Welcome to my YouTube channel!
My name is Detail Detective, and I’m here to tell you why all your favourite media is
terrible in my five-part video: This Children’s Show Is Garbage, and Here’s Why.
Part One: The Plot.
So in this frame, Fairy Princess Sparkletina’s sash is sky blue, and… in the next shot
of her, her sash is cerulean.
Clearly, the animators do not care about consistency or quality.
Not only that, but we’re told she’s a time traveler.
Why doesn’t she just travel back fifty years and kill Prince Bloodysword when he was a
Oh, lemme guess: because she "doesn’t want to kill anyone”?
We all know what that means: Sparkletina’s a fascist.
Fairy Princess Adventure is officially cancelled.
Over the past three years, media criticism and video essays have blown up in popularity.
Lindsay Ellis’ channel went from about 5,000 subscribers at the beginning of 2016
to more than half a million now, Dan Olson, or Folding Ideas, has gone from about 2 thousand
to more than 200,000, and scores of new video essay channels, like me, Big Joel, or Taylor
J. Williams have started popping up.
Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t always equal quality.
And, sadly, a lot of what passes itself off as good-faith media criticism is… not.
In particular, content like Cinemasins, the Nostalgia Critic, and more recently, a lot of multi-hour
video essays dedicated to dissecting certain shows end up doing more harm than they do
I know this is probably pretty ironic coming from the person who likes to make videos complaining
about certain TV shows for a living.
Especially because I, too, like to use attention-grabbing titles and thumbnails to encourage people
to watch my videos.
And it’s very possible that some of my own videos have fallen into some of the traps that I’m
going to talk about here!
I’d like to think the stuff I make is… you know, analytical and good… but I’m
not discounting the possibility that it isn’t always.
Along a similar vein, I’m also not saying that the people who create bad media criticism are
Just that the content they create isn’t always good.
What I primarily want to talk about is bad-faith criticism of media, and why I think it’s
ultimately harmful to the- in my opinion, good idea- of analyzing the things we like.
So first of all, how did we get here?
Criticisms of various films, TV shows, games, and podcasts on Youtube are not new.
In fact, they’ve existed ever since the platform did.
And if you follow any history of YouTube, most people will cite the Angry Videogame
Nerd as one of the first YouTube content creators to bring media criticism into the collective consciousness
of mainstream YouTube.
In 2006, shortly after YouTube was created, James Rolfe started posting videos where he
would play this easily angered, bitter guy ranting about various video games.
And this is an interesting case; this is a guy who, in his early videos, was definitely
playing a character.
In these videos, the Nerd was the butt of the joke; the intention was to laugh at this
pathetic guy getting overly offended about old video games.
But a strange thing started happening: people took his reviews seriously.
They liked him.
Pretty soon, Rolfe started making serious reviews of video games, and sharing his genuine
Not only that, but other YouTubers quickly started to imitate his format, even going
so far as steal specific jokes and criticisms verbatim.
I won’t talk about this too much, mainly because it’s already been discussed.
If you haven’t seen it already, a YouTuber named Quinton Reviews had a very interesting
video about the Angry Video Game Nerd’s influence over YouTube as a whole, and I’ll
link it below.
A year later, a similar creator ostensibly playing an angry character, Doug Walker, or,
the Nostalgia Critic, surfaced.
His videos were similarly focused on getting obscenely mad over nostalgic content, the
main difference being that he primarily focused on movies.
Once again, a similar theme started to surface.
He initially chose to really separate himself from his character, making it clear that “The
Nostalgia Critic” was a pathetic nerd who got angry over nothing.
But, as his content became more and more popular, his videos became more about sharing his genuine
In fact, nowadays, he hosts content on YouTube that’s just him and his brother watching
movies for the first time and authentically reacting to them.
And, oftentimes, his initial reactions end up making their way into the Nostalgia Critic
reviews, albeit in a more grating tone of voice.
So while we initially got these reviewers deliberately playing these easily angered
characters who you were clearly not supposed to agree with, the line between “what the
character thinks” and “what the creator thinks” became a lot more blurred, until
you got a sort of review style that was just “an angry guy sharing his genuine negative
opinions about media, but like… with a lot of screaming and swearing”.
