I spend more time watching YouTube than anything else these days. It’s far too easy to fall into a wormhole of clip after clip across an eye-watering array of topics, to the point where your entire evening has been consumed by cooking shows, Let’s Plays and intricate video essays. Sure, just one more song on that never-ending Madonna playlist, why not?
If you’re willing and able to swim through the over-saturated sea of rubbish, YouTube has many gems to discover, as creators turn to the site as a means to explore new routes of storytelling and creativity. Deep dives into the most absurd projects can lead you to discover new obsessions you didn’t know you could ever have, then suddenly you have to watch every single thing related to that subject. Although sometimes you just want to watch someone who’s really good at a thing do the thing well, be it cooking or criticism or simply conversing with the camera without boring you senseless.
Narrowing down my current favourite things on YouTube is a task and a half, but we could all use a good video distraction now and then, and if nothing else, we of the Pajiba Overlords take immense pride in our abilities to provide procrastination material for the masses. I’m not going to pretend that my definition of ‘best’ isn’t heavily defined by ‘things I like the most’ because it totally is, but I hope you’ll discover something new here that will consume your time.
Defunctland: The War For Disney’s America
Defunctland is one of many YouTube series dedicated to Disney and other theme park related history. Kevin Perjurer’s deep dives into the long abandoned, cancelled or failed ventures of the industry offers one of the most detailed and ambitious takes on this genre. In season 2, the series has only gotten better and more expansive in scope too. Take the above video, which explores The Walt Disney Company’s attempt to build a historical theme park about American history in Virginia: not only do you get a full mini-documentary on the subject but you get it in the form of a Ken Burns pastiche, complete with cheeky doctored photos and additional narrators for each figure. Disney is the main focus on Defunctland but not the only subject, with episodes on Busch Gardens, Universal Studios, and even that one time Nickelodeon had their own hotel. However, it’s obviously Disney who rule the theme park roost, and seeing a cultural critique disguised as historical reporting on this oft-underdiscussed area of entertainment is engrossing. Be prepared for this one to be your new binge-watch.
Folding Ideas: A Lukewarm Defence of Fifty Shades of Grey (The Movie)
Dan Olson’s Folding Ideas has evolved into one of the most perceptive and layered shows on YouTube. From its humble origins as a proto-typical video review show - with Olson playing a cardboard box that talks - Folding Ideas has often gone where other shows never tread. He’s taken on everything from GamerGate to Suicide Squad to the Fine Brothers and beyond. I heartily recommend his achingly detailed dissection of the editing in Suicide Squad for an example. However, his current endeavour is a very deep dive into Fifty Shades of Grey. God help us all. Olson’s 65 minute long video on the first book and movie offers one of the strongest, funniest and savviest understandings now only of why that book is so abhorrent but why the film deserves credit for trying to do better in the face of monstrous ego. Bring on parts two and three.
Matt Baume’s Culture Cruise: Frasier’s Coded Gay References in “The Matchmaker”
Matt Baume’s channel offers weekly debriefs on how LGBTQ+ issues are being affected across America and the rest of the world. If you need a bite-sized refresher on topics such as why Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is bad for LGBTQ+ rights or how to take on gay conversion camps, Baume is your guy. However, my favourite things he does are part of his Culture Cruise series, wherein he breaks down the ground-breaking episodes of American television that paved the way for LGBTQ+ representation: From Star Trek to The Simpsons to Golden Girls. His episode on Frasier, a very gay show about straight men, is a perceptive and refreshing take on one of the best sitcoms of the 1990s and how it used coded language in a farcical mould to tell a classic story of mixed signals that didn’t deride its gay character.
Brows Held High: Bi Lighting: the Rise of Pink, Purple, and Blue
Bisexual lighting! You love it, we love it, but what the hell is it and how did it become so prevalent? Kyle Kallgren’s Brows Held High has gone from strength to strength in recent years with in-depth conversations on arthouse cinema and the kind of films that you just don’t see being discussed enough on YouTube, a site whose film presence is distinctly mainstream. Following on from videos on topics as varied as Westworld, The Watermelon Woman and The Room, Kallgren’s latest is a study in lighting, how it’s applied, how it’s often been super damn racist, and why every action scene is suddenly lit like a Berlin gay bar. It also manages to be deeply personal.
Be Kind Rewind: 1955 | Grace Kelly Defeats Judy Garland for Best Actress
As a certified Oscar expert - available for hire now! - I’m always on the lookout for new perspectives on the Academy Awards and their curious place in pop culture history. Be Kind Rewind has a novel and refreshing take on the topic that I’m surprised nobody has done before: A dissection of an individual year’s Best Actress win and how it happened. Our host goes into everything: The role of campaigning, the actress’s reputation, the meatiness of the roles themselves, the toughness or lack thereof in the competition, and the occasionally helpful tracheotomy. Her most recent episode takes on one of the great Oscar snubs - when Judy Garland lost to Grace Kelly - and explains how not even one of the greatest performances committed to celluloid could guarantee a win when the competition is the new America’s sweetheart.
What are your favourite things on YouTube right now? Help us waste some time!
Header Image Source: Fox