So, YouTube is a thing. Like all Internet things, it can be hard to navigate the area without some guidance. So, I’ve come here to guide you through possibly the first part in a series about the YouTubers who have educated and influenced me. If any of them interest you, be sure to give them a look.
Jim Sterling – Jim Sterling is a divisive figure. A former games critic who has turned his ire on the shitty practices of the game industry in an attempt to be the last bastion of criticism against shady goings on in games such as microtransactions and loot boxes that are increasingly becoming the norm. One of the videos I enjoyed most was Jim’s critique of the ‘git gud’ subculture that emerged in the Dark Souls community and that was later fuelled by the marketing of the series. In the video, Sterling argues that difficulty shouldn’t be the be-all-end-all of Dark Souls. In another of Sterling’s series, Commentocracy, he uses the persona of an eighteenth-century French aristocrat to show the elitist way that some talk about video games, the most recent video being about how Cuphead Fans can be the worst.
Politics and Philosophy
H. Bomberguy – Perhaps my favourite YouTuber, H. Bomberguy does two things: debunking the arguments of ‘rational’ anti-feminists and deep dives into pop culture ephemera. My first exposure to H. Bomberguy was his humorous look at some of the terrible anti-feminists of YouTube with pitch-perfect sarcasm and laughs at their ridiculous obsession with suits and skulls. In the same vein, he also looks at the terrible ideology behind the people who call themselves ‘Pick-up artists’ and their deeply unpleasant thoughts about women (Also, all the guest contributors in this video are also great). The last video I want to recommend of H. Bomberguy’s videos is in my eyes, his Magnum Opus. For just under two hours, he details the issue with Moffat’s writing, how Sherlock was warped by its extravagant budget, and how the BBC tends to be a bit nepotistic. If you ever want to know why I fell out of love with Doctor Who and Sherlock, this video explains nearly every issue I have deftly.
Contra Points – Contra’s videos are thought-provoking looks into contemporary discussion points framed beautifully in a style that is art house meets 80s kitsch. Contra speaks authoritatively about such subjects as the common talking point that the Left hates free speech and how valid that idea is. In other videos, Contra examines how we speak about gender and how we negotiate our ideas of gender and those who don’t fit gender norms.
Philosophy Tube – Philosophy Tube is a channel run by Olly, an English fellow with an advanced academic understanding of philosophy. He uses this viewpoint to educate his audience about historical philosophical viewpoints and examine current philosophical viewpoints and their place in history. This process also involves examining how these ideologies affect the world at large. His most series, What was Liberalism, discussed the rise of liberalism and neoliberalism and how those ideas are clashing with resurging fascism on the right and socialism on the left. In another video series, Olly compares our current refugee crisis to the refugee crisis of post-World War I Europe and what that means for us in the modern era.
Media Critique and Analysis
Movie Bob – MovieBob is sometimes a film reviewer and sometimes a cultural critic. In his Really That Good series, he examines why films like The Matrix and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films had the impact that they did, what their current cultural value is despite their popularity overshadowing their quality. He also looks at the often overlooked Agents of Shield and particularly how Season 3 of Agents of Shield was such a letdown as compared to the well-executed Season 2. He also once unleashed my favourite eviscerating tirade of Batman v Superman ever.
Idea Channel – In terms of topics, Idea Channel is probably the most influential on me of the channels on this list. Now ended, Idea Channel often discussed contemporary culture in connection to some piece of academic theory in a quasi-X-meets-Y style. In one video, the show as hosted by Mike Rugnetta looks at the ideas of Francis Fukuyama about the end of history and how they collide with the contemporary rise of hardline right-wing politicians *cough* Trump *cough*. Idea Channel also looks at how money moves, historically and contemporarily and what that means. Idea Channel also discussed the cultural value of the Fidget Spinner and what the fidget spinner’s popularity means for ideas about fidgeting itself.
Lindsay Ellis – You may be familiar with Lindsay Ellis from her previous life as an associate of the Nostalgia Critic. Ellis has since moved on and become a video essayist examining the ideas and ideologies behind much of pop culture such as her most recent video where she discusses Disney and its attitude towards revisionist history. She uses the film Saving Mr Banks to examine the complicated dynamic that Disney has stumbled into in the 21st century following decades of using history as their own personal amusement park. In another video, she discusses the affecting power of the themes lying at the heart of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and its interesting discussion of father issues, looking at how that affected her in the wake of her own father’s passing. Ellis also looks at the use of Nazis in comedy and the common defence that ‘Mel Brooks did it. She looks at Brooks’ very nuanced understanding of the power of satire and comedy at large. Finally, her Whole Plate series looks at film theory and language through Michael Bay’s Transformers. Yes, really. It is fantastic and thoughtful where those films are not.
