Lacurie
The smart conjunction of Last Year at Marienbad and Westworld via a quote from surrealist cinephile Robert Benayoun – I could hardly ask for anything more.
Most audiovisual essays depend on some level of prior film analysis, but not so many are actually very good at really achieving an analysis above the most obvious and basic undergraduate level. Keating is an excellent analyst and he turns his insights into finely constructed montage pieces, like this one.
A lot of so-called remix culture simply, from Adam Curtis downward, simply celebrates the brute fact of being able to sample and throw things together — often quite incoherently. Lynch’s superb work takes a patient strategy of unmixing to comment on those genuine remix masters, the Soda_Jerk team.
Vedette — For Laura Mulvey by Catherine Grant
Catherine Grant’s dispositifs of audiovisual comparison, often with an inscribed text component, can look deceptively simple. This one revealingly lines up words from Laura Mulvey’s recent work with breathtaking passages of two classic Max Ophüls films.
Dialogue III : CAROL / JESSE by Oswald Iten
This is the culminating and best work in Iten’s series interweaving Todd Haynes’ Safe and Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. More than a matter of demonstrating the banal influence of one film or filmmaker on another, this audiovisual essay achieves a dreamy, hallucinatory intensity and texture.
Secrets of Ghosts by Johanna Vaude
If you’re going to re-imagine a pre-existing film in a new and creative montage, really push it to something extreme. Vaude, among the most masterful of all practitioners in this field, works her special magic on Mulholland Drive, part of her series of ongoing commissions from Arte’s BLOW UP program.
Video essayist and video editor
in process… | james benning at neugerriemschneider by Erika Balsom
The Representation of Rape on Screen by Lucie Emch
Alan O’L eary
Associate professor of film and media in digital contexts at Aarhus University. His manifesto for a parametric videographic criticism was published this year in NECSUS .
Nuit Debout/Up At Night by Nelson Makengo (watch trailer )
Congolese artist-filmmaker Nelson Makengo spreads his portrait of Kinshasa, a city beset by power cuts, across three screens punctuated with bare lightbulbs and the dancing beams of torches, the whole underpinned by an evocative sound world of generator noises, off-screen conversations and voices from the radio. Some participants at the ethnographic film festival where I saw Up At Night complained they found the three-screen format distracting, but it is precisely the reflexive use of multiscreen—sometimes showing identical images, sometimes different, and sometimes nothing—that places Up At Night in the essay film tradition and lifts it clear of documentary or auto-ethnography.
Obliged to placate a UK funding system structurally suspicious of academic and artistic enquiry, Screenworks , the journal of practice research in screen media, insists on a detailed setting out of research questions and social impact for each of its video publications. Elisabeth Brun duly complies in the statement accompanying her intimate and spectacular 3 x Shapes of Home, but the film contains all the elements it needs to explain itself. I love how it’s unsatisfied with, and unafraid to compromise, its own beauty, and how the playful voiceover interacts dynamically with content and form. It’s a sensual and conceptual treat.
Ian Garwood has used tweets as ‘research outputs’ in a novel way as part of his Indy Vinyl project (see his 2020 article in NECSUS ) but Will DiGravio has actually deployed the structural affordances of Twitter in his year-long analysis of Rio Bravo. In 365 daily tweets, DiGravio methodically posted 22-second clips from Hawk’s film prefaced by an observation or reaction in 280 characters. This is ‘video/essay’ as iterative performance rather than reporting of analysis and I like to think of it in the tradition of Barthes’ S/Z, where scientific method is pushed to absurdist (and intensely personal) ends.
The Television Will Not Be Summarized by Elizabeth Alsop
Elizabeth Alsop is concerned in this video essay with an ‘exhibitionism’ that resists and exceeds plot summary in shows like The Leftovers, Hannibal and Twin Peaks: The Return. Alsop talks in her [in]Transition creator statement of confronting the methodological challenge of dramatizing (rather than summarizing) spectacular televisual phenomena without merely appropriating their rhetorical force. I admire how she meets this challenge with wit and economy (and without voiceover) through a combination of sound and cryptic imagery, multiscreen and onscreen text. The framing sections effectively stage the meditative experience of the extended extracts that form the central bulk of the video essay.
OUT OF PLACE (Or, Lost in NOMADLAND ) by Catherine Grant
Apparently, Catherine Grant has asked not to be mentioned in this year’s poll, but it would be strange to omit our leading role model in ‘filmmaking research’ (Grant’s preferred term). Anyway, I have chosen an epigraphic video I don’t particularly like. Grant’s treatment of onscreen text is exemplary, as ever, but the quote from Sarah Ahmed is coercive and folksy, while the juxtaposition of quirky music and looped images of Frances McDormand risks whimsy. The point for me, though, is that this sketch forms part of a broader practice that is always more than the sum of its video parts.
He Almost Forgets That There Is a Maker of the World by Ben Spatz, N. Eda Erçin, Caroline Gatt and Agnieszka Mendel
In this essay, onscreen text is used to annotate a 30-minute single-take recording of researcher-performers using speech, song and body to interact with books and each other to investigate some meanings of Jewishness. This ‘illuminated video’, as maker Ben Spatz dubs it, is an expression of what Spatz refers to in a series of writings as ‘the video way of thinking’ (see 2018 article of that name and the 2020 book ‘ Making a Laboratory ’). What I particularly value here is the idea and practice of essay-making as an experimental situation rather than as the mere documentation or reporting of research.
YouTube video essayist, The Discarded Image
A trip into the video essay metaverse, but done in a unique and funny style that makes potentially academic content propulsively entertaining.
Using a combination of self-shot footage (mostly churches) and some of the great existential films from Bergman, Schrader, Tarkovsky, Malkick, etc, LSOO explores why he’s drawn to religious art and architecture, without being overtly religious himself, which I can relate to.
The Invisible Horror of The Shining by Kristian T. Williams (kaptainkristian)
After being away from the scene for two years, it was great to see the return of Kristian’s trademark slick style. He takes arguably the most talked to death film of all time, and makes it fresh.
Why Is Bo Burnham’s Inside like That? by Thomas Flight
Clearly inspired by Bo Burnham’s groundbreaking achievement, Flight applies many similar techniques—with numerous camera set-ups and video essay styles—to explore that work in a wholly original way.
The Transformation of Anthony Hopkins by Luís Azevedo (Little White Lies)
A touching and creative tribute to the legendary actor. Azevedo has Hopkins in dialogue with himself, creating an emotional journey through his many roles.
I’m sure we all use movies to guide us through the toughest times. And this emotionally raw video uses them as a way to remember a loved one, and deal with a devastating loss.
Audio-visual PhD student at the University of Birmingham
Epigraph — Grand Budapest Hotel by Owen Mason-Hill
Concise videographic epigraph that explores and pleasingly manipulates colour, maintaining an Anderson aesthetic throughout.
Documentary as a Genre of Fiction by Oscar Mealia
A complex reflection on documentary storytelling that focuses on Orson Welles’ F for Fake and includes a performative element from the creator. Rich in its academic grounding and playful in execution.
Audiovisual Film Criticism and Cosmopolitanism ( AKA The Haunting of the Headful Academics) by Ian Garwood
A video essay that ate other video essays. This really resonated with me, not only for its acknowledgement and incorporation of the Zoom space we have inhabited for much of the last two years, but for the important questions it poses about how we choose our material as essayists.
I just find this joyous to watch: beautifully paced and a brilliant example of how the supercut can reveal as well as revere.
This is a powerful and haunting piece of work. In slowing down, repeating, and zooming in to archival footage, it forces the viewer to confront and re-engage with what may seem familiar images of the Holocaust.
BBC Inside Cinema series
Many of these bite-size explorations are essentially well-crafted compilations with voiceovers rather than more experimental or academically essayistic pieces, but I learn something every time I watch one. There’s an eclectic range of topics, from uncanny spaces and nuns on film; to examinations of the macguffin and credit sequences.
An Investigation of Colour in Black Mirror by Matt Cook
I’m a firm believer that any video essay should make the most of the form and this is a strong example of an undergraduate doing just that through employing various audio-visual techniques to develop his argument. It’s great to hear a regional accent too!
Associate editor, Hyperallergic
ACTION BUTTON REVIEWS Tokimeki Memorial by Tim Rogers (Action Button)
Tim Rogers transitioned from being a leader within New Games Journalism to producing some of the most in-depth video reviews about video games and how they create meaning. This epic six-hour essay goes in-depth on a little-known Japanese romance game, including summaries of two playthroughs of it. In line with the rest of Rogers’s work, it is not merely about this game, but about a sprawling, branching series of fascinating tangents around interpersonal relationships and how interactive art can engage them.
Why Don’t the Cops Fight Each Other? by Grayson Earle
A terrific example of found commentary in pop culture. The designers of Grand Theft Auto V likely didn’t intend to make a statement on the ‘Blue Wall of Silence’, but by programming police officers not to attack one another, no matter what, they unwittingly replicated real-world dynamics. Earle turns his tinkering with the game’s code into an intriguing investigation into media message-making.
Identity: A Trans Coming Out Story by Abigail Thorn (Philosophy Tube)
This is the least ‘essay-like’ work on my ballot, but Abigail Thorn is pushing the creative envelope so much within the field of popular YouTubers that I feel she deserves mention. One thing I love about Philosophy Tube is how Thorn finds a way to incorporate the concepts she discusses into the forms of the videos themselves. Here, she makes clear the performative nature of gender by having a cis male portray the closeted, male-presenting version of herself. The moment when that actor steps aside and Thorn comes out (sorry) is one of my favourite in any video this year.
The way that Binotto scrutinises the structures and conventions of digital modes of viewing through the lens of analog interfaces is consistently engrossing. It’s always a treat each time a new instalment in this series pops up.
There had to be something here acknowledging the pandemic, and McGoff’s literate and deeply considered rumination on the experience of a virtual film festival spoke more to my supremely odd times as a cinephile under lockdown than anything else I’ve seen on the matter.
The History of the Atlanta Falcons by Jon Bois, Alex Rubenstein, Joe Ali
Jon Bois might just be my favourite documentarian working today, and I have a strong suspicion that soon a lot more internet videos are going to be taking cues from his work. This multipart look at the trials and tribulations of the Falcons is a longform study of failure in all its myriad forms. In the hands of Bois and his collaborators, we see in this team a devastating series of near-misses, could-have-beens, and lost opportunities. Sports narratives often focus on snatching victory from the jaws of defeat; who knew the opposite could be so engrossing?
My only complaint about Grace Lee is that she doesn’t upload more often! Especially since in her recent work she’s demonstrated an incredible visual sensibility, casually packing tons of information — jokes, easter eggs, and more — into every shot. This video is near and dear to my heart because it speaks to my own struggles to define video essays, and my gnawing feeling that sometimes we might be getting too permissive with the term, or alternatively too restrictive. Few essayists explore this kind of ambivalence as well as Lee.
