With the increasing popularity of video essay YouTube channels, people are becoming more critical about what they’re watching. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself. Most of the time these videos offer an interesting insight into a favourite film or TV show, but problems arrive when videos try to get views