“You can throw television sets, diamond rings, or even your worst enemies into a black hole, and all the black hole will remember, is the total mass, and the state of rotation.”
– Stephen Hawking, in a lecture
“I’m sure if Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be doing classic guitar solos on YouTube.”
– Peter Capaldi, in a meta-diary
When I was a kid, I learned from the I Wonder Why series that one cannot escape a black hole — you either travel faster than the speed of light (highly impractical, according to a nerd called Albert) or you destroy yourself piece-by-piece as you get closer and closer to singularity. Fun stuff.
Black holes also distort our sense of time. Inside a black hole, time slows down and everything else speeds up. Time gets whacked, so to speak, which is also what happens when we spend hours and hours on the Internet engulfed in the cold celestial blob that is YouTube.
But I don’t fear YouTube and I don’t hate it either. I just don’t like myself when I get swallowed by those insipid artista videos like Boy Abunda’s Fast Talk or Darla’s bag raids. Bag raids, in particular, are unexplainably addictive. The attempt to humanize celebrities does nothing to mask the brazen displays of luxury — still, I dive in.
The better part of YouTube has an even stronger pull. Two of my favorite channels, for example, are Lessons from the Screenplay and Every Frame a Painting. They use the video essay format to deconstruct movies with keen attention to cinematic form (i.e. screenplay, musical score, camera movement, etc). I think film analyses that focus on form are better expressed through video essays. By showing us clips from the movies being dissected, video essays are able to present the argument and the evidence at the same time.
Another favorite is The Art Assignment, which was introduced to me by Bessy. The channel discusses visual art — paintings, painters, art history, etc. — to an audience that isn’t part of the typical alta sociedad market. AA makes well-researched assertions against the popular remark “I could do that,” and also for the often-dismissed art movements like minimalism (nothing to do with Marie Kondo) and abstraction (everything to do with Kandinsky). Channels like this ironically encourage me to leave YouTube and do some actual reading so I can also come up with sharp insights on my own.
Sadly there is a dearth of Pinoy YouTubers that discuss similarly niche topics. I only know of Kirby Araullo who talks about history (e.g. why the US bought the Philippines) and language (e.g. why Kapampangan, Ilokano, etc are not dialects). I wish more Pinoy creators would address special interest topics like these; I’m sure there’s an audience waiting.
Or maybe there isn’t. Many viewers still prefer their cyber experience to have zero hint of any social or political scrutiny. The preference is fine, but the idea impossible. Pop culture does not operate in a vast void of nothingness — there are social and historical constellations that give life to our escapist options.
Even Cut, the channel behind the viral series Line Up and Fear Pong, recognizes the impossibility of being untarnished by certain political perspectives. “Anyone making any kind of content that makes any statement is already biased,” says visual anthropologist Christopher Chan in Chansplaining. “The most boring and most basic thing you can make,” Chan adds, “are things that pretend like they don’t have a bias.”
But where is politics in fashion hauls, you ask? And what about make-up tutorials or cooking shows like, say, Judy Ann’s Kitchen? (I love JAK, by the way.)
Fashion and beauty channels mainly fall under the Influencer umbrella, which has now evolved into a massive consumerist propaganda. Critic Katrina Stuart-Santiago even called Influencers “the worst invention of the internet” and for the most part I agree. Influencers collaborate with brands to create a need for a product or a lifestyle that is typically unnecessary. The partnership is largely profit-oriented, but the audience gives in because “authenticity” is used as leverage (i.e. “Influencer A only promotes the products he/she believes in, ajejeje.”).
Food and lifestyle channels, on the other hand, fuel our middle-class fantasies (e.g. a fully equipped kitchen) or create dangerous illusions of social equality (e.g. street food challenge, or any of those “Soshal People Live Like the Masa” paandar).
But mind you, my recognition of these nuances does not automatically stop me from enjoying the videos. I still click Darla’s bag raids, and I still love watching Juday cook using mamahalin ingredients.
Sometimes I just have to draw the line. There was once this beauty guru that I liked until she started openly endorsing the Marcoses and responding with “e ‘di wow!” to anyone who disagrees. Just to make this clear ha: “e di wow!” or “e di ikaw na!” are not valid arguments. And if you think they are, then you probably need to read more books and educate yourself because hindi tayo nilikha sa mundong ito upang humayo at magpakabobo.
Still, I love YouTube. It is a black hole, a cosmic garbage can into which we throw a considerable chunk of our precious time. There’s an exit button, sure, and there are also countless aphorisms that remind us to stay offline. But it isn’t so bad here, to be honest. YouTube is a beautiful spacetime shithole — we just have to bring a towel, and a little discernment wouldn’t hurt, too. #
The title, derived from an actual celestial object, is also a song by Muse.
This post started as a listicle for 10 of my Favorite YouTube Channels and evolved into a lengthy-ass essay. I’ve been working on this post for three days already, and always I find something off — a misplaced comma, an awkward phrase, an overwrote sentence. I know they’re still there. I also know that as long as I keep this post in the Drafts pile, I will never, ever be satisfied. So here it is.