Video essayist, StrucciMovies
how i would defeat the immortal snail by Faline San
Faline San’s videos are typically anecdotes about her life or explanations of her thought process regarding bizarre niche topics. They caught my attention due to her quick pacing, engaging storytelling, her finely-tuned (and very funny) editing style, and her self-deprecating sense of humor. how i would defeat the immortal snail is a great example of this – it’s essentially a ten minute rant about a Reddit thought experiment , but it’s very funny and complex. This is especially impressive considering she is still a teenager, and I look forward to seeing what work she produces in the future!
The Bizarre World of Fake Psychics, Faith Healers, and Mediums by John Walsh (Super Eyepatch Wolf)
John’s essays are always funny and thought-provoking and he had some more avant-garde videos this year that pushed video essays as a medium (specifically his Space Jam and Dell nightmare videos, which I’d also recommend) but his fake psychics video stood out to me as something with the potential to help save a viewer from being taken advantage of, which is tremendously valuable. It’s dense with research and history and comes from both a place of anger and empathy. It’s a fantastic video.
Johannes had a hell of a year. This whole series is superb.
Tenderness — Rio Bravo Diary by Will DiGravio
De la femme by Caterina Cucinotta and Jesús Ramé López
Reimagining Blackness and Architecture ( MOMA ) by Russell Yaffe, Rafael Salazar Moreno ( RAVA Films)
Our Focus by Kevin B. Lee
Independent media scholar and video essayist
Flight of the Navigator | VFX Cool by Alan Melikdjanian (Captain Disillusion)
Captain Disillusion’s videos debunking viral hoaxes or misinformation about visual effects wizardry have been top-tier YouTube content for years, but nothing could have prepared me for this ravishing deconstruction of the technical magic in the cult-classic Flight of the Navigator. I don’t have euphoric superlatives extreme enough for how I felt watching this video the first time — not only does C.D. use VFX to analyze VFX (probably the final boss of videographic criticism); his attention, research, wit, obsession, and good old fashioned formal analysis blow everything else out of the water.
Though it has stiff competition from Faden, Keating, Mittell, and others, Mediated Auscultation is my favorite peer-reviewed essay of the year. Like many film scholars, I’ve never given enough attention to sound — precisely because sound never struck me as being essentially ‘cinematic’. But Talijan shows that cinema’s promise of immersive sensing from a distance applies as much to sound as image. The icing on the cake is that while plenty of video essays are ‘meditative’, few have made the tone demonstrate the argument as Talijan does here, with the audio putting me in a near- ASMR haze.
I never realized it was possible to deploy a parody of a video essay (in this case a classic on neorealism from kogonada) in the service of an argument that is not only NOT a joke, but possibly richer than that of the original. Whereas kogonada merely illustrated a reasonably conventional understanding of the difference between de Sica’s style and classical Hollywood style, Avissar completely overturned my narrow-minded received takes on Snyder by offering me a different mode of attention. Even if an ambiguity remains as to what Snyder’s style ‘means’, I’ll never pigeonhole him the same way again.
No Face Is an Incel by CJ the X
Generally I’d exclude wall-to-wall-talking-head channels from a list of great video essays, but CJ the X is in the middle of an annus mirabilis. So, for those who don’t have the 2.5 hours for CJ ’s urgent cry-of-the-soul Burnham/Bezos essay , here’s an intoxicating 100-mile-an-hour sprint of an essay that performs a Žižekian looking-awry on Spirited Away that might not be dressed up in academic finery, but has a more nimble intellect than many who’ve put up with the steamroller of peer review.
As we enter the eighth or ninth wave of rumination on what ‘counts’ as a video essay and how to think videographically, Johannes Binotto has become the undisputed master of reflection on the everyday practices of viewing that form the foundation of what video essayists do. Watching his ongoing Practices of Viewing series (in particular the one on the screenshot, but also others on pausing, fast-forwarding, muting), I felt like I’d found Arne Saknussemm’s name scratched into the cave wall— a fellow traveler.
eye / contact by Niki Radman
This essay takes its time and a good deal of text setting up its argument, but when it finally unveils its purely visual denouement — a 3x3 grid of images that jaw-droppingly links one note of Barry Jenkins’s formal language with his whole symphony of themes surrounding identity — I felt like I was gonna turn into drops.
Inside: Are Video Games Art? by Arttective
The tip of the YouTube iceberg conceals a Sierpinski triangle of icebergs beneath it — so many that it’s mathematically remarkable that any individual essay ever made it to my eyes at all. Had I not met Arttective on the Essay Library Discord server, I wouldn’t have seen this gem, which uses the rewind and skip keys on YouTube to inject some tantalizing interactivity into the grammar of the video essay. But I’m so glad I did: the experience is engrossing. If anyone out there solves the puzzle in this video, please let me know the answer!
Creator, collector and curator of video essays under the nom de video Filmscalpel
The pandemic proves fertile ground for video essays. Changing film distribution models mean movies are available sooner to audiovisual critics. In-person and live events have been replaced with pre-taped materials, creating another vein of visuals for video essay makers to tap into. We’re often confined to our personal visual echo chambers that are filled with screens that confound as much as they clarify. And that we’re forced to spend more time in close quarters may also contribute to the unmistakable trend that video essays are getting longer. In 2021 audiovisual strategies that are common to the video essay popped up everywhere. In academia and the arts. In news broadcasts and film festivals. In talk shows and on TikTok. These are just a few remarkable examples.
In his feature-length video Tohline gives an overview of the history, the aesthetics and the modus operandi of the supercut. He examines the tension between its dueling impulses of (fannish) desire and serious analysis, and he proposes strategies to increase the form’s critical impact. But most important is how Tohline regards the supercut not as a mere editing technique but as the material expression of a specific and novel way of thinking. We try to make sense of the world by ordering it into either archives or databases, and the supercut is the poster child for that database mode.
Just when you think the whole supercut model has been mapped, along comes an innovative application of this strategy. Davide Rapp combines clips of the Monte Gelato waterfalls near Rome into a 28-minute VR collage. Scores of rectangular film and television scenes together form a full circle, recasting the role of the spectator from immobile viewer in a theater seat to participatory flaneur. Montegelato is an immersive three-dimensional palimpsest that puts the viewer at the center of this nexus of cinematic storytelling: a location that inspired filmmakers working across different genres, in different times and with very different means.
Gyres 1-3 by Ellie Ga (watch excerpt )
American artist Ellie Ga’s single channel video installation Gyres 1-3 is another example of how to put an inventive spin on a classic videographic strategy. This is a desktop video essay of sorts, with the desktop being a light table onto which she arranges and rearranges transparent photographs. Her essayistic voice over narration is triggered by the succession of (often) archetypal images that serve as lodestars for the video’s loose narrative structure. But unlike the more traditional virtual desktop, Ellie Ga’s physical handling of the transparent slides adds a tactile and more personal touch to the process.
Under the White Mask: The Film That Haesaerts Could Have Made by Matthias De Groof (watch trailer )
In 1958 Paul Haesaerts made Under the Black Mask, a documentary on Congolese art. That Belgian film was formally inventive but it also perpetuated racist stereotypes. Scholar and filmmaker Matthias De Groof remixed Haesaerts’ film into a scathing critique of colonialism. He combined the footage of mute masks with an impassioned voice over by slam poet Maravilha Munto. In Haesaerts’ version, art hid atrocities. Aestheticism was used as a mask for the ugly face of colonialism to hide behind. This powerful remix tears off that mask: it uses exactly the same artistic means but reclaims their critical potential.
Cinema Turns: Catalan Creative Documentary by Celia Sainz
In this beautifully paced and expertly constructed video essay Celia Sainz focuses on a quartet of documentary films made in Catalonia over the past two decades by female filmmakers. She does not seek to ascribe a collective national identity or ideological agenda to these works but looks for shared artistic (cinematographic and narrative) strategies. Like the creative documentaries it studies, this video essay uses time and tone to drive home its points. The assured audiovisual approach and well-judged rhythm of this piece are part and parcel to its intellectual and affective impact.
Lucie Emch’s video essay deals with the troublesome on-screen representation of rape. She starts off in a conventional way but then brings music videos into the mix. The video essay really hits its stride when it mashes up Jenny Wilson’s RAPIN * music video (from 2018) with Ida Lupino’s film Outrage (from 1950).
This fine piece was published by Tecmerin. That online journal deserves to be lauded for its persistent efforts to bring to the fore the work of video essay makers who are not native English speakers, and for the fact it reviews and publishes pieces in many different languages.
Professor and director of the film studies programme, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The most intelligent video-essay I’ve seen on sound (or rather, on lack of sound) in cinema. Brilliant!
With over 40 works to date, Ariel Avissar’s intelligent project has certainly accomplished its expected goal of increasing the video essay’s interest in television products. It has also achieved a less expected result: it strengthened a community of video essayists who have engaged playfully in this almost addictive collaborative endeavor.
Film Thought 1. Will the Plausible: On FIVE CARD STUD by Will DiGravio
Skillfully produced (superb storytelling and rhythm), this video-essay takes full advantage of the form’s possibilities by centering in a simple perceptive observation. A little gem which marks the beginning of a promising new series by Will DiGravio
Cinephilia translated into an audiovisual essay at its best. A deeply personal and emotional account of Adrian Martin’s love for film and for film analysis becomes one of the best pieces I can think of on a rigorous and theoretical reflection on the video-graphic essay as a form.
Public Controversy and Film Censorship. The release of All Quiet on Western Front (1930) in Berlin by Manuel Palacio y Ana Mejón
I saw this video-essay for the first time when Ana Mejón presented it at the video-graphic webinar organized by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in September. I was immediately impressed. It’s a superbly crafted video-essay that condenses thorough and serious work of scholarly research.
A powerful and chilling work that did not go unnoticed at the Adelio Ferrero Festival, Italy. I look forward to the multi-modal project that will be published in the upcoming issue of Research in Film and History together with this video-essay.
It’s so smart and funny, and, as Jason Mittell said, it “speaks to many of us.”
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Other things to explore
The best video essays of 2022.
By Grace Lee
The best films of 2022 – all the votes
The 50 best films of 2022.
How to Write an Essay on YouTube to Reach Viewers and Get More Likes
A video streaming website, YouTube, is in the top of 3 most visited websites globally, along with Facebook and Google. The “broadcast yourself” idea became incredibly popular and took over the world. There are years of video information stored in YouTube’s database and constantly retrieved from it by everyone who has Internet access. It is no wonder that you have an assignment to write an essay on YouTube as most essay topics are devoted to questions of present interest. If it comes to essay writing about YouTube, these questions may be as follows:
- What did YouTube bring to us? Only funny videos or anything else?
- Why did YouTube manage to become popular?
- What is the most popular content today and what makes it viewable?
- Who watches YouTube more often and why?
- For what purposes can YouTube be used nowadays?
- How is it effective to use YouTube for business objectives?
This guide is to help you see the matter you’re interested in: “How to write my youtube essay so that it will be successful for me and my academic performance?” We have some useful tips on how to succeed in essay writing on a particular topic – YouTube.