And, this review style- angry man screams about how terrible things are- did dominate
YouTube for a long time.
That’s not to say that channels based on thoughtful critiques of various forms of media
You did have some similar channels who were affiliated with Channel Awesome that made
I mean, Lindsay Ellis started making videos in 2008, albeit not remotely at the same analytical
level as her videos today.
But, with a few notable exceptions like Beyond The Trailer, these YouTubers were not the
ones receiving the most clout.
Rather, critics who were the most popular pre-2010 did largely fit into the Angry Screaming
Dude mold, and aspiring critics mostly imitated them.
YouTube’s increase in popularity, especially in the early 2010s, saw a notable increase
in the diversity of review content.
This is when a lot of channels who are now household names began to make videos.
Among others, Cinemasins, Screenrant, Ralph The Movie Maker, and The Black Nerd began
regularly uploading reviews, all using different styles and formats.
Some of these worked, and some of these did not.
While the Angry Screaming Dude style of content did continue to be popular, we also saw the
rise in formats like “two or three people sit down to talk about movies unscripted”
or “stylized reviews with original music and visuals”.
And one particular format that’s recently taken the internet by storm is the video essay.
It’s hard to say exactly who was the “first” YouTube video essayist, mainly because the
first YouTube videos that functioned as formalized essays read out loud over clips from whatever’s
being reviewed weren’t yet calling themselves video essays.
With that said, one of the earliest very popular people to use this format to criticize media
was the Nerdwriter.
Although his first video upload was over seven years ago, his initial videos were primarily
unscripted vlogs where he discussed his thoughts on various issues like Scientology and the
Around late 2013, he started transitioning to scripted film reviews, still using the
facecam format without any supplementary materials to talk about movies like The Hobbit.
Then, in May 2014, he made a video called The Mythic Potential of Comic Book Films,
in which he discussed various comic book movies with visual and auditory accompaniment.
From that moment on, all of his videos began to use this format, to massive success.
The Nerdwriter now has nearly two and a half million subscribers, a far cry from his vlog
Another YouTube channel, Every Frame A Painting, began using the same format around the same
The channel was created by two friends, Taylor Ramos and Tony Zhou.
Their first video, analyzing the 2009 film Mother, was posted in April 2014; their videos
began incorporating music by May.
These videos focused primarily on the technical elements of filmmaking, like different ways
to visually portray text messages on screen, or how to best use music to portray emotion.
Although their last video was posted in September 2016, and they’ve officially announced the
end to their channel, the format popularized by these two channels remains massively successful,
and Every Frame A Painting still boasts a million and a half subscribers despite its
two-year long inactivity.
Although it’s doubtful that these two channels were the first people ever to create YouTube
video essays, they were some of the most popular in the format’s early days.
From there, many channels followed the video essay craze; Now You see It started his channel
and began creating video essays in June 2015, Lindsay Ellis made her first video essay in
April 2016; this was when her channel began to grow into the double digits, and Folding
Ideas posted his first video essay in August 2016, once again receiving a massive boost
Most of these essays primarily focused on either the usage of specific filming and editing
techniques to achieve certain effects in film, overarching trends in several films, or things
we may not have noticed about specific films, like Inglourious Basterds or Phantom of the
The first really popular video essays that were primarily about criticizing those films
and explaining why certain aspects didn’t really work were Lindsay Ellis’.
Again, that’s not to say she was the first person ever to do it, but she was definitely
one of the first to get really popular doing it.
Now, like I said, videos explaining why certain things were bad have existed since YouTube
did; we have things like Cinemasins and the Nostalgia Critic.
But this format- an analytical one that was presented in the same style as a formalized
essay- was relatively new.
Once again, this kicked off a trend of heavily critical video essays, which brings me to
one video in particular that I want to talk about.
Sherlock Is Garbage And Here’s Why is a video essay posted in May 2017 by game critic
and leftist YouTuber hbomberguy.
It’s nearly two hours long, and it goes into an exhaustive list of the various problems
associated with the popular BBC show Sherlock.
