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5 of My Favorite Video Essays and What I’ve Learned From Them

I am a big fan of video essays. I think they’re a creative way to capture the attention of an audience and inform them of a subject all while pairing the information with interesting visuals. In one of my courses here at UMass, I had to create my own video essay. And let me tell you, it was not easy. A lot of work goes into not only the research, but also the video editing itself. So here, I’m giving some appreciation for my favorite video essays that everyone should check out and what I’ve learned from them.

Born Sexy Yesterday by Pop Culture Detective

This video essay dives into the media trope where female characters are essentially infantilized by being introduced to a new world (figuratively or literally) in which they are unfamiliar while in the body of a mature, adult woman. The female character is characterized with the same traits as a child — naive, gullible, etc. — all while simultaneously being sexualized. It explores the problems of this romance trope and calls for future writers to have male characters embrace female characters as their equal. This video essay gives insight into one of many sexist media tropes that fly under the radar. When I first saw this video, it inspired me to look deeper into the media we consume and see how the portrayal of women in the media influences us as a society.

Why Did We Get Columbine So Wrong? By Ask a Mortician

Ask a Mortician dives into the narrative that surrounds the Columbine school shooting that occurred in 1999, which holds cultural power and even influenced future attacks. In the video essay, it is revealed that the narrative of tragedy is mostly false and has been even mythologized through the years. This video essay taught me about how the media can be deceptive for the sake of a compelling story and profit.

Defunctland: The History of Disneyland’s Teen Nightclub, Videopolis by Defunctland

Defunctland explains the history of Disneyland’s teen nightclub, including why it was created and the controversies and incidents that occurred at Videopolis. Some of the incidents at Videopolis included gang fights and homophobic rules about same-sex dancing from Disney. This video essay gave me a lot of insight about the culture of young adults in the 1980s.

Gone Girl — Don’t Underestimate the Screenwriter by Lessons from the Screenplay

In this video essay, Lessons From the Screenplay analyzes the writing of Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of her own novel Gone Girl into a screenplay. Here, it emphasizes how the action lines create the tone for each scene. This video essay conveys the importance of deliberation and intention in writing and how it can be beautifully transferred from the page to the screen, even when the dialogue changes. There are spoilers for Gone Girl in this video essay, so I suggest watching the film before checking this one out.

Losing Your Relatability by Drew Gooden

Drew Gooden explores the idea of how people who have garnered an audience through their relatability (which Drew notices to be happening a lot more with YouTubers these days) often end up losing a lot of their likability after gaining wealth, success, and fame. Drew uses the ACE Family on YouTube as an example in this video. This is a very interesting exploration of the parasocial relationship between a YouTuber and their audience and the paradoxical idea of flexing wealth to the group of people that caused that wealth. This video essay made me think more deeply about how it’s nearly impossible to stay in touch with the average viewer after gaining massive success.

If you haven’t seen any video essays, I highly recommend checking these ones out. Even if the video essays I recommended don’t cater to your interest, there are many more topics that might be of interest to you. You can find them with a search on YouTube!

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Victoria Dodd

U Mass Amherst '22

Victoria is a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a major in communication. When she's not writing, you can find her listening to music, watching too many movies, or meditating. Victoria has a wide range of interests such as pop culture, film, music, history, politics, and health and wellness. You can follow her on instagram @flicksfromvic or @vic_dodd.
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