Table of Contents
Write an Essay as if You Are in the YouTube Studio
Heard anything about YouTube Studio ? It is a platform where you can manage a YouTube channel by uploading a video, updating any changes, communicating with subscribers, analyzing various pieces of data, and so on. Let’s do it in the same sequence of steps suggested to you:
To get ‘like’ surely, you need to focus on some essential details for every step you take during the pre-writing, writing, and post-writing processes.
Where to Find the Information about YouTube for My Essay?
You may say, “How lucky I am now as any source of information is available to me”. However, don’t hurry to make the festival and procrastinate essay writing till the last moment with words, “I will write an essay on any topic quickly but later”. Remember, an essay on any topic requires extensive research of reliable academic sources , certainly, if you want to reach a goal – to have a well-researched, well-written, and well-edited essay. Start with the references you can use for your essay on YouTube.
5 References for YouTube Essay Writing
- Brabazon T. Digital Dialogues and Community 2.0: After Avatars, Trolls and Puppets. Elsevier, Apr 25, 2012.
- Burgess J, Green J. YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
- Cayari, C. “The YouTube effect: How YouTube has provided new ways to consume, create, and share music.” International Journal of Education & the Arts, 12 (6), 2011.
- Seelye KQ. “New Presidential Debate Site? Clearly, YouTube.” The New York Times, Jun 13, 2007.
- West T. Going Viral: “Factors That Lead Videos to Become Internet Phenomena.” The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 2 (1), 2011.
What Information Is Interesting to Include in My Youtube Essay?
Previously, we’ve discussed some issues relevant to YouTube. Let’s focus on them closely. The central idea of YouTube was people broadcasting their own personalities to others. While it all was a novel concept then, right now, posting a video of oneself is regarded as a new social norm. This especially concerns young people who need to show off to get accepted by peers. A public video online serves as the proof of one’s capacities, extraordinariness, and often of the mere existence.
Every minute, the total running time of all video materials uploaded is about 300 hours. Those videos have different purposes which vary from education to entertainment, promotion of ideas to mere trolling. YouTube plays the role of a public forum where, based on the number of views, likes, and subscriptions, new celebrities emerge and new ideas are popularized. Below are some examples of media stars who emerged thanks to YouTube:
- Brooke Brodack, a comedian who got her 18-months contract with Carson Daly of NBC because her talent was noticed via her YouTube channel where 45 million people were watching her uploads.
- Justin Bieber who gained his popularity after his mother posted a video of his performance on YouTube in 2010.
- Grumpy Cat, Tabatha Bundesen’s pet whose earnings topped the yearly income of some Hollywood stars.
These are just a few examples of how social media like YouTube can turn somebody into a celebrity after he or she gets noticed by the right people (or millions of fans). The existing stars benefit from the media too. Performing artists choose to publish their singles on their channels or upload concert videos in order to tease their fans into buying records or tickets to their gigs. Besides, everyone can now record a video of an event with a smartphone and upload it online. As a consequence, music publishers and recording companies have become not as important as YouTube ratings.
Apart from a star-making factory, YouTube has another purpose: promotion of ideas and knowledge. There has been a rise in educational channels and those which bring science to the masses. Vsauce, a popular YouTube channel known for exploring scientific issues and explaining them in a simple language, has over 9 million subscribers. Each of the channel’s videos is watched several millions of times. Thanks to channels like this, more young people are keeping up with the current scientific ideas, research, and discoveries.
YouTube is also used by politicians to spread their messages and win the electorate. Debates, promo speeches, and other campaign-related occasions are immediately uploaded on YouTube. Comments to the videos serve as the chance to communicate with politicians and their representatives. This has a reverse side too, as the audiences use YouTube to show their irony towards politicians. Thus, a video mix of the smallest mistake made by a public person on camera can spread like wildfire and harm the reputation in minutes.
YouTube has changed the way people receive visual information by becoming a substitute for television for most. It is mainly free (there are paid channels too) and it is always available. There is little advertising, and one can skip the ad with one click. However, just like many people have shifted to Internet-based visual media to avoid irritating ads, a lot of people have also been watching ads on YouTube. The new media has shifted people’s attention from brands to shared ideas.
YouTube has become over its time of existence a powerful tool for promoting ideas, messages, and images, creating memes, and setting new trends. However, just as YouTube can turn one into a celebrity and bring immediate success, it can also ruin one’s career in a very short time. This is a part of the cost people pay for a possibility to shoot off instantly and be on the tongues of men. It’s up to you what information to choose for your essay writing on YouTube. You’re in the right direction if you consider some issues so that your essay will be valuable for most people.
How to Outline My Essay on YouTube?
It is very easy to do if the basic structure is in front of you, and all the relevant information is gathered. Look at the structure you should follow: Despite the logical way of presenting an essay based on the basic structure, there are some effective steps to make an outline work for you as a writer:
- Put a thesis statement at the beginning of an outline.
- List the main points that would support your thesis. Label them with the help of Roman Numerals – I, II, III, etc.
- Provide some supporting ideas for each main point. Label them with capital letters – A, B, C, etc.
An outline is considered to be fully developed when there is the intended content of your essay which you will expand further. So after you outline the body, work on the introduction and conclusion. It is winning to deal with the essay outline as you know what to introduce and how to conclude.
How to Finish My Essay Writing on YouTube?
Some students face the difficulty to start writing an essay, the others can’t finish writing it. If overtalkativeness is your trait of character, you may encounter the problem of finishing and meeting a word count. What is it? 2,500 words are required, but you managed to write a 4,000-word essay on YouTube? Most students are unlikely to follow how many words are written. That’s why there is a standard according to which you can calculate the words of written content – each separate page contains approximately 275 words. Don’t knock yourself with calculations! It’s just given for indicative purposes because today all programs are equipped with the automatic word count.
If you meet a word/page count, finish your essay writing with a few touches: – Read an essay several times or allow someone to read it with the aim to determine if everything is OK with the essay content .
Phew! You can be glad that your essay on YouTube is finished! In our turn, we’ll be happy if this guide comes in handy for those who struggle with essay writing every single time. Just follow it to see how easy it is to write a really good essay on any topic.
Too busy to write your paper by yourself?
The best video essays of 2020
Creators continue to push the envelope of criticism on YouTube
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For the last few years, video essays have gained more and more prominence on YouTube . With more and more creators choosing a video essay — or video essay-inspired — format, there are video essays about almost any topic you want to learn more about.
To discuss what makes a video essay one of the best of the year, let’s first break down what a video essay was in the year 2020 . There’s more gray area between formats than it initially may seem, especially given how many videos that lack an essay structure take on an essay aesthetic. We used the following criteria for this list:
- The video must be scripted. Momentary improvised asides are fine, especially if they come in the form of voice over added in editing, but the video must otherwise follow a written script.
- The video must have a thesis, and that thesis must be more than “this is good” or “this is bad.” The thesis should concern the impact of the subject matter, not just its content. This means no straight reviews (like La’Ron Readus’s review of Candyman ), no commentary/discussion videos (like Sherliza Moé’s series on cultural appropriation in the Star Wars prequels and Avatar: The Last Airbender ), no lore recaps (like My Name Is Byf’s meticulous archival works of the Destiny 2 lore), and no straight-up histories (like Sarah Z’s retelling of the infamous DashCon).
- The video also shouldn’t be a documentary (like NoClip’s documentary about the making of Pyre ). The focus should be a subject from an analytical standpoint, not an interview standpoint.
- But this doesn’t mean the video should necessarily aim for pure objectivity; personal video essays are, in fact, a thing.
This isn’t to say the excluded videos aren’t great. On the contrary: the ones mentioned above absolutely rule. Defining the parameters of a video essay, though, puts the videos discussed here on an equal playing field. When you watch, you know you’ll come away understanding the subject matter, and likely how art and society impact each other, a little better. Almost all of these videos contain spoilers, so watch at your own risk — but most can be enjoyed regardless of your familiarity with the subject matter, too.
1. “In Search of Flat Earth,” Dan Olson (Folding Ideas)
Dan Olson of Folding Ideas has been a video essayist for years, helping solidify the medium on YouTube. “In Search of Flat Earth,” though, is his masterpiece to date. The video is shot beautifully, with loving and reverent shots of nature that not only contribute to the video’s content and concepts, but also capture a sense of still beauty. If the video seeks to claim that flat earthers feel powerlessness in the face of the government and science, the way this video is shot makes the claim that maybe our powerlessness can be good, actually. But “In Search of Flat Earth” isn’t just a response to flat earthers; it’s also a response to Olson’s contemporaries who have made videos trying to convince flat earthers that their ideas are wrong. “In Search of Flat Earth” argues that flat earthers, and people with similar mindsets, can’t be logicked out of their mindsets — which turns into a surprise, mind-blowing third-act twist.
2. “The Satirical Resurgence of Reefer Madness,” Yhara Zayd
Yhara Zayd is somewhat of a newcomer to video essays, posting her first, “The Remake That Couldn’t: Skins U.S. ” in June 2019. Her catalogue of work has boomed in 2020, making selecting a video to feature difficult; her work is consistently standout, mixing analysis with dry comedy and heavy aesthetics. In a landmark year for marijuana legalization, “The Satirical Resurgence of Reefer Madness ” feels especially timely and important, but it’s also just a delight to watch. The video is not just a look into a criminally underrated musical starring Kristen Bell, Alan Cummings, and Ana Gasteyer. It’s a look into the real 1936 propaganda film of the same name, how the laws around marijuana criminalization were formed, and the deeply racist roots of anti-marijuana campaigns. Zayd’s soft but direct voice and distinctly internet-culture-informed humor make the video consistently engaging and fun while never shying away from what makes Reefer Madness so worthy of a campy parody musical.
3. “The Strange Reality of Roller Coaster Tycoon,” Jacob Geller
Roller Coaster Tycoon is a nostalgic classic — but what can it teach us about death? A weird amount, as Geller explains in “The Strange Reality of Roller Coaster Tycoon .” This video opens with the sentence, “There is at least one roller coaster designed specifically to kill you.” The “Euthanasia Coaster,” Geller explains, was never made, but would effectively kill a rider in just about a minute. As he breaks down the rituals around death, he winds his way around curves and loops, masterfully bringing the audience back to the game at the core of the video: Roller Coaster Tycoon . In just over 18 minutes, Geller’s analysis breaks down how the game allows for meaningful struggle in its mechanics — which the video essayist notes are similar in their coding to a roller coaster — while allowing for monstrosities, lethal roller coasters that bring your virtual park-goers to their grave. A roller coaster is meant to scare us, meant to spike adrenaline, meant to put the fear of death right in us, but fun! Geller’s discussion of Roller Coaster Tycoon shows just how much coasters, real or virtual, say about how we deal with death.
Disclosure: Jacob Geller has written for Polygon.