I definitely found myself disagreeing with certain aspects of the video, but on the whole,
it’s a well-researched video that makes several legitimate points about issues with
Even if I don’t fully agree with every criticism he mentions, I think it’s a well-made attempt
to engage in good faith with a show that he dislikes, and I don’t have anything negative
to say about it.
The video currently has nearly 3 million videos, and just like The Angry Video Game Nerd of
days of old, it’s inspired several copycats.
Those are less good.
As far as I can find, the first use of the “blank is garbage and here’s why” Youtube
format originated with hbomberguy; the first time he used it was in a video game review.
Although that one actually has more views than his Sherlock video, it was only after
the Sherlock review came out that people really started to imitate this title structure.
Indeed, the past year after his Sherlock video came out has seen dozens of videos imitating
both his titling conventions and the actual structure of his content to varying degrees
Two of the most popular videos imitating both hbomberguy’s branding and his content are
two videos by a YouTuber named Lily Orchard, respectively titled The Legend of Korra is
Garbage And Here’s Why, and Steven Universe Is Garbage And Here’s Why.
Both of these videos are similar lengths to hbomberguy’s, at times use the same jokes
as his, and are structured in the exact same way.
But I’m not here to criticize those videos for being ripoffs or whatever, nor are these
the only videos that I want to talk about here.
What I do want to do is use these videos as well as channels like Cinemasins and The Nostalgia
Critic as examples of what happens when good principles, like comedy or media criticism,
get so distorted that they end up doing the exact opposite of good-faith criticism.
So now that everyone is on the same page vis a vis context, I’d like to talk about some
of the common features associated with media criticism that is not good.
One interesting thing to note about some of these media critics is that their niche is
centred around specific types of movies or shows.
You have people who focus mainly on animated films, people who focus mostly on religious
media, and people who focus specifically on things that they don’t
On its own, there’s nothing wrong with any of this.
It’s a good idea to brand yourself in a recognizable way, and do things that are personally
interesting to you.
But in the latter category, solely doing negative reviews, you can start to run into a few problems
because of the nature of YouTube.
You’re probably not going to run into this problem as a small channel.
But, once you get big enough that you can rely on YouTube for your primary source of
income- think, channels like Red Letter Media or Screen Junkies- you can no longer only
focus on things that interest you.
As much as you might want to make eight videos talking about your favourite obscure 1975
documentary, you do need to eat, and around video…
3 or 4, people will probably stop watching.
So, what a lot of these bigger channels do is that they review whatever is topical at
CGI Jungle Book movie is coming out?
They’ll make a video about the original Jungle Book.
New Avengers movie coming out?
They’ll talk about something Marvel.
A popular movie is about to be released to Netflix?
We’ll talk about that one.
Whatever is currently relevant is what’s most likely to generate the most clicks and thus the
Once again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with talking about things that are popular.
But, when your niche is negative reviews, and you’re pretty much bound to reviewing
specific movies, it no longer becomes about you giving your actual opinion.
Instead, no matter what the movie is, it’s predetermined that your opinion is always
going to be negative.
Even if the movie is excellent, it becomes your job to hate it.
And that often means looking for the most minute details to criticize, even when those
details end up having little to no bearing on the film’s central message, story, or
We’re talking things like “if you pause the movie at this exact very specific moment,
you can tell they’re using a stunt double, so…
I see no reason to be vague.
I’m mostly talking about Cinemasins here, although other channels do do this as well.
But Cinemasins is particularly frustrating with this,
and that's mostly because the channel is extremely popular, and it informs how a lot of people
look at media.
I won’t talk about this for too long, mostly because Lindsay Ellis explained it very well
in her Beauty and the Beast review, but… critiques that are mostly about pointing out
the tiniest plot holes or acting obtuse about a small element because it wasn’t explained
in perfect detail have become so popular that they’re affecting how films are getting
I mean, the guys who made The Winter Soldier were such big fans of Honest Trailers that
they deliberately designed their movie to be as “honest trailer-proof” as possible.
Which means we’re seeing more and more films where they try to pre-emptively catch these
tiny problems and spend ages agonizing over small details to the detriment of the larger
We also see this with sequels and remakes trying to “fix plot holes”
that were never really problems to begin with.
