The Real Reality of Vlogs
For better or for worse, vlogs are the ultimate intersection of intimacy and entertainment.
By Michelle Criqui, James Madison University
When it comes to reality television these days, it can be hard to tell how much of it—if any—is actually “reality.”
It can be easy to be sucked into the mindless, repetitive cycle of crocodile tears and huge, drawn-out ordeals over first-world problems, without ever taking anything substantial away from it. While channels such as TLC and MTV can be incredibly entertaining to watch, there’s a certain unnatural sheen to them that often doesn’t accurately depict the real reality of the average human life.
With so much of today’s entertainment stemming from the internet, you needn’t look any further than good old YouTube for reality shows that are actually true to their name. Video bloggers—or “vloggers”—film their day-to-day perspectives and opinions from various walks of life, posting them to the internet for the entire world to see. If you’re sick of the scripted fights and manipulative friendships, look no further than these vloggers for a healthy dose of reality,
With his ridiculously cool, totally legitimate name, Charles Trippy leads the pack of YouTube daily vloggers with his Guinness World Record for the most consecutive daily video blogs posted to the website (2618, as of July 1, 2016). Since May 1st, 2009, Charles has posted a video every single day depicting his regular, everyday life, with all of its many ups and downs, for the entire world to see and comment upon in a very “Truman Show”-esque way.
During that time, Charles has shared nearly every aspect of his daily life with his viewers, whom he affectionately calls the CTFxC (or “Charles Trippy Family Core”—the “x” is silent). For over eight years, Charles has used this platform to put his real life on display for anyone to see, through all of his incredible breakthroughs and heart-wrenching downfalls.
Charles has kept right on filming through various moves, his engagement, marriage and eventual divorce, being diagnosed with brain cancer and enduring several surgeries (and even filming during one of them!), joining alternative rock band We The Kings as a bassist and touring the world, and his recent engagement to his current fiancée , Allie Wes.
Through it all, Charles has maintained an incredibly positive outlook on life, and continues to demonstrate that you should “take every day, love every day, enjoy every day, and even if you have a crappy day, find the fun things in it.”
Spearheaded by eccentric goofball and former radio DJ Shay Carl Butler, the Shaytards are the unofficial First Family of YouTube, with over four million subscribers and 2.3 billion video views. What started off as a personal challenge for Shay to post a video every day during his 29th year of life back in 2009 quickly turned into an ongoing series of daily and weekly vlogs, showcasing Shay’s ever-expanding family and his infectious zeal for life.
The name of the channel might seem a bit strange, and it is.
It comes from an older video that the family created, featuring Shay wearing a leotard, jumping around and shouting playfully in his typical goofy fashion. As the internet was a much more new and less secure place at the start of his YouTube career, Shay decided to protect his family members’ identities by giving them each a nickname ending in “-tard.” Thus, his wife Colette became “Mommytard,” his oldest son Gavin became “Sontard,” and his daughters Avia and Emmi became “Princesstard” and “Babytard.”
As the channel got more popular (and the family added two new sons to their brood), the nicknames eventually dropped. But the Shaytards remained the same loving, hilarious and supportive family throughout it all, continuing to draw in hundreds of thousands of views to every upload.
The Shaytards vlogs focus primarily on this silly, musically talented family of seven, as viewers get the opportunity to literally watch Shay’s children grow up and experience the various challenges and miracles of life. With the recorded birth of his sons Brock (“Rocktard”) in 2010 and Daxton (“Brotard”) in 2013, Shay has succeeded in bringing viewers right into his home and making them feel like a part of the family.
Since 2011, this sweet and strong family has uploaded vlogs to their channel starring their three children: Caleb, the baseball player, Annie, the gymnast, and Hayley, the “sassy 7-year old” from whom the channel originally got its playfully affectionate name (Brat + Hayley = Bratayley). During the past five years, the channel’s vlogs have featured gymnastics meets, baseball games, trips to the beach with family and friends, challenge videos and the overall average life of three young siblings.
That is, until the unfortunate and sudden death of 13-year-old Caleb in October 2015, who suffered from an undetected case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
After taking some time away from the vlogs to begin their long road of grief and recovery, the incredibly resilient Bratayley family did what many thought they would never do: They picked up the camera and began vlogging again.
Adopting the mantra “Celebrate Life” (occasionally spelled “Caleb-rate Life” in Caleb’s honor), Bratayley opted to show the happy, positive moments in the lives of Caleb’s younger sisters, 11-year old Annie and 7-year old Hayley, instead of focusing solely on the negative. Since Caleb’s death, the Bratayley channel has achieved over 2 million subscribers and has shown that through faith, love and unending support of one another, a rainbow can be seen even after the darkest of storms.
With the personal slogan “Smile More,” hidden camera prankster Roman Atwood achieves this goal on the daily, keeping his 8 million subscribers entertained with silly vlogs and crazy prank videos.
From his home base in Ohio, Roman shares his daily life online with sons Noah and Kane and girlfriend Brittney in tow, the latter of whom is often the recipient of his many ridiculous pranks. These have included such cringe-worthy classics as the “Plastic Ball Prank,” in which Roman fills up his entire house with little plastic balls, the “Anniversary Prank,” in which Roman pretends to have cheated on his girlfriend to spur a heated reaction from her and the infamous “Killing My Kid Prank,” in which Roman tosses a doll dressed up as his son from a balcony and watches as his girlfriend completely freaks out (as she should).
Surprisingly, she has stuck with him throughout all of this, which is a testament in itself to Roman’s high-energy, positive personality that contributes to his smile-inducing daily vlogs.
No matter whose channel you click on, YouTube vloggers provide an interesting, often inspirational look into the real lives of (mostly) regular human beings, who simply decided to pick up a camera and start filming. There’s a certain comfort in watching these people endure and eventually overcome their obstacles in life, as it shows that every single person has a battle to fight in this world, no matter how perfect their lives might seem from the outside. The ever-evolving YouTube industry has become a platform for unheard voices from a variety of perspectives, creating a space for something that is severely lacking in today’s world of entertainment: Reality.