4. “ CATS ! And the Weird Mind of TS Eliot,” Maggie Mae Fish
Cats may have come out in 2019, but Maggie Mae Fish’s video essay on it came out in March 2020, so early into what the rest of the year would become. It was a small, but wonderfully unhinged blessing for video essay lovers who needed something bonkers to keep us afloat during quarantine. Fish’s performance background is in comedy and improv, notably working with Cracked before starting on her own video essays. Her writing and performance have a level of effervescent delight and bewilderment at most of the trash media she discusses, coming through most in her discussion of Cats .
But while a video on why Cats was bad could have been engaging and funny, Fish takes a step deeper, looking into the musical’s source material: the poetry of T.S. Eliot, a homophobic, antisemitic weirdo. Fish doesn’t just express Eliot’s politics, but explains why Cats pulls from fascist ideologies in its depiction of a tradition-heavy death cult. (Just, you know, with cats.) From there, Fish’s analysis goes even deeper. This video isn’t about not liking problematic media, or even “bad” media. It’s a video about deeply loving something that winds up parodying and subverting its roots.
5. “The Anatomy of Stan Culture,” Elexus Jionde (Intelexual Media)
Historian Elexius Jionde of Intelexual Media often takes a cultural anthropology lens in her videos, discussing topics like life in the American 1970s and the history of Black homelessness . In “The Anatomy of Stan Culture,” Jionde breaks down a current social phenomenon through a historical lens, asking why we stan and how we got here. Jionde dissects “celebrity worship disorder” and how fans obsess over their favorite celebrities, while not letting people who think they’re too good for the goss off the hook either. Using examples ranging from Bhad Babie to Selena Quintanilla to Victorian actors, Jionde shows how current celebrity culture is rooted in everything from politics to evolutionary biology. This 18-minute video is a crash course in how the celebrity industry runs, and it’s also an analysis of how we interact with celebrity right now. How do stans go from liking Ariana Grande’s music to replicating Ariana Grande’s voice to sending death threats to people who besmirch Ariana Grande’s name? Jionde doesn’t necessarily judge stans; instead, she shows how celebrity culture affects the rest of culture.
6. “On Writing: Mental Illness in Video Games,” Tim Hickson (Hello Future Me)
Before talking about what makes this video essay great, a warning: this video discusses struggles with mental health, including several aspects of suicide. It’s the heaviest video essay on this list, so make sure you know what you’re getting into before you watch.
Tim Hickson of the channel Hello Future Me opens the video by disclosing his experience working for a youth mental health and suicide intervention hotline. From there, he first discusses the ways in which video games, immersive narratives where players have control and make choices, can be cathartic for people with mental illnesses and informative for people who don’t. Citing games from World of Warcraft to Celeste to Prey to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice , Hickson shows the different ways games dive into depression, social anxiety, and schizophrenia. A segment focused on Life is Strange ’s Kate Marsh dissects how a story can be cathartic for one person, but harmful for another. It’s a deeply empathetic video essay with rich research. It’s sobering, emotional, and moving.
7. “Why Anime is for Black People - Hip Hop x Anime,” Yedoye Travis (Beyond the Bot)
Beyond the Bot is a new New York-based collective making video essays about how anime impacts culture, and like with Yhara Zaid’s work, it was difficult to choose a favorite. “Why Anime is for Black People” is a standout for just how deep the analysis goes into the crossover between Black and East Asian culture. Going back to ’70s Blaxploitation and kung fu films, host and writer Yedoye Travis chronicles how East Asian media permeated Black culture, eventually leading to the Wu-Tang Clan sourcing their samples from films like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Shaolin and Wu Tang . Legendary producer J Dilla would later go on to sample East Asian music as well. And, of course, Travis spends a good deal talking about the important of the Toonami block of Adult Swim, and the importance of the network playing music from bands like Gorillaz and their lo-fi hip-hop bed music for bumps. Travis explains how the shows themselves — namely Cowboy Bebop , Samurai Champloo , and, of course, The Boondocks — made an impact on Black youth who grew up alongside the programming. The historical lens of the cross-culture influences allows this analysis to go deeper than similar video essays, but the tone stays casual, giving plenty of asides and jokes for people familiar with the content.
8. “What Is *Good* Queer Representation in 2020?,” Princess Weekes (MelinaPendulum)
2020 has been a landmark year for queer representation in the media, and Princess Weekes’ “What Is *Good* Queer Representation in 2020?” seeks to pick apart what has been “good,” what has been “bad,” and most often, what has just been complicated. Like any discussion of representation, Weekes talks about how important it is for queer people to see different versions of queer people in a variety of media, and the tendency for queer people to overlook works by queer creators, or judge them more harshly than works by creators who aren’t queer. She breaks down queer assimilation and respectability politics, taking a stance that’s emotional and personal, while still being relatable and pervasive. This video essay is a great start for how we can start discussing ways to complicate representation, to move away from the sanitization of queer narratives, and understand that what makes one person feel seen might do the opposite for someone else.
9. “Fallout: New Vegas Is Genius, And Here’s Why,” Harry Brewis (hbomberguy)
Harry Brewis’ trend of surprisingly long videos with sarcastically simplistic titles continues with his hour-and-a-half testament to what makes a good narrative-heavy RPG, using Fallout: New Vegas as an example of the best of the best. Don’t let the title trick you into thinking the video is a review. It’s much closer to a masterclass on writing for games, and implementing your story and worldbuilding into every single aspect of that game. From the world to the companions to the main plot to the side quests to the combat to the continuity of consequences, Brewis lays out how Fallout: New Vegas gives its players genuine choices, and then makes those choices genuinely significant in the game. He argues the game actually deals in “gray morality” instead of just saying it does while pushing players to be Good or Evil. The choices in the game often leave the player ambivalent, while placing them in a wild world that players can choose to make even wilder. Brewis uses the video to talk about what makes Fallout: New Vegas work, and why so many games pale in comparison. It isn’t just that Fallout: New Vegas is good —it’s that it’s a meticulous game made by people who cared about every single detail they developed.
10. “Whisper of the Heart: How Does It Feel to Be an Artist,” Accented Cinema
Whisper of the Heart is one of the quieter Studio Ghibli films, and likewise, this video essay by Accented Cinema is quiet, lovely, and tender. Accented Cinema is a video essay channel that focuses on foreign (at least, foreign to the United States) media and its impact. “ Whisper of the Heart : How Does It Feel to Be an Artist” is the most personal essay on this list, a necessity for an analysis of the very personal feeling of creating art. In the video, the host discusses how most artists don’t have the frenzied drive media often depicts. Instead, they have the slow, sometimes frustrating, sometimes euphoric drive of anyone who does something because it’s who they are. This video also comes with a warning that it discusses a tragic death in the studio — but the way it brings the discussion of that death back to the essay’s thesis is spectacular.
91 YouTube Essay Topic Ideas & Examples
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- Social Networking Site: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter Today, social networking sites, such as Facebook, Orkut, YouTube, Tagged, Twitter, and MySpace, are some of the most important forms of communication, connecting billions of people from all corners of the world at the click […]
- Information System Profession: iPhone and YouTube These indicate the advancements in the information system as a profession The issues in the articles reviewed are related to the course in a number of ways.
- Social Media Metrics: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter For an individual to share a video through YouTube there will be need for the individual to sign up for an account with YouTube.
- YouTube’s Misunderstood Purpose Viacom should understand that commercial media on YouTube is like transformational of cultural commodities to cultural resources and YouTube just offers a platform for the audience to produce second order commodities that they can and […]
- Rapid Progress of YouTube The level of the competition among these sites depends on the question of the popularity of Google resources and YouTube among the users.
- The YouTube Media Channels Phenomenon The record YouTube views of the music video have led to the song and the artist behind it being recognized by the Guinness World Records.
- YouTube and Google Video The failure of Google video is attributable to its initial lack of a way to view actual videos and finally Google’s acquisition of YouTube.
- YouTube Instructions: How to Upload a Video Blogging: Posting of information on the Internet, in particular on the blogosphere, which supports posts on a wide range of topics.
- YouTube Case: Copyright Infringement of Music and Films The aim of the current research is to assess YouTube’s copyright infringement of music and films. The DMCA is a copyright law in the United States, and it protects the company from copyright infringement among […]
- YouTube as a Product Promotion Platform The rapid development of Internet technologies and the emergence of social media structures affect the marketing methods and strategies greatly. The posts and customer reviews create the risk factors for the marketing strategies efficiency, and […]
- Playstation Online Community in Twitter and YouTube Playstation Community is connected with the brand’s channels on social media such as Twitter and Youtube, so there is a possibility to engage with the content created both by users and the brand.
- Helvetica Typeface and Its Use on YouTube Helvetica’s popularity in society is explained by the fact that this typeface assists in the reading process owing to the simplicity of the design.
- YouTube and Citizen Journalism in the Arab Spring The success of the protesters in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and other Arab countries shows how much new media contributed to the protests. This makes it hard for new technology to take the place of traditional […]
- How YouTube Changed the Way We Communicate? Moreover, the extensive selection of documentaries available on YouTube allows anyone to see the nature of the farthest locations of the Earth without the need to leave the comfort of their home.
- YouTube in Business and Organizational Contexts In addition to the name, one is required to indicate the date you were born, gender, a nation where you reside and indicate that you agree to their terms of service.
- “Space Station Broadcast” Comedy: YouTube Sensation In the contemporary world that is closely connected with the Internet, the video platform YouTube is the source of information for millions of people.
- YouTube as an Educational Tool The source provides every visitor with the information necessary to be well acquainted with the opportunities that the site presents and teaches how to use the site YouTube with the highest degree of efficiency.
- YouTube’s Marketing Balance Scorecard The graph can be useful, due to the ability for updates and modifications that will represent the current situation in marketing.
- YouTube, the Internet and the Future of Movies The paper will analyze the dynamics in one of these industries i.e.the movie industry and what it needs to do in order to cope with these challenges from the digital world.
- YouTube: History, Advantages and Disadvantages It is no secret that YouTube is one of the most visited websites in the whole world. I examine the advantages of this invention as well as the disadvantages The 1920s: the first-ever display technology […]
- Competitor Companies: YouTube vs. Google Video The restriction of user-generated content to the use of a downloadable plug-in from VideoLAN had an irreversible effect on the growth of the site since it troubled many users in its operation and hence necessitated […]
- YouTube Videos and Length’s Influence on Their Quality The represented video of Simon’s Cat is an episode from the series of pictured comic sketches about a cat and its owner.
- Changing the Culture via YouTube: Creating and Consuming Streaming Videos The woman says that the creators of video on the platform once will face problems of authenticity. This phenomenon is related to the evolution of channels as the video hosting algorithms change.
- Leadership at YouTube: Susan Wojcicki Educated at Harvard and the University of California, Wojcicki was involved in the founding of Google and was the person behind Google’s acquisition of YouTube in 2006.
- YouTube and Copyright Infringement The notice is issued by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and YouTube has been reported to be shielded from liability owing to their compliance with the act.