Oftentimes these aren’t even real plot holes, they're just elements that weren’t initially
explained to exhaustion, like “where did Nagini come from in Harry Potter?”.
And the thing is… awkwardly overexplaining every small detail of your world to avoid
that kind of nitpicky criticism doesn’t make for very good movies.
That’s not to say that it’s all reviewers’ faults and that the actual creators hold
no responsibility in this situation, but the increasing popularity of framing nitpicks
as well-substantiated criticism definitely plays a part in this.
And what Cinemasins does to kind of absolve themselves of any criticism of the content
they create is to just say that what they’re creating is satire.
I swear, some of these people think that real life has cheat codes, and that you can just
say literally anything and never have to explain yourself or be held accountable if you utter
the words “it’s satire!”.
The idea with channels like Cinemasins, as well as Nostalgia Critic and similar channels is that these
aren’t the real opinions of these people.
They’re playing characters, who are these annoying guys who nitpick small details.
You see, they tell you, you’re not really supposed to like them or empathize with them.
This is dishonest.
Part of the problem here is that we know for a fact that some of these criticisms these channels
put out really are the genuine thoughts of their creators.
Channels like Cinemasins and the Nostalgia Critic also do “out of character” reviews,
where they just talk about the movies they saw normally, and oftentimes, the “out of
character” criticisms and the “in character” criticisms are the same.
Sherman from Peabody and Sherman had a sex change.
He's so young!
Didn't you have a feeling? Didn't you have a feeling? I had a feeling.
So Vera comes home to her daughter,
who is presumably Sherman after he got a sex change.
Which let's be honest, we all saw that coming.
Again, it's like... the movement of this guy could be funny,
it's like, they're on to something, but they're not talented.
His career is on the rise, let's see if we can put a stop to that by casting him
as someone who's supposed to move funny,
but instead moves like a sped-up inflatable outside of a car rental!
Cinemasins also often puts out “nitpicks” that are unresearched and factually
wrong- it’s not a stretch to understand why this is bad media criticism.
The excuse they employ here is “oh, we put them in on purpose so people can correct us!”.
Even if this is true…
that’s not good satire!
Imagine if The Onion sometimes published real stories and sometimes published fake stories,
and just… didn’t tell you which was which.
And then imagine if real news sites saw how popular they were and started to copy them!
It would be bad.
Basically, these channels want their opinions to be taken seriously, but they also don’t
want to be held accountable for any mistakes that they make.
So, instead of getting either real criticism with well-substantiated points, or real, funny
satire where someone fully commits to the character of “unlikable nerd” to make
a point about media criticism, you get this awkward in-between stage from these kinds
Their points are presented with enough legitimacy that people in the comments do take their
opinions seriously, but they’re filled with enough inconsistencies that the actual meat
of the content is pretty bad.
And because their opinions are taken seriously, their criticism style goes on to affect The
Way Movies Are Made.
Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that Cinemasins or the Nostalgia Critic are singlehandedly
responsible for any particular movies being bad.
If any one person were able to Ruin Movies, I would be genuinely impressed.
But I do think that the content these people create, and their ensuing popularity, is a contributing factor.
All in all, media criticism that literally does not care about whether the core of
a movie or show is good or bad, and only focuses on inconsequential details, isn't particularly
And this is more likely to happen when you’ve built a niche around creating a negative review
of whatever’s popular at the time.
Finally, the reason this is bad is because this nitpicking becomes so popular that it
bleeds into real life and into how real movies end up getting made.
Whether this is the fault of the YouTubers, the viewers, the filmmakers, or a little bit
of each is a difficult question to answer, but either way, criticism that’s not made
in good faith isn’t a great starting point.
So, it’s not really a stretch to understand why the former category is bad.
I mean, deciding before you even go see a movie that you have to actively find things
to hate about it is just never going to make for fair and nuanced criticism.
But, there are a lot of instances of """"problematic""" media criticism where the critic really is
expressing a strongly-held opinion of theirs.
For example, you have Lily Orchard’s respective videos about Steven Universe and
the Legend of Korra being garbage.
This isn’t a channel that just makes videos about whatever new movie will generate
the most clicks; it seems like she only talks about things that she genuinely cares about.
