Best of YouTube 2018

2018 has been a hard year for me. I wasn’t initially going to write a retrospective for this year. I won’t get into all the details of why my year has been difficult but I’m sure everyone remembers the growing pains of leaving academia. There were bright spots. I might explain my feelings in a longer form piece when I feel I’m out of the woods. As usual, I enjoyed my fair share of media. I wrote a ton about media this year too. Usually I begin talking about my favourite song of 2018 but any songs I was drawn to this year were not released in 2018.

However, the sections of YouTube that I frequent had something of a renaissance this year. Picking the ‘best’ video was especially hard. Every channel below released some of their best work in 2018 and elevated the medium in their own way. So I’m going to explore a collection of what you might call honourable mentions but is more like a list of equal first place.

Elon Musk by Philosophy Tube: This video shares some DNA with my piece about Elon Musk earlier in the year. Olly’s video was released a few weeks after my piece. Why Elon Musk? I’ll answer that in a moment. The video is a tour-de-force of theatricality, solid philosophical framework and a critique of billionaires like Musk in our current era. Musk was an interesting figure this year. He launched a Tesla into space, drawing attention to both companies in the early part of the year. He got huffy when no-one needed his submarine in Thailand. His tweets landed him in hot water legally. Now, he has a less-efficient subway system in development. I was interested in Musk as an ideologue, Olly is interested in him as a figure wrapped in the stories we tell about billionaires. Elon Musk as billionaire codifier. Born with emeralds in his pockets and a folk hero for those with an eye towards the stars, Elon Musk reveals a darker side to the way we view wealth.

CTRL+ALT+DEL | SLA 3 () by hbomberguy: Speaking of dark reflections of our society, H. Bomberguy (my gateway drug to socialism) takes a video that originally sold itself as a Sonic 3 analysis turns into something different. Examining the webcomic CAD, Harris jumps across mediums and critiques to bring a variety of fascinating details to light. He examines how iconic comic page Loss connects to CAD’s wider architecture. He delivers the most succinct and plausible explanation for the Room in a video that mostly uses that analysis as a metaphor. He dives into aspects of how uncomfortable the dynamic between those who emblazon the concept of gamer across themselves and the women that are reduced to inputs and outputs by those gamers. And the ending. YouTube Rewind should just be replaced with the ending to this video as emblematic of what YouTube can create.

Lindsay Ellis’ Two-Part Hobbit Trilogy: At first, this series looks like it might just be a dissection of the Hobbit films and their specific failings until it becomes eerily resonant when reflecting on un-seeing the films, un-growing up. It reminds me of the most literal translation of the term nostalgia, from the greek nostos (homecoming) and algos (ache). Something more than thinking back to an idyllic, ephemeral past but a true desire to return home. All captured in about two minutes. Then the trilogy shifts to what might be the best examination of how the Hobbit films got to be how they ended up. From studios to industrial action, it is a captivating watch.

The Alt-Right Playbook: You Go High, We Go Low by Innuendo Studios: There’s something frustratinginfuriating… about the concepts in this video. Both the Alt-Right Playbook, of which this is an entry, and Why Are You So Angry? (on Gamergate) are great looks at how some of the darker sides of our culture managed to make their way into contemporary politics. This video looks at how someone committed to partisanship can disrupt the current American system and destabilise the shaky ground that left-leaning candidates and pundits work on. Watching this video help clarify some baffling political decisions of our current moment.

Wealth Hoarders by Peter Coffin: Like everyone on this list, I could recommend nearly every video on Peter Coffin’s YouTube channel. I chose this one. Surprise, it’s a critique of billionaires again. A dissection of those who espouse the ideas of Ayn Rand, revealing more about themselves than others in the process. A scathing indictment of Bill Gates, Nestle, and those who concentrate wealth. All this, while being thoroughly entertaining.

FAKE FRIENDS EPISODE TWO: parasocial hell by StrucciMovies: I feel like I know you. Perhaps the most terrifying sentence in our modern media landscape. Parasocial relationships are relationships that form one way. When so much of our media landscape is people playing video games, or talking about movies, or talking about their interests it can make people feel connected to this person. Like they are friends separated by a screen and geography. Shannon’s entry into her ongoing series explores parasocial relationships in a way that reframes so many online interactions. I recommend watching Part One to this series as a primer and watching Philosophy Tube’s video YouTube: Art or Reality as a follow-up because this is an important and broad subject.

Incels by ContraPoints: It was so difficult to pick my favourite video of the year. This has to be it. A lot has been written about incels over the course of this year. A lot has been written about Natalie Wynn, the woman behind ContraPoints. Incels as a community have been mocked, produced mass shooters, and critiqued. Wynn takes a different approach. She dives into the reasons that these groups attract people. More than that, she looks at the insular communities and their mental health and finds a point of empathy. She talks about resonant concepts like catastrophizing, wherein an individual follows a slight mishap to an apocalyptic conclusion. She talks about the toxic digital self-harm that people uses these communities for. She relates it back to her own digital self-harm during the early days of her transitioning as a trans woman. She reaches out a hand and suggests resources to help people out and that might be the best way to combat the darkness. With a point of empathy and an outreached hand.


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