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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

It is easier now, more than ever, for anyone with a half-decent camera and microphone to film themselves and their opinions on literally anything. While a lot of this public sharing of various opinions has been left to mere comments, replies, notes, or retweets, some of the brave few creatives have turned to the video essay. This video medium has taken YouTube by storm.

Right now, as I am writing this, I have 4 tabs of different video essays open on completely different topics. Either because I enjoy the creator and their opinions, or because the content itself is interesting enough to have drawn me in. In a way, these videos can form part of personal research on topics you’re interested in, or give you a deeper understanding from different points of view on topics you were already well-versed in.

Many Youtubers tend to categorise themselves within a certain video style or niche. You get those who only do prank videos or giveaway videos, the likes of which my 16-year-old brother is obsessed, or those who test out and review various products in the tech, toy, or beauty spheres. There are makeup channels, conspiracy channels, travel channels, and the list just go on. But channels which focus their content on delivering subjective or objective information on a particular topic, are considered video essay channels. They are distinct from what’s known as “commentary channels” in that they don’t simply react to and comment on another form of media, they also attempt to argue a particular view or bring in new information to sway the viewer into seeing their perspective.

While many of these channels form part of a team, allowing the said channel to bring out more content, I would advocate for the channels which consist of individuals, as the videos made by sole Youtubers usually fall into specific niches. This allows for a more personalised experience for the viewer if they fall into that niche. A lot of the most popular video essays currently, revolve around Gen Z cultures, such as Sarah Z’s The Rise and Fall of Teen Dystopia, and Khadija Mbowe’s The Reign of the Slim-Thick Influencer or Super Eye Patch Wolf’s The Fall of The Simpsons: How it Happened. This can be seen as both a comment on who owns the internet monopoly as of now and on how well this medium communicates to our generation.

An example of a video essay: Sarah Z’s The Rise and Fall of Teen Dystopia.

Video essays are not exclusive to YouTube, especially now that TikTok has increased its maximum video limit to 10 minutes. Contrary to the name, a video essay does not have to be lengthy as long as it covers all the content it needs in one go. Shorter, more concise video essays might even draw in more viewers than the ones on YouTube which tend to go up to an hour on average.

Seeing the multitude of topics being posted and discussed each day has me undoubtedly excited for the content that is to come. While the video style isn’t necessarily anything new, its rise in popularity as a medium – especially with the interesting, refined and sometimes niche content – has brought it to the attention of many more regulars on the YouTube space.

Jasmine is a third year student at the University of Cape Town, majoring in English and film studies. Writing and reading are her two greatest passions, next to geeking out about the newest Netflix series and listening to chill lo-fi beats.