Folding Ideas – Dan Olson is Folding Ideas. The channel examines film mostly through technique and technical theory, such as his excellent breakdown of the Kuleshov Effect. Following from that, he also looks at the terrible editing of Suicide Squad and how it muddies understanding with some truly baffling decisions and you know me, I love slagging off the efforts of the 2016 DCCU and its hundred million dollars mistakes that people call movies. In another video, Dan examines the ideas and base assumptions of those that formed the misogynistic gaming hate movement known as Gamergate, a movement that had absolutely no merit and is a stain on the medium of video games to this day.
Kyle Kallgren BHH – Kyle Kallgren is, like all the people on this list, a smart man who knows quite a bit about art. His insights into Shakespeare particularly helped me parse through the subject matter while I took a unit on the Bard. His retrospective on Kenneth Branagh’s relationship with Shakespeare on film inspired my piece about the Shakespearean blood running through the first Thor movie. He also examined how we think of Shakespeare through the film Shakespeare in Love which does some interesting things to Shakespeare in order to get him to fulfil what we think of as an artist. His video on the Civilization series asked a question that I myself asked of the series, namely Who Gets to Be a Civilisation? Finally, as a local Washingtonian, he has examined how Washington DC is depicted on film and what that says about culture’s relationship to it.
Patrick (H) Willems – So you know how DC fanboys always complain about Marvel no matter the subject matter. Well, none of their posturing about the true value of DC films held much weight for me. The reason I mention this is that Patrick (H) Willems succeeded where those fans failed. He provided a valid critique of Marvel movies that I agree with and even an area where DC excels over Marvel. You may have seen his video floating around titled Why Marvel Movies Look Kind of Ugly and it’s a valid criticism as he delves into colour grading in contemporary Hollywood. He also delves into the fact that, prior to Wonder Woman, DC was coasting on the name recognition of their heroes and weren’t really building enjoyable or complete characters which may be DC’s Achilles Heel when it comes to long-term universe building.
Red Letter Media – You might have seen Red Letter Media through their Plinkett deconstructions of the Star Wars prequels. While those videos are certainly good and cover many of the issues of the prequels that exemplify that Lucas is a good creator of stories but a terrible screenwriter, they also have videos examining other films. Their Half in the Bag series is often a cynical discussion about the latest big movie or trash movie to come to cinemas. Their deft observations into Adam Sandler movies opened my eyes to the way that Adam Sandler keep being allowed to make movies. Then there’s their short form stuff such as their video on Boyhood (It took 12 years to make). One video I particularly enjoy is their Fuck You, It’s January video where they have a look at all the movies that are arriving that year and how, um, great they’ll be.
ProZD – ProZD does voices, likes anime, and might be a former Vine star. Perhaps this cross-section is best realised in his video ‘sports commentators commentating a romantic anime scene’. Another example of his style is his video about the guy who you know is the bad guy from the start. He’s also covered opinions on the internet and Nintendo’s obsession with iterating endlessly on the 3DS, and its name. Most of his short form comedy sketches are under a minute and worth looking through.
Griffin McElroy (Polygon) – This is less a channel recommendation and more a recommendation of an individual. You may have heard the McElroy name before. You may have heard the Polygon name before. If you only know Polygon for its game coverage, it’s worth checking out their comedy output. First on the list is their series Monster Factory, where brothers Griffin and Justin use character customisation to break it in interesting ways and make unique characters. None more unique than The Final Pam from Fallout 4, a former housewife with fire and fury burning in her soul. This second video, while not being part of the Polygon channel, is as the title describes ‘The Best Monster Factory Moment’ in which Griffin and Travis ensconce themselves in a political meeting-of-the-minds group in Second Life. Finally, I want to recommend the episodes where Griffin and Justin play around in Champions Online and make ultimate hero Knife Dad, who I would describe as Beast meets Deathstroke meets flannel. (Note: While I would recommend Cool Games Inc. as it is a rather humorous series, the outing of Nick Robinson as a milkshake duck of the Harvey Weinstein variety has made it difficult to return to that series).
Door Monster – Thus, we end our tour of YouTube with a group who do sketches mostly based around video games, such as their video about loading old saves having forgotten everything the game had been teaching you for the past six hours. Then there is their video on D&D Diplomacy and how strange bluffing your way through an encounter in that world can be. Finally, there is their look at Civ 5 and how the AI is clearly preparing to invade.
So that’s my list. When recommending any kind of media, the usual caveats apply. Your Mileage May Vary and, while I’ve tried to avoid any problematic people here, the truth is that no media is perfect and some of their older content may not age as well. With that said, these are good people. If you approach the thoughtful while being thoughtful yourself, you’ll gain something. If you find the humour you enjoy in the humorous, then enjoy away. In fact, while I’m here, feel free to recommend any YouTube channels you think I might enjoy. You’ve seen my tastes, you might have an untapped name to mention (though, this is by no means an exhaustive list of my subscriptions).
Got thoughts? Comment below or via social media.