The Rise of the Video Essay: A Study in Loneliness
I think we’ve ALL seen the eight o’clock Victorious video test on our recommended YouTube page. If you haven’t at least heard of it two-part seriesyou have to live under a rock.
Granted, YouTube recommended this video to me because I would die for a good, obscenely long video essay. The longer and more obscure the subject, the better in my eyes.
Clearly, I’m not the only one, since “The End of Victory” currently has over three million views. This infamous video essay united Tumblr, and Victorious trending on the site – somehow not dead yet – for days.
If you had asked me this time last year, I would have told you that consuming 30-second videos on TikTok destroyed everyone’s ability to sit for more than a minute, let alone an eight hour video.
On average, YouTube videos tend to be around 10 minutes long, the ideal length to hold viewers’ attention, while simultaneously hitting the minimum time to monetize a video. The years 2021 and 2022 have truly marked the rise of video essays, despite the odds against them of the decrease in attention span to the expected length of videos on the platform.
My love affair with video essays began with YouTuber Jenny Nicholson, and her video titled, “I did. I found the worst book. As a book lover and someone who likes to consume shitty media, I was drawn to the clickbait-y title. The 23-minute runtime certainly isn’t the longest of his video essays, but it was the perfect length to get me hooked.
For a long time I was bored with YouTube content. Every video looked the same. Once humble stars became vloggers with their rich and famous friends and constantly causing scandals became the norm.
Nicholson’s content was extremely refreshing to me, even as a YouTube veteran. The entire video broke down and trashed what could truly be the worst book ever…Troll, a novel that follows the story of a woman and her online stalker, instead of vaguely praising an author who paid for a promotion or taking pictures of Patrón with millionaires. To put it simply, his video felt like something new on a platform that had gone old and stale.
I did not watch Nicholson’s video when it was initially released. Instead, I found myself falling down the rabbit hole of its content as the pandemic rapidly changed the world around me. I was locked in my room at home in Pennsylvania, separated from my friends, and feeling melancholy because of my sudden departure from Kasteel Well. Nicholson’s video allowed me to escape that isolation and dive into a video where I wouldn’t compare my life to that of an influencer.
I quickly worked my way through its content, listening to it like a familiar friend talking in the back of my head, as I played Animal Crossing New Horizons on my Nintendo Switch or colored on my childhood desk. His video essays were there for the quiet times when I would otherwise be alone.
Eventually, I had to find new content to keep me company when the world was too quiet to bear. I turned to people like Sarah Z, with even more niche internet lore videos like “The ‘author’ of My Immortal emailed me, and then it got worse.”
I had always been a weird kid obsessed with internet lore and drama, and suddenly there was an untapped trove of hours of content created by people who had the same love for internet weirdness and were talking about it. with passion.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one finding solace and solace in these lengthy videos, as the boom in video essay began during the pandemic. Many of these long video essays have millions of views.
I think there’s something so human and inspiring about watching another human being consumed by something they love.
I can’t deny the fact that a lot of people, and myself one of them, probably clicked on Quinton Reviews’ eight hour video Victorious video out of sheer curiosity about how there’s even eight hours of content to discuss around this Nickelodeon show from the early 2010s. i watched Victorious when I was a kid, but I never thought I’d see a two-part, 13-hour total video series on the show.
I clicked on the video expecting to laugh lightly and turn it off, and instead found myself engrossed in the content, turning it on whenever I needed some background noise or something to watch while I ate. Yes, I started watching video essays because I felt lonely and bored during quarantine, but along the way I fell in love with the genre.
Watch Quinton Reviews talk at length about each episode of Victorious into existence is mesmerizing, mostly because of his passion for this (subpar) Nickelodeon show.
Because of the passion shown by these creators, some video essays transcend the need to watch the original content entirely. I watched a whole series of videos in three parts of six hours on Pretty little Liarsdespite the fact that I have never seen a single episode of the series.
Before the pandemic, YouTube and the internet as a whole were in a strange place. It was as if all creativity had been sucked away, leaving an empty shell of what once was. The loneliness and free time from the pandemic gave him that spark again.
Seeing content creators create content they truly love and are passionate about is something that will never get old. This is something YouTube lost for a while.
At first glance, multi-hour videos on niche content seem a bit silly. But, when you sit down and break it down, it gives you insight into the passion of humans and how we can protect ourselves from loneliness even when we are physically alone.