And it’s clear from watching even five seconds of her Steven Universe video that she feels
very strongly about this particular show.
Sugar, you are such a fucking creep!
Jesus Christ, Rebecca, are you on fucking ambien?
Do I think Rebecca Sugar is a fascist sympathizer? No.
Do I blame anybody who comes to the conclusion that she is based on Steven Universe's content? No.
Now, I’m going to
use this Lily Orchard video as a case study for this particular problem, but I do want
to make it clear that she is by no means the only person guilty of this.
I’m also not choosing Lily’s video because I want to personally attack her, nor do I
encourage anyone else to do so.
This is, unfortunately, a very popular trend as of late, and I chose Lily’s video because
I think it’s a microcosm of a lot of the problems with this particular type of media criticism.
From the fact that her video imitates the aesthetic structure, but not the analytical
substance, of well-made media criticism to the unnecessary personal attacks on the show’s
creator, this video exemplifies many common issues in “critical” communities.
One important thing about Lily’s video, as well as many other similar videos, is that they’re
made by people with a very limited understanding of what the process of creating shows or movies
is actually like.
That doesn’t mean you can’t be a media critic unless you went to film school or whatever,
but it does mean you should do your research about how the industry works if you’re going
to talk about it.
For example, a substantial chunk of her video is dedicated to criticizing the fact that
Steven Universe goes on extremely long hiatuses punctuated with large bursts of episodes all
at once, which makes the show’s pacing awkward.
In and of itself, this is a perfectly good point, and it’s a valid reason to not enjoy watching
But then, Lilly turns around and blames this on the show’s animators and storyboarders,
claiming that this is somehow emblematic of their laziness.
But this is just factually incorrect.
The show’s crew has repeatedly stated that they have no control over the scheduling of
their show, and that those decisions are entirely up to the network.
This video regularly performs these kinds of factually incorrect overextensions; for
example, Lilly blames showrunner Rebecca Sugar for designing a contentious scrapped character
that many felt evoked racist imagery, despite the fact that the character was created by
Lamar Abrams and Hilary Florido.
She then criticizes the animation, pointing out some size inconsistencies in certain characters
and a few animation mistakes.
But, she then ascribes all of the animation errors present on the show to Rebecca Sugar
specifically, because Sugar draws the key frames.
If you have literally any knowledge of how the animation industry works, you know that this is just not true.
You just cannot blame one person for all of the animation problems within a show, and
repeatedly singling out one person expresses more of a personal problem with them than
anything supported by fact.
Furthermore, Lily claims that Rebecca Sugar stole several gamebreaking twists, such as character
Rose Quartz being the alter-ego of supposedly dead leader Pink Diamond, from fans, pointing
to the fact that fans had theorized about the twist years before it was revealed.
Now, besides the fact that Lily seems to think that foreshadowing working exactly as it was
intended to somehow means the show stole the theory from its fans, you would know this
happening is literally impossible if you did even five minutes of light Googling on how
long it takes between an animated episode being planned and the episode airing.
It can quite literally take over a year for an episode to be written, storyboarded, voice
acted, sent to Korea for animation, produced, rendered, and sent off to the network for
This means that while the episodes that hinted at Rose being Pink Diamond were airing and
theories were developing, the episode revealing the twist was already in production.
Lily either doesn’t know this because she chose not to do any research, or knows this
and does not care because the truth of the matter can’t be used to insult Rebecca Sugar.
And this is a theme that's consistent throughout this video, and many others.
Lily clearly hates Rebecca Sugar, calling her a fascism apologist and a “thoroughly
loathsome person”, among other things.
And because of Lily’s personal dislike for Sugar, she’s turned to ascribing characters
and episodes that Sugar didn’t even create as “proof” of her detestability.
In short, she’s taken an unconstructive personal opinion, and tried to back it up
with factually incorrect evidence that she’s framed as objectivity.
This kind of “tear-down” video has unfortunately become more and more common.
Instead of explaining why something didn’t work in a productive way, a lot of media criticism
has devolved into a desire to definitively destroy something.
[softly] That was a very alliterative sentence.