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Jezebel and the Question of Women’s Anger
By Anna Holmes
Earlier this year, Ben Smith, the former editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News and a onetime New York Times columnist, published a book, titled “ Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral .” It explores the creation of, and the competition between, well-funded news-and-culture Web sites—BuzzFeed News and the Huffington Post among them—that began in the early two-thousands, just as the professional blogosphere was getting going. One day after the book’s May 2nd release, the Times published a Smith-authored guest essay , titled “We’re Watching the End of a Digital Media Age. It All Started with Jezebel.”
Jezebel is an influential feminist Web site that I created in 2007. Smith had devoted an entire chapter of “Traffic” to the story of the site’s creation, stumbles, and successes. He was complimentary, calling it “a new kind of cultural politics,” one that built “a community that rejected the old structures of gender and power, and tried to shape new ones.”
One could be forgiven for discerning a slight difference in tone between “Traffic” and the essay that appeared in the Times . Smith’s book took a deep look at the impact of a number of Web sites, but his Times essay seemed to make the argument that Jezebel in particular reflected a “remarkable new openness” and “uncontrollable anger” on the Internet. As he put it, “What makes Jezebel feel so relevant now is that it was among the first places to crystallize the powerful forces that would define social media over the next decade: politics and identity.”
I agreed that Jezebel embodied a “remarkable new openness,” and I was flattered by Smith’s acknowledgment of the site’s continued influence. But some of what he wrote gave me pause. His essay positioned the site as the start of an era that would culminate in the 2016 election of Donald Trump. I wanted nothing to do with it. As for “uncontrollable anger”? The phrase felt sexist and paternalistic.
I live in Los Angeles, so I wasn’t immediately aware of the conversation about the essay. People started texting me around 7 A.M. P.S.T. In the darkness of my cozy bedroom, I took a quick glance at the piece on my phone, admired the accompanying photo of me (it was a good photo, and I can be vain), rolled my eyes at a few of the conclusions, and then went back to bed.
About half an hour later, I was awoken again, this time by a phone call from a friend. It appeared that a small backlash to the piece was brewing online—namely, on Twitter. Some readers felt that, by focussing his attention on Jezebel, Smith was blaming women for outrage culture. I read this with interest—after all, women get blamed for a lot of things and aren’t credited enough for other things—but I also didn’t have the energy to respond to it. I placed my phone on my bedside table and pulled the covers back over my head.
I felt ambivalent. The essay had stirred up something from the past that I hadn’t been able to work out: what part, if any, I might have played in the evolution of derisive online discourse. Smith wasn’t purporting to answer this question—some of his language, perhaps deliberately, was a bit vague. But he did make a connection between Jezebel’s often combative commenters and the eventual users of social-media platforms like Twitter, accusing the site of unleashing “searing online mobs.” Jezebel had been created years before the wide-scale adoption of social media, back when people were still going to blogs and then refreshing them to see what new posts had appeared. According to Smith, “The unmediated passions of social media took up where it left off.”
Anger can be explosive. It can ignite social movements and chip away at calcified ideas about sex, gender, class, and race. It’s also fair to say that when women express it—or are accused of expressing it—they’re easily, sometimes viciously, mocked and derided. This is perhaps doubly true for women of color, who have to contend not only with sexist tropes but also with racial stereotypes and fearmongering around anger and tone. (Both my deputy editor at Jezebel, Dodai Stewart, and I are Black. The widely held assumption that the site was staffed only by white women possibly did us some sort of favor.)
But here’s the thing about tone: in many cases, it does matter. And though I was often politically and personally in agreement with our commenters, their over-the-top rhetoric could be alienating to me. I worried that this sort of rhetoric might offend new readers, and that it would be harmful to the new dialogue around gender politics that we were trying to influence and bring into the mainstream. Was there such a thing as “too much” anger? If so, who was I to determine what “too much” is? I felt torn, so I kept these questions mostly to myself.
When Jezebel launched, I was thirty-three, about to turn thirty-four. The events that led to the site’s creation have been written about many times before. So here’s the short version: disillusioned by the state of American women’s media, I was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create and oversee a women’s-media entity—in this case, a Web site. I imagined it as one with a lot of personality, with humor, with edge. I wanted it to combine wit, smarts, and anger, providing women—many of whom had been taught to believe that “feminism” was a bad word or one to be avoided—with a model of critical thinking around gender and race which felt accessible and entertaining. As one of my colleagues, Moe Tkacik, wrote , in an early post, “Jezebel is a blog for women that will attempt to take all the essentially meaningless but sweet stuff directed our way and give it a little more meaning, while taking [the more] serious stuff and making it more fun, or more personal, or at the very least the subject of our highly sophisticated brand of sex joke. Basically, we wanted to make the sort of women’s magazine we’d want to read.”
Of course, feminist Web sites and blogs were already exploring a new kind of politics among young American women. But, unlike Jezebel, they rarely incorporated robust and sustained pop-culture analysis, and they existed on the periphery of the Internet. (They also didn’t have the funding and other resources that my staff and I enjoyed.) These sites, independently owned, with names like Feministing, Feministe, Racialicious, and AngryBlackBitch, had cultivated devoted readerships, but their audiences were small, and their language was often academic.
Our audience, on the other hand, started off big and quickly got bigger, reaching more than ten million page views a month in the first year. (We had the benefit of being part of a larger blog network, anchored by Gawker , which we would overtake in traffic in less than three years.) I was delighted, if a little taken aback, by our readers’ immediate passion and loyalty. Within two months of the site’s launch, some readers were, unprompted, referring to themselves as “Jezebelles” or “Jezzies” in the comments sections of the site. Familiar screen names and avatars began to appear as regular readers populated the threads, talking with one another and, occasionally, with the site’s writers.
The majority of our commenters were very good. Smart, observant, well-read, vibrant, and dizzyingly funny, they added context and nuance to the stories we published and pressed us to do better. Within a year of Jezebel’s launch, they even attracted the attention of the New York Times , which described them as meeting for drinks and renting vacation houses together. But sometimes they were bad: sarcastic, mean, intellectually dishonest, and bullying toward one another. And sometimes they were horrible, behaving like a twisted Greek chorus trying to upstage the main performers. (Years later, as comments on Web sites began to migrate to social media, I would come to realize that they were the main performers.) “That’s sort of the nature of having a commenting community,” Erin Ryan, an early commenter who became a writer for the site, told me. “People start feeling like they should have a say in what happens there. And really that’s not how a publication works.” At one point, in 2009, I toyed with the idea of handing the site over to the commenters for a day, just to watch them fail.
At times we were accused of “tone-policing” our readers. And it’s true: we did tone-police, especially those commenters who were nasty or uncivil. We would take to the comments threads to warn readers about crossing some sort of line. When they derailed a thread, we’d ask them to move the discussion into the comments of a daily anything-goes post that I pointedly named “Groupthink.” (Most of the commenters didn’t seem to get the joke.) I could have, maybe should have, been tougher on them. My managing editor at the time counselled me to think of Jezebel as a virtual dinner party my writers and I were throwing. “You wouldn’t allow someone to be that rude to other guests or hosts. You’d kick them out,” he said. “Do the same thing in the comments.” But we rarely banned anyone outright. No one wanted to punish readers for being impassioned.
I like to think that, though the moderation was irritating to many commenters, it was also empowering. Readers knew that we were watching and that we cared about what they had to say. Someone once told me that the Jezebel commenters were so devoted, if often critical, because the community was made up of bright, ambitious young women who were underutilized and underappreciated at their day jobs. I thought that this was a fascinating, if depressing, observation.
I wondered, sometimes, whether my concerns about the comments were themselves sexist. Was I holding women to a standard of comportment? Complicating matters further was the fact that I’d started Jezebel and shepherded it to success on the back of my own anger. Though that anger, as I’ve explained, was legitimate and warranted—American women had been sold a bill of goods about who they were and what they wanted, or what they should want—it was starting to define the site, for both readers and casual observers.
I remember one blogger, a woman named Susannah Breslin, who, sometime after the site’s launch, accused its writers of “caterwauling about the patriarchy.” This made us laugh. Breslin’s accusation that writers on Jezebel yelled a lot—er, caterwauled—made sense. We were not without mischievousness (our parent company encouraged a certain amount of snark), but we also leaned into our anger—about sexism, about racism, about the erosion of women’s reproductive rights.
Other critics accused us of intentionally stoking readers’ outrage. In mid-2009, Slate’s women’s Web site, DoubleX, published, as one of its first posts, an article which claimed that Jezebel “is hurting women.” “It’s staffed by bloggers who are expected to produce around 10 high-traffic posts a day,” the feminist scholar Linda Hirshman (who passed away this week) wrote. “It didn’t take the bloggers long to realize that one way to attract a lot of traffic was to offer up outrageous behavior to the clicking public.” She recalled an evening in 2008 when two Jezebel writers got drunk during an onstage interview for the talk show “Thinking and Drinking” and made glib remarks about sexual assault. (These comments were then posted on the Huffington Post for all to see.)
I understood such hesitations—we had a big platform, and we were young and provocative and perhaps not ready for prime time—at the same time that I rejected them. In that instance, the outrageous behavior was not engineered, nor was the traffic welcomed. The entire staff was humiliated, and I was livid about it for months. Less of an embarrassment was Tkacik’s post titled “Ten Days in the Life of a Tampon.” (The headline about sums it up.) We were well aware that this sort of gross-out story might generate page views, but it was written not to attract outsized attention but to engage in a bit of truthtelling—in this case, about how women’s bodies actually work. I didn’t like it when feminists policed other feminists, though it had been happening for generations. And I wanted to think that we knew a little something about how to politicize a generation of young women—not by enforcement of doctrine but by example.
Still, a story about Jezebel was emerging: that we were deliberately provoking our readers. In July, 2010, the writer Emily Gould published a piece titled “Outrage World,” also at DoubleX, in which she accused Jezebel and other feminist blogs of cynically causing “firestorms” in order to boost page views. Gould went on to attack the site for exploiting “women’s worst tendencies” by pushing readers “to feel what the writers claim is righteously indignant rage but which is actually just petty jealousy, cleverly marketed as feminism.”
When I look back at the piece, one thing is obvious to me: some of the firestorms that began on the site accompanied legitimately infuriating reporting. The main example of a provocative post was a June, 2010, story that Irin Carmon, who would go on to do groundbreaking work on sexual harassment and abortion rights, reported about sexism at “The Daily Show.” Carmon spoke to writers, staffers, and a former executive on the show, who painted a picture of a beloved, seemingly progressive media organization that was, in fact, a boys’ club. (In 2017, Jon Stewart admitted, during an interview with Howard Stern, that she was right.)
The other thing I noticed was that Gould, like many of Jezebel’s critics, saw the writers as responsible for the commenters: if Carmon’s post provoked readers, then that was part of some master plan; if the commenters were enraged or cruel, this, too, was engineered by the site’s staff. During my time editing the site, I found these assumptions intensely frustrating. In reality, every day was a negotiation between trying to be fair to our commenters and insuring group civility. (Gould declined to comment for this piece.)
