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In an article about video essays, a person lies on their bed with an open laptop.
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This marriage of visual and written media is gaining remarkable traction online.

Video essays have experienced a recent surge in popularity on YouTube. This relatively new form of media communicates information in an engaging and stimulating manner using storytelling, research and visuals to analyze and deconstruct specific topics. As is traditional in written essays, these videos have an introduction, a body and a conclusion, as well as references and clear arguments. They can also be classified as edutainment, because they make learning fun by incorporating elements such as humor, theatrics, witty remarks and relatable language. Most video essays are presented in a relaxed, easygoing style, which can make viewers feel as if they are a part of the conversation.

Two elements that distinguish video essays are voice-overs and the use of visual elements. For example, in a written essay dissecting a film, the writer must first describe the premise or plot of the film as well as the specific scene they’re referencing. A video essay, on the other hand, shows the scene in the background while the creator does a voice-over explaining their chosen concept. They can also incorporate overlays of texts and images to buttress their points or introduce additional information. Overall, the production process for these videos allows for creative expression and the use of filmmaking techniques.

The increased popularity of video essays can be attributed to their accessibility. Some of the topics deconstructed and analyzed in video essays, particularly those related to the humanities, are typically inaccessible to people outside academia. Video essayists eliminate this barrier by presenting the concepts or points in digestible formats, making them easier to understand than academic journals. Often, no prior knowledge is required to comprehend the subject matter. Additionally, the creators of these videos are usually young and as a result, they are able to share information in a way that a younger generation of viewers can relate to and understand.

Video essays are important because they provide a forum for further discussion in the comment section where viewers can share their experiences and opinions and debate subjects with others. By the end of both these videos and conversations, the viewer is more informed about a new topic or has a different perspective on something they already knew. They are also an excellent way to keep up with popular culture and to help cultivate rhetorical skills. Because the majority of video essays on YouTube are in English, they can also be used as language- learning resources. 

The topics covered in video essays range from philosophical concepts to pop culture to social issues such as mental illness, racism and climate change. Mike’s Mic is a YouTube channel that creates humorous video essays about notable TV shows and movies. His most popular videos include the “An Appropriately Unhinged Recap of Pretty Little Liars” series, which has received a total of 12.9 million views.

Teanna, the creator behind Fab Socialism, understands the importance of creating change by making information accessible to everyone through words and stories. In her own words: “I create public education videos in a way that does not point fingers at the individuals. I try to explain systemic issues like capitalism, imperialism and anti-Blackness.” She hopes that raising awareness will result in a collective understanding of how to demolish these systems. Her video topics range from the dangers of Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) schemes to the bastardization of identity politics and even how capitalism is destroying romantic love. Her videos also include tone indicators for people who are neurodivergent. 

Quality Culture is another noteworthy YouTube channel that creates video essays about shows, films, music, books and general social concepts. Stef and Terrence, the videos’ creators, have stated that their videos examine connections between popular media and their core ideas. In one video they establish a link between the Frog and Toad series and the philosophy of simple living. Another video discusses how the movie “Nope” characterizes the allure of the unknown and society’s attempt to confine it.

Mina Lee is a video essayist who makes fashion and movie-related videos. One of her most recurring topics is society’s obsession with women’s bodies: “is 90s thinness returning?,” “the scam of anti-aging” and “the history of dieting is crazier than you think” are all subjects that she explores.

Philosophy Tube uses elaborate costumes and dramatic music to deconstruct complex philosophical concepts in a witty manner. These videos include an informative bibliography in the description box for all of the sources used.

Alice Capelle, who makes video essays on topics such as feminism and capitalism, and Tee Noir, who makes video essays on popular culture and Black womanhood, are two other popular video essayists.

Video essays are a necessary adaptation due to the shift in how information is consumed and knowledge is acquired. In an age when people’s attention spans are rapidly dwindling, the continued success of video essays is a welcome development. They demonstrate that people will always be highly inquisitive and hungry for knowledge, regardless of these changes.

Writer Profile

Azeezah Ibraheem

Near East University

Hi! My name’s Azeezah and I love sunsets, books and the ocean.

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