Failures in storytelling or animation are frequently ascribed to one singular person-
this is a common theme in Nostalgia Critic reviews- and creators are often described
with personal attacks on their character.
And because this media criticism is often made by people who are uninformed about the entertainment
industry and have chosen not to do any research, they feel more like personal opinions than
Unfortunately, this illusion of authority has real effects.
As it turns out, as long as you speak in an authoritative tone of voice, have some cool
background music going on, and play some clips from whatever it is you’re talking about,
people tend to assume you know what you’re doing.
That’s not to say everyone who uses this structure is being disingenuous.
A lot of really great video essayists use this structure!
I use this structure!
And it’s precisely the fact that people are imitating that structure, imitating the
aesthetic of a well-supported essay, but their actual content is filled with inaccurate information
and personal attacks, that is so deeply frustrating.
Now, just to be clear, everyone is entitled to their own opinions about whatever they
watch, and I’m not saying you’re not allowed to complain about something you didn’t like
if you’re not an expert on the entertainment industry.
On the other hand, these people frequently frame their personal opinions as objective truth.
It’s not “I don’t like Steven Universe”, it’s “Steven Universe is objectively horrible”.
You might be able to get away with that if you’re backing up whatever you’re saying with
evidence, like Lindsay Ellis and other video essayists do.
But when your video is just about trying to tear something you don’t like down instead
of providing any real analysis, it’s not reasonable to frame what you’re saying as
if it’s just objectively correct.
Overall, YouTube allows pretty much anyone to make videos and talk about things that interest them.
And that’s overwhelmingly a good thing, because it makes knowledge more accessible
and doesn’t restrict one’s ability to express oneself to a select few with connections.
It wouldn’t be right to claim that only people who review movies for newspapers for
a living, or people working in the entertainment industry, are allowed to criticize things, and it’s
great that more people are able to build a platform based on well-made content.
The downside of that is that anyone who knows enough tricks to sound authoritative
can be taken seriously, even when there’s very little substance there.
I mean, if I were a casual viewer watching Lily Orchard’s video and I hadn’t done
any research into how the animation industry worked, I probably would have believed her
when she said the show’s animation was bad because of Rebecca Sugar.
And when people are only interested in tearing down something that they hate, and they do
so in a way where they frame their personal opinion as objective truth, they're not creating
a positive contribution to media criticism.
It’s not about thinking up ways media could be better, or helping foster empathy for other
It’s just disingenuous and frustrating, and it contributes to a culture of personal
attacks and misinformation.
YouTube is great because anyone can make a video and talk about whatever they want.
And YouTube is terrible because anyone can make a video and talk about whatever they
As a whole, the nature of this website has shaped the way we criticize things, and has
even shaped the way TV shows and movies are made.
There is a lot of really great work on YouTube centred around analyzing and criticizing various
forms of media, be it looking at the technical elements that went into making certain shows,
thinking about the real-world implications of certain art forms, or focusing on story
But, there is also a lot of work that doesn’t seem concerned with making good content, and
instead focuses on either low-effort criticism that generates the most clicks, or “tearing
down” art that the reviewer personally doesn’t like.
Both of these types of work are often filled with incorrect information that might not
be immediately obvious to a viewer.
And both of these criticisms often have a lot of aesthetic similarities to more well-made content, and
present their opinions as objective fact.
That is bad.
Now, I know Cinemasins isn’t going to stop making nitpick videos any time soon, and people
aren’t going to stop watching them either.
I’m not asking anyone who watches this to unsubscribe from their favourite channel.
But we should remember that those channels are kind of like potato chips: they’re
a fun snack and there’s nothing wrong with enjoying them, but just because they’re
easy to digest doesn’t mean we should think they’re healthy and have them for every meal.
If people can take one thing from my video, it would be to check out some really great
media criticism channels as well, and I’ve linked some of my favourites in the description.
The potato chip metaphor has made me hungry, so I think I’m going to go grab some and binge
some Lindsay Ellis.
Or do some more CalArts doodles.
I think I may be onto something here.
On top of a special thank-you to all my patrons,
I would also like to specifically thank Jacob Benck and Jacob Furtado for joining my $20+ tier.
Welcome. I hope the Discord server is fun.