When writing this, I remembered a 2015 Jezebel piece by Jia Tolentino called “No Offense.” In it, Tolentino, who at the time was the deputy editor of the site (and now is a New Yorker staff writer ), tries to tackle multiple things at once, including how anger works on the feminist Internet and the ways in which digital media blurs the distinctions between readers and writers, creators and consumers. “There’s a large gap between ‘this is bad’ and ‘you should be offended’ that seems to vanish on the internet, and the harder we try to widen it on this website, the more we are constrained by that lingering expectation: that Jezebel exists, as some have always imagined it to, for the infantilizing purpose of telling women when they should get mad,” she wrote. Later, she added, “In theory, people still expect a feminist site to tell people what to be offended at; but what people seek from a feminist site is that the site itself will cause offense.”
I’m not sure that what people seek from a feminist site is that it will cause offense. I think they look for community. But communities can be difficult—chaotic, contentious, cacophonous. I recently came across a two-hundred-plus-page dissertation , published in 2019, called “Architecture and the Record: Negotiating Feminism in the Jezebel Comments.” It was . . . a lot. The author, Melissa Forbes, accused the site (again!) of choosing to “cater to outraged feminists.” I thought that she wasn’t giving the staffers, or our readers, much credit. But I was intrigued by Forbes’s observation that the comments provided a corrective to the feminism of the site’s writers. When the writers themselves were glib or cruel, she wrote, the commenters offered “a different kind of feminism from that practiced on the top half of the page.” I take issue with the idea that there are “different kinds” of feminism, though there are different “waves” of it. But I do believe that the commenters’ close reading of everything we did was how they forged community. They learned from one another, developed relationships, and discovered their own voices—and that was true even when they were (rightly or wrongly) angry with the editors and writers. As one commenter quoted by Forbes put it, “I have learned a lot from the kinds of articles you publish on this website, and even more from your regular commenters.”
That leaves the question of what, exactly, the Jezebel commenters had to do with the anger that exploded on social media. A few weeks ago, I spoke to the author and technologist Tobias Rose-Stockwell about his new book, “ Outrage Machine: How Tech Amplifies Discontent, Disrupts Democracy—and What We Can Do About It ,” which looks at the ways that enmity on the Internet is rewarded by social-media platforms, advertisers, and individuals. I told him about Smith’s piece, and my ambivalence toward it. I explained that, though I detested accusations that we had used anger to manipulate readers, I wondered whether the outrage culture on social media had its roots in comments sections.
Rose-Stockwell was not particularly familiar with Jezebel. (In his defense, he was not part of its target audience.) But he echoed Smith’s assertions, calling the early two-thousands comments sections of Web sites “proto-social media.” Sites like Jezebel, he said, were showing that it was “possible to bring people from passive consumers of news to engaged participants in the editorial process—something that was new for a media site.”
In 2007, when we launched Jezebel, Rose-Stockwell explained, reader remarks could not be easily boosted or reposted. Outrage or offense still occurred within the confines of communities. By 2009, however, social media—what he called “an opinion-serving machine”—was changing everything. That year, he said, “three key features: algorithmic feeds , social metrics , and one-click sharing fundamentally upgraded the speed at which we spread knowledge, propelling us into the modern viral era.”
In his book, Rose-Stockwell points out that virality did not emerge by accident. Social-media technologists prioritize posts using emotional language. These posts, in turn, can start “trigger chains”—in which social-media users are encouraged to react to inflammatory comments and “pick sides on topics about which we would otherwise have few opinions”—and cause “emotional contagion,” in which a person expressing an emotion leads to the “reflexive production of the same emotion by others in the same proximity.”
After I read this, I felt some measure of relief. The stories and topics we wrote about on Jezebel weren’t being “served,” in some premeditated performance or attempt at manipulation. They were organic. They were the point . And we were not abstract algorithms or “conflict entrepreneurs” (another useful phrase from Rose-Stockwell’s book, describing people who create or stoke chaos online in order to boost their own profiles). We were young women with agency and points of view. We were also, I should add, pretty funny. “I think that people didn’t give us credit for having a sense of humor,” Dodai Stewart, the former deputy editor, told me. “I don’t want to discount some of the more serious things, but, from my perspective, our meetings weren’t us sitting around with everyone red in the face, full of outrage and upset. We were having fun, mostly.” Erin Ryan, the former writer and commenter, took this a step further. “I don’t want to rag on anger,” she told me. “I think anger can be great. It’s the basis of a lot of great comedians and writers and opinion writers. I’d say Jezebel was a passionate Web site. But the passion wasn’t necessarily just outrage for the sake of outrage.”
In our conversation, Rose-Stockwell explained that he’s not trying to condemn outrage so much as look at it from a more systemic perspective. Outrage, online or off, allows us to understand the things that are wrong with society, and to work together to begin to fix them. It can unite people, he said, and help society to cohere around certain norms. In this sense, a lot of the outrage on Jezebel was, indeed, productive, contributing to a larger political and cultural project. I think that one can draw a straight line from the feminist Web sites of the early two-thousands to a growing mainstream discourse around gender politics and race and patriarchy, from Beyoncé performing in front of a sign that read “Feminist” at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards to the Women’s March in 2017 and the explosion of #MeToo that same year to the recent juggernaut that is the Barbie movie . (Yes, the Barbie movie. One of my former colleagues jokingly described the film as making her feel “like I was trapped in the Jezebel comments.”)
A few weeks ago, I reached out to Smith and told him that I’d been trying to sort out the discomfort I’d been feeling in the wake of his piece. I explained that I needed him to clarify what he meant when he said that Jezebel was the start of a particular digital-media age. What age was that?
“Social media,” he said. “That’s how I think about it.”
I pressed him. Was he saying that Jezebel influenced the tone on social media, the conversation, or both? Did the site augur something that was brand new, or reflect something that was already in process?
He replied that this was a question he’d struggled with while writing his book. “I feel like when I was writing, the thing that I was always running up against was, Did X cause Y, or are X and Y being carried along in the same stream?” he said.
I also wanted Smith to respond to my frustrations about that phrase “uncontrollable anger,” and the apparent ease with which he, knowingly or not, placed blame for the current political climate on outraged or opinionated women.
He conceded that his phrasing might have been problematic or inartful. “I’m not trying to invalidate women’s anger at all, but it does seem like that was part of the mix, and powerful,” he told me.
“I think that anger was part of it, yes, but I don’t think it was uncontrollable,” I replied. “I’d say it was very controlled, actually, because that was the way women learned they should express it.”
I see Jezebel not as the beginning of the end of the digital-media era but as a moment—a spark—within an ongoing discussion about gender politics. That conversation has led to new realities around sexual assault and harassment, pay inequity, and cultural depictions of women. It also makes some people uncomfortable—in part because it involves women expressing their anger in public and sustained ways. “Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger,” Audre Lorde wrote in 1981, which can act as a “powerful source of energy serving progress and change.”
If that’s part of Jezebel’s legacy, I’ll take it. It’s about everything I could have hoped for. ♦
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Opinion Guest Essay
Get to Know the Influential Conservative Intellectuals Who Help Explain G.O.P. Extremism
Credit... Illustration by Pablo Delcan; photographs by Getty Images
By Damon Linker
Mr. Linker, a former columnist at The Week, writes the newsletter Notes From the Middleground.
- Nov. 4, 2023
It’s easy to become inured to the extremism that has suffused the Republican Party in recent years. Donald Trump, the dominating front-runner for the party’s presidential nomination, spends days in court, in a judicial system he regularly disparages, charged with a long list of offenses and facing several trials.
In the House, Republicans recently chose a new speaker, Representative Mike Johnson, who not only endorsed the attempted overturning of the 2020 election but also helped to devise the rationale behind it.
We shouldn’t grow complacent about just how dangerous it all is — and how much more dangerous it could become. The efforts to overturn the 2020 election failed. We’re told that’s because the institutions held. But it’s more accurate to say that most of the individuals holding powerful positions within those institutions — the White House, the Pentagon, the courts, election officials in Georgia and other states — sided with the Constitution over Mr. Trump’s desire to remain in power.
But what if key individuals decide differently the next time they are faced with this kind of choice? What if they have come to believe that the country is in such dire straits — has reached a state of apocalyptic decadence — that democracy is a luxury we can no longer afford?
A coalition of intellectual catastrophists on the American right is trying to convince people of just that — giving the next generation of Republican officeholders, senior advisers, judges and appointees explicit permission and encouragement to believe that the country is on the verge of collapse. Some catastrophists take it a step further and suggest that officials might contemplate overthrowing liberal democracy in favor of revolutionary regime change or even imposing a right-wing dictatorship on the country.
The list of people making these arguments includes former officials in the Trump administration, some of whom are likely to be considered for top jobs in the event of a Trump restoration in 2024. It includes respected scholars at prestigious universities and influential think tanks. The ideas about the threat of an all-powerful totalitarian left and the dismal state of the country — even the most outlandish of them — are taken seriously by conservative politicians as well as prominent influencers on the right.
That makes this a crucial time to familiarize ourselves with and begin formulating a response to these ideas. If Mr. Trump manages to win the presidency again in 2024, many of these intellectual catastrophists could be ready and willing to justify deeds that could well bring American liberal democracy to its knees.
The Claremont Catastrophists
Probably the best-known faction of catastrophists and the one with the most direct connection to Republican politics is led by Michael Anton and others with ties to the Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank in California. Mr. Anton’s notorious Claremont Review of Books essay in September 2016 called the contest between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton “ The Flight 93 Election .” Mr. Anton, who would go on to serve as a National Security Council official in the Trump administration, insisted the choice facing Republicans, like the passengers on the jet hijacked by terrorists intent on self-immolation in a suicide attack on the White House or the Capitol on Sept. 11, was to “charge the cockpit or you die.” (For a few months in 2000 and 2001, Mr. Anton was my boss in the communications office of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and we have engaged in spirited debates over the years.)
Mr. Anton’s “Flight 93” essay originally appeared on a website with modest traffic, but two days later Rush Limbaugh was reading it aloud in its entirety on his radio show. The essay set the tone of life-or-death struggle (and related imagery) that is common among catastrophists.
After leaving the Trump White House, Mr. Anton updated and amplified the argument in a 2021 book, “ The Stakes : America at the Point of No Return.”
America faced a choice: Either Mr. Trump would prevail in his bid for re-election or America was doomed.
John Eastman, a conservative lawyer also at the Claremont Institute, agreed. That is why, after Joe Biden won the 2020 election, Mr. Eastman set about taking the lead in convincing Mr. Trump that there was a way for him to remain in power, if only Vice President Mike Pence treated his ceremonial role in certifying election results as a vastly broader power to delay certification.
Despite legal troubles related to the efforts to overturn the election, Mr. Eastman’s attitude hasn’t changed. In a conversation this summer with Thomas Klingenstein, a leading funder of the Claremont Institute, Mr. Eastman explained why he thought such unprecedented moves were justified.
The prospect of Mr. Biden’s becoming president constituted an “existential threat,” Mr. Eastman said, to the survivability of the country. Would we “completely repudiate every one of our founding principles” and allow ourselves to be “eradicated”? Those were the stakes, as he viewed them.
