The conspiracies that Dawson investigates are either already-established phenomena, or just uninteresting. (Illustration by Juliana Renk, University of California, Berkeley)

Conspiracy theories are the best form of entertainment you can get next to horror movies. Do you want to be scared to fall asleep alone? Simply search for a conspiracy theory on the internet. Because of that, I was ecstatic to discover that the first part of Shane Dawson’s conspiracy theory documentary had been released, but I, like many others, was very disappointed.

This isn’t Dawson’s first dive into the conspiracy realm. He has already created a mini-series where he discusses well-known theories and presents them to his audience in a creepy way that leaves them questioning their own reality.

Dawson has recently decided to change his style and produce more documentary-style videos, diving deep into investigating controversial YouTubers, such as Jeffree Star and Jake Paul. The series, in total, were over a few hours in length and garnered millions of views.

Personally, I watched his series on Jake Paul. Correction: I was obsessed with his series on Jake Paul. I had my notifications on for Dawson’s tweets and stayed up late into the night to watch the latest released part, talking about it nonstop to anyone who would give me the opportunity.

I was also constantly looking for the next conspiracy theory to blow my mind, so when I heard that Dawson was going to finally combine these two, I was ready for my world to change. I thought that the first part being over 90 minutes wasn’t going to be enough time. I needed more.

Instead, what I received was a series extremely high in production quality, but low in terms of the theories that were actually discussed.

The most popular theory seems to be the iPhone conspiracy, which is nothing new on the internet. According to the theory, a person calling someone on their iPhone can hear them just a few seconds before they actually pick up the phone. This was tested in Dawson’s video and proven to be true. Apple also recently released a statement that this is a glitch from the most recent iOS update.

Glitch aside, the aspect that is freaking everyone out is the fact that your iPhone is recording you at all times. This paranoia escalated further in the video by investigating various apps and the Live Photo feature on the iPhone’s camera. The conclusion: Yes, your iPhone is definitely recording you at all times. But isn’t this something that we already know?

I get it: It’s funny to joke about how your special agent watching you behind a screen probably judges your search engine results. I think the idea that we are constantly being watched is such a normalized concept that it is no longer scary; it’s simply a reality. We are witnessing a generation that is growing up almost constantly under surveillance and they don’t bat an eye at the concept.

This makes the whole fear tactic seem lackluster. The concept is unsettling at best, but I don’t plan on throwing out my iPhone anytime soon. Dawson seemed to make the iPhone conspiracies the focus of this first part, which led to a rocky start.

Part of what makes Dawson’s videos so intriguing, though, is the production level. The editing is top notch and his narration can leave any skeptic feeling a little uneasy. If all of those bells and whistles weren’t present, I honestly would have turned off the video and given up. The reason? The theories started to be a ridiculous stretch.

Dawson made it seem like the theories he was going to deliver were the next big thing. They weren’t. He discussed the subliminal messages in children’s cartoons and board games that are used to encourage socially approved values. It’s an old concept that he simply dusted off and presented on a silver platter with little new evidence, a disappointment that would have any conspiracy theory veteran shaking their head. I think a better term for this series would be speculation, because Dawson never necessarily brings forward any evidence that could benefit his case either.

If I’m going to watch a video for almost two hours, I want to be in for the long haul. I want cold case files and things that I haven’t seen before. I don’t want to discuss the speculation that the government is constantly watching us and manipulating us in order to buy more products. That’s just a reality that our generation has accepted and it doesn’t faze me. It’s just marketing.

Dawson had an interesting theory about Walt Disney freezing his body after his death in order to one day come back to life. According to the theory, the Disney company actually created the movie “Frozen” in order to bury the search results about a frozen body.

Creating an entire movie to hide some search results about a process that a lot of wealthy people admit to doing seems like a bit of a stretch, but nevertheless, I still got a little creeped out. Frozen heads can make anyone uneasy. Sadly, this theory wasn’t discussed nearly as much as the others, and it was the one I wanted Dawson to investigate the most. Instead, he showed clips of scientists discussing how it is possible to bring these frozen people back to life through a specific process.

This isn’t conspiracy; this is just a scientific possibility. Once you bring that to the table, you lose the shock factor and the nervous sweating that comes from watching these videos. No matter how many creepy effects you layer over it, the fact still stands.

Dawson has a second part to the series that will soon be released, where it is hinted that they will investigate further into conspiracies involving the government listening to individuals through their electronic devices. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that this next installment in the series tops the first.

If I was ranking this solely on for production quality, it would have 10s across the board, but I need to be cowering under my blanket for this to be a good documentary.

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