Once a thinker begins to conceive of politics as a pitched battle between the righteous and those who seek the country’s outright annihilation, extraordinary possibilities open up.
That’s how, in May 2021, Mr. Anton came to conduct a two-hour podcast with a far-right Silicon Valley tech guru and self-described “monarchist,” Curtis Yarvin, in which the two agreed that the American “regime” is today most accurately described as a “theocratic oligarchy.” In that arrangement, an elite class of progressive “priests” ensconced in executive branch agencies, the universities, elite media and other leading institutions of civil society promulgate and enforce a distorted and self-serving version of reality that illegitimately justifies their rule.
In this conversation, Mr. Anton and Mr. Yarvin swapped ideas about how this theocratic oligarchy might be overthrown. It culminated in Mr. Yarvin sketching a scenario in which a would-be dictator he alternatively describes as “Caesar” and “Trump” defies the laws and norms of democratic transition and uses a “Trump app” to direct throngs of his supporters on the streets of the nation’s capital to do his bidding, insulating the would-be dictator from harm and the consequences of his democracy-defying acts.
A year ago, Mr. Anton revisited the topic of “the perils and possibilities of Caesarism” on “ The Matthew Peterson Show ” with several other intellectual catastrophists with ties to the Claremont Institute. (Another panelist on the online show, Charles Haywood, a wealthy former businessman, used the term “ Red Caesar ,” referring to the color associated with the G.O.P., in a 2021 blog post about Mr. Anton’s second book.)
On the Peterson show, Mr. Anton described Caesarism as one-man rule that emerges “after the decay of a republican order, when it can no longer function.” (He also said that he would lament the United States coming to these circumstances because he would prefer the country to embrace the principles of “1787 forever.” But if that is no longer possible, he said, the rule of a Caesar can be a necessary method to restore order.)
The Christian Reverse Revolutionaries
Those on the right primarily concerned about the fate of traditionalist Christian morals and worship in the United States insist that we already live in a regime that oppresses and brutalizes religious believers and conservatives. And they make those charges in a theologically inflected idiom that’s meant to address and amplify the right’s intense worries about persecution by progressives.
Among the most extreme catastrophists writing in this vein is Stephen Wolfe, whose book “ The Case for Christian Nationalism ” calls for a “just revolution” against America’s “gynocracy” (rule by women) that emasculates men, persuading them to affirm “feminine virtues, such as empathy, fairness and equality.” In its place, Mr. Wolfe proposes the installation of a “Christian prince,” or a form of “theocratic Caesarism.”
Other authors aspire to greater nuance by calling the dictatorship weighing down on religious believers soft totalitarianism , usually under the rule of social-justice progressivism. These writers often draw direct parallels between the fate of devout Christians in the contemporary United States and the struggles of Eastern Europeans who sought to practice their faith but were harshly persecuted by Soviet tyranny. Establishing the validity of that parallel is the main point of the most recent book by the writer Rod Dreher, “ Live Not by Lies : A Manual for Christian Dissidents.” (The title is drawn from the writings of the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.)
But Patrick Deneen of the University of Notre Dame offers the most elaborate and intellectually sophisticated response in his recent book, “ Regime Change : Toward a Postliberal Future.” (Mr. Deneen and I worked together professionally at several points over the past two decades, and Mr. Dreher and I have been friends for even longer.)
Mr. Deneen’s previous book, “Why Liberalism Failed,” was praised by writers across the political spectrum, including former President Barack Obama, for helping readers understand the appeal of the harder-edged populist conservatism that took control of the Republican Party in 2016. “Regime Change” is a much darker book that goes well beyond diagnosing America’s ills to propose what sounds, in certain passages, like a radical cure.
The book opens with a tableau of a decaying country with declining economic prospects, blighted cities, collapsing birthrates, drug addiction and widespread suicidal despair. The source of these maladies, Mr. Deneen claims, is liberalism, which until recently has dominated both political parties in the United States, imposing an ideology of individual rights and historical progress on the country from above. This ideology, he says, denigrates tradition, faith, authority and community.
Growing numbers of Americans supposedly reject this outlook, demanding a postliberal government and social, cultural and economic order — basically, hard-right policies on religious and moral issues and hard left on economics. But the forces of liberalism are entrenched on the center left and center right, using every power at their disposal to prevent regime change.
Mr. Deneen is inconsistent in laying out how postliberal voters should achieve the overthrow of this progressive tyranny. In some passages, he advocates a “peaceful but vigorous overthrow of a corrupt and corrupting liberal ruling class” and proposes modest reforms to replace it. They include relocating executive branch departments of the federal government to cities around the country and the establishment of nationwide vocational programs.
But in other passages, Mr. Deneen goes much further, describing the separation of church and state as a “totalitarian undertaking” that must be reversed so that American public life can be fully integrated with conservative forms of Christianity. He even affirmatively quotes a passage from Machiavelli in which he talks of the need to use “extralegal and almost bestial” forms of resistance, including “mobs running through the streets,” in order to topple the powers that be.
Despite that shift in content and tone, Mr. Deneen has been embraced by many New Right conservatives and G.O.P. politicians like Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio. Senator Marco Rubio’s former chief of staff has called him “one of the important people thinking about why we are in the moment we are in right now.”
Mr. Deneen and other discontented intellectuals of the religious right can perhaps be most accurately described as political reactionaries looking to undertake a revolutionary act in reverse.
The Bronze Age Pervert and the Nietzschean Fringe
Farther out on the right’s political and philosophical extremes there’s Costin Alamariu, the person generally understood to be writing under the pseudonym Bronze Age Pervert.
He self-published a book in 2018, “Bronze Age Mindset,” which follows Friedrich Nietzsche and other authors beloved by the European far right in proclaiming that Western civilization itself is on the verge of collapse, its greatest achievements far in the past, its present a “garbage world” in an advanced state of decay.
All around us, Mr. Alamariu declares, greatness and beauty are under assault. Who are its enemies? Women, for one. (“It took 100 years of women in public life for them to almost totally destroy a civilization.”) Then there’s belief in democratic equality. (“I believe that democracy is the final cause of all the political problems I describe.”)
But blame must most of all be laid at the feet of the creature Mr. Alamariu calls the “bugman,” a term he uses to describe a majority of human beings alive today. This insectlike infestation venerates mediocrity and is “motivated by a titanic hatred of the well-turned-out and beautiful.”
Mr. Alamariu proposes breeding great men of strength who model themselves on pirates, disregarding laws and norms, plundering and taking anything they want and ultimately installing themselves as absolute rulers over the rest of us. Mr. Trump, Mr. Alamariu believes, has pointed us in the right direction. But the former president is only the beginning, he writes. “Now imagine a man of Trump’s charisma, but who is not merely beholden to the generals, but one of them, and able to rule and intimidate them as well as seduce the many. … Caesars and Napoleons are sure to follow.”
In a recent essay , Mr. Alamariu wrote: “I believe in fascism or ‘something worse’ …. I believe in rule by a military caste of men who would be able to guide society toward a morality of eugenics.”
It’s hard to know how seriously to take all of this. Mr. Alamariu, who has a Ph.D. in political science from Yale, writes in such a cartoonish way and laces his outrageous pronouncements with so much irony and humor, not to mention deliberate spelling and syntax errors, that he often seems to be playing a joke on his reader.
But that doesn’t mean influential figures on the right aren’t taking him seriously. Nate Hochman, who was let go by the presidential campaign of Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida after sharing on social media a video containing a Nazi symbol, told The New York Times that “every junior staffer in the Trump administration read ‘Bronze Age Mindset.’”
Mr. Alamariu’s recently self-published doctoral dissertation reached No. 23 on Amazon sitewide in mid-September. Among those on the right treating the author as a friend, ally or interlocutor worthy of respectful engagement are the prominent activist Christopher Rufo , the author Richard Hanania and the economist-blogger Tyler Cowen .
Combating the Catastrophists
Some will undoubtedly suggest we shouldn’t be unduly alarmed about such trends. These are just a handful of obscure writers talking to one another, very far removed from the concerns of Republican officeholders and rank-and-file voters.
But such complacency follows from a misunderstanding of the role of intellectuals in radical political movements. These writers are giving Republican elites permission and encouragement to do things that just a few years ago would have been considered unthinkable.
In a second term, Mr. Trump’s ambition is to fire tens of thousands of career civil servants throughout the federal bureaucracy and replace them with loyalists. He also reportedly plans to staff the executive branch with more aggressive right-wing lawyers. These would surely be people unwaveringly devoted to the president and his agenda as well as the danger the Democratic Party supposedly poses to the survival of the United States.
These writers also exercise a powerful influence on media personalities with large audiences. Tucker Carlson has interviewed Curtis Yarvin and declared that with regard to the 2024 election, “everything is at stake. What wouldn’t they do? What haven’t they done? How will you prepare yourself?” Other right-wing influencers with large followings assert more bluntly that if conservatives lose in 2024, they will be hunted down and murdered by the regime.
It’s important that we respond to such statements by pointing out there is literally no evidence to support them. Other intellectual catastrophists are likewise wrong to suggest the country is ruled by a progressive tyranny, and we can know this because people on the right increasingly say such things while facing no legal consequences at all.
Yes, our politics is increasingly turbulent. Yet the country endured far worse turmoil just over a half-century ago — political assassinations, huge protests, riots, hundreds of bombings, often carried out by left-wing terrorists — without dispensing with democracy or looking to a Caesar as a savior.
The question, then, is why the intellectual catastrophists have gotten to this point — and why others on the right are listening to them. The answer, I think, is an intense dislike of what America has become, combined with panic about the right’s ability to win sufficient power in the democratic arena to force a decisive change.
None of which is meant to imply that liberalism is flawless or that it doesn’t deserve criticism. But the proper arena in which to take advantage of liberalism’s protean character — its historical flexibility in response to cultural, social and economic changes over time — remains ordinary democratic politics, in which clashing parties compete for support and accept the outcome of free and fair elections.
Those on different sides of these conflicts need to be willing to accept the possibility of losing. That’s the democratic deal: No election is ever the final election.
In refusing to accept that deal, many of the right’s most prominent writers are ceasing to behave like citizens, who must be willing to share rule with others, in favor of thinking and acting like commissars eager to serve a strongman.
There may be little the rest of us can do about it besides resisting the temptation to respond in kind. In that refusal, we give the lie to claims that the liberal center has tyrannical aims of its own — and demonstrate that the right’s intellectual catastrophists are really just anticipatory sore losers.
Damon Linker writes the Substack newsletter “ Notes From the Middleground .” He is a senior lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow in the Open Society Project at the Niskanen Center.
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The Harvard Gazette
Hope for progress survives terror and war, new study finds wide gap in sat/act test scores between wealthy, lower-income kids.
National & World Affairs
Panelists Tarek Masoud (from left), Amaney Jamal, David Makovsky, Khalil Shikaki, and Shai Feldman at Klarman Hall.
Photos by Niles Singer/Harvard Staff Photographer
Can the Israelis and Palestinians find peace? Scholars discuss — and debate — long history of conflict, prospects for a durable accord
By Christina Pazzanese Harvard Staff Writer
Date November 22, 2023 November 22, 2023
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Scholars revisited the long history of Israel-Palestine conflict leading up to the Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas and weighed potential steps toward peace before hundreds of Harvard community members at Klarman Hall on Monday.
“We’re here because of dead civilians, Jewish and Arab,” said moderator Tarek Masoud, faculty chair of the Middle East Initiative and Ford Foundation Professor of Democracy and Governance at Harvard Kennedy School , which co-hosted the event with Harvard Business School .
The third such gathering convened by the Middle East Initiative in recent weeks, the event, which unfolded as Israel and Hamas negotiated a cease fire and hostage deal, was an attempt to share scholarly expertise with students so they can make better sense of the crisis and perhaps contribute to a solution, Masoud said. Srikant Datar, dean of the Business School, urged attendees to approach the talk “with open-mindedness and a commitment to empathy and learning.”
"If violence were going to solve this conflict, it would have already," said Amaney Jamal (center), dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.
It’s important to separate the terror unleashed by Hamas from the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, said David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who served as senior adviser to the State Department’s Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations from 2013 to 2014.
“This was a deliberate decision by the Hamas leadership to do [these] atrocities,” he said. “The people of Gaza did not commit these atrocities.”
Hamas chose to attack at a moment when its leadership believed Israel had been weakened by internal strife over the overhaul of Israel’s judiciary by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Makovsky. Another key factor was the worry that a normalization pact between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be “game over” for the terror group, leaving Hamas isolated from the other Arab nations that had struck accords with Israel.
Panelists agreed that Hamas members are terrorists, not freedom fighters. They also agreed that Netanyahu has used Hamas in the past to help thwart peace efforts.
“The current Israeli government, led by Netanyahu, is the same government that has been trying for most of the last 16 years to create conditions, or to support conditions, that have essentially prevented any progress in that direction,” said Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. “Hamas was very instrumental in providing that kind of environment.”
At times, Masoud politely refereed passionate disagreements among the scholars over who did what during the decades that precipitated this crisis, further underscoring the enormous challenge facing those who wish to engage in reasoned debate on the subject.
On what the way forward looks like, the panelists were uncertain.
For Netanyahu, success in the short term would be to eliminate Hamas’ fighting and governing capacity and to free the hostages held in Gaza, said Shai Feldman, a professor of Israeli politics and society at Brandeis University. But eventually, the Israeli people will force a “major reckoning” internally about the policies and strategies the prime minister and his allies adopted.
Asked what role the international community can play to facilitate peace, Feldman said that if Hamas is defeated, perhaps a regional coalition made up Egypt, Jordan, and/or Saudi Arabia could temporarily take control in Gaza and make an effort to rejuvenate the Palestinian Authority, which was pursuing a two-state solution with Israel before Hamas rose to power in 2006.
“If violence were going to solve this conflict, it would have already,” said Amaney Jamal, dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and a daughter of Palestinian immigrants. “I would rather see our policies and efforts and the Palestinian Authority … make the message of peace and reconciliation far more attractive than any other message.”
She added: “This starts with people seeing tangible changes on the ground, but also political leaders to step up and sanction their leaders when they’re espousing violence and vitriol and hatred and the dehumanization of the other. We have been victims of this conflict since we were born. We would love to turn the page and be able to live with peace and dignity as Israelis, as Palestinians.”
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What the abuse lawsuit against diddy, one of hip-hop's most powerful men, means.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 26: Sean "Diddy" Combs attends Day 1 of 2023 Invest Fest at Georgia World Congress Center on August 26, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. Paras Griffin/Getty Images hide caption
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 26: Sean "Diddy" Combs attends Day 1 of 2023 Invest Fest at Georgia World Congress Center on August 26, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Sean "Diddy" Combs, the hip-hop executive known widely as the head of Bad Boy Records, has been accused of years of abuse by R&B singer Cassie Ventura, including emotional and physical abuse, human trafficking, rape and more in a new lawsuit filed against him.
"With the expiration of New York's Adult Survivors Act fast approaching it became clear that this was an opportunity to speak up about the trauma I have experienced and that I will be recovering from for the rest of my life," Ventura said in a statement to The New York Times .
Sean 'Diddy' Combs and singer Cassie settle lawsuit alleging abuse
The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York Courts on Thursday, details decades of manipulation, intimidation and coercion that Ventura endured at the hands of the hip-hop mogul, both as a boss and romantic partner. According to the suit, Combs often "punched, beat, kicked and stomped on Ms. Ventura," forced her to engage in sexual acts with male sex workers while he masturbated and filmed the encounters, coerced her into taking drugs and into procuring drugs for him, forced her to carry his firearm and would violently retaliate any time someone would try to intervene in the relationship.
Combs and Ventura began working together in 2005 when Ventura's first label, NextSelection, run by producer and artist Ryan Leslie, partnered with Bad Boy to release her self-titled debut album. It was the only album she released on the label and spawned 2006 hits "Me & U" and "Long Way 2 Go."
According to the filing, Combs exerted this level of control over Ventura's life from the very beginning of their relationship. He took hold of medical records from an MRI that showed she suffered memory loss and would frequently delete photo evidence of her bruises. Toward the end of their relationship in 2018, the suit states Combs raped Ventura in her own home.
Hip-Hop mogul Sean Combs accused of trafficking, sexual assault and abuse in lawsuit
Ventura filed this suit under New York's Adult Survivors Act , a recently passed bill that opened up a one-year look-back window allowing adult survivors whose statute of limitations have expired the ability to file a civil case against their accused offender. (Former record executive Drew Dixon also recently filed a civil suit under the same act against her former boss, record exec L.A. Reid.) The window to file is set to expire next week, on Nov. 24, and with this filing, Ventura is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages.
Michael Polenberg, Vice President of Government Affairs for victims assistance organization Safe Horizon , characterizes the Adult Survivor Acts as "a statement of understanding, in a more profound way, the way trauma can affect a survivor and why someone might not come forward right away to report an incident of abuse. Sometimes people don't fully process what happens to them until months or years or even decades later."
Victim services organizations like Safe Horizon advocated for the passing of the bill since it was first drafted in 2019, believing it fills a void in the judicial system's treatment of survivorship.
When speaking to the one-year window, a short and finite period for survivors to come forward, Polenberg notes that the bill's passing meant there could be opportunities to expand the scope in the future, but acknowledged the strategy of working toward wins in the present: "It's always a balance of the perfect and what you think you can get done."
In a statement, Combs has denied the allegations. He is now the latest on a growing list of music moguls accused of sexual misconduct, a list that includes the Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons. But of the many accused offenders in the hip-hop space in recent years, Combs may be the most active and the most prominent.
Since founding Bad Boy in 1993, Combs has shaped the careers of iconic hip-hop and R&B acts like The Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown, Mase and Mary J. Blige. At the turn of the century, Combs, who at various points has gone by Puff Daddy, P. Diddy and Love, transitioned from music executive to corporate executive. Having aided greatly in the commercialization of rap, he branched out into fashion, lifestyle, culinary and reality TV spaces. Brands like Sean John Clothing and shows like Making The Band cemented Combs as not only an industry name but a recognizable personality. He set the tone for hip-hop's upper echelon: From his illustrious and extravagant Hamptons white parties to photogenic antics on Met Gala red carpets, Combs has come to be known as a pillar of success, a representative of hip-hop's potential to reach new capitalist heights. Up until very recently, he was considered the richest man in rap , thanks to lucrative deals with Ciroc Vodka and the expansion of his media platform, Revolt Media. As of today, Combs is on the short list of hip-hop billionaires .
Combs also remains an active artist. In September, he released his first solo album in over 15 years, The Love Album: Off The Grid, which recently received a Grammy nomination. Last year, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from BET .
Louder Than A Riot
If you see something, say nothing: kim osorio v. 'the source'.
Ventura's suit demonstrates how wealthy and influential men leverage their positions to abuse and restrict their victims. It alleges that the people who work for Combs not only concealed his behavior but helped him control her. As Louder Than A Riot reported, the rampant mistreatment of women in the hip-hop industry has been normalized by peers who refuse to hold them accountable, and the deafening silence has led to a toxic culture that enables powerful men.
Some of the women who were once signed to Bad Boy have since voiced support for Ventura. Dawn Richard tweeted , "praying for Cassie and her family, for peace and healing. you are beautiful and brave." Richard's former groupmates, Aubrey O'Day and D. Woods, of the Making the Band -winning Danity Kane, called for greater transparency. "I am in full support of Cassie. It isn't easy to take on one of the most powerful people in this industry and be honest about your experience with them," O'Day told Entertainment Tonight . "May her voice bring all the others to the table, so we can start having more transparent conversations about what is actually happening behind the scenes. There is a lot more to all of our stories!"
Ventura's lawsuit has once again ignited the public desire to see a greater reckoning around sexual assault in the rap community. Activist Tarana Burke told Louder that hip-hop was left out of the MeToo movement in 2017, not simply because of denial, obfuscation and apathy, but because there is a feeling among Black men that admitting such abuse and engaging with the justice system to hold offenders accountable is an inherent betrayal, given the racist roots of that system.
"No matter what we do, you have some way in which men will silence [us], will not recognize we have these moments where we get diminished. And you're going to have people who will excoriate me. They'll be like, 'You just want to take down our men'," Burke explained. "If we love hip-hop, accountability is a part of love ... If we really love hip-hop, then we would hold ourselves accountable. We would hold it accountable. Those two things can happen at the same time."
"We need the men," the rapper Latto told Louder Than A Riot reporters. "We need them to call these n****s out when they do some lame s***. That might be your partner. Y'all might be from the same hood. Y'all might got a mixtape together or a feature, whatever. But we need them to speak up for us, because the s*** these n****s be doing and getting away with publicly and nobody speaks up, that's foul. We all have to work together to rewrite that."
In this troubling reality, we have also seen a malicious pattern play out, where corroboration from men holds more sway than the female victims' accusation. In the case where Tory Lanez was found guilty of shooting Megan Thee Stallion in 2022, many still did not believe Megan until guilt-stricken jail calls of Lanez surfaced. In this lawsuit, one claim from the complaint seems to be gaining more traction than the others: a 2012 incident in which Combs allegedly threatened to blow up the car of Ventura's then-boyfriend, the rapper Kid Cudi, and his car exploded in his driveway shortly thereafter. This is, in part, because Cudi backed up Ventura's assertion. It is important for men to stand with women, and to speak up in support of their claims, but it is even more important to let the word of the survivor hold its own weight.
The suit being brought forth feels like a potential beacon for those survivors, a way to let them know they are being heard and action is coming. A case of this stature, taking on a man this visible and powerful, could set off a chain reaction that reverberates throughout the community and leads to the accountability movement in hip-hop that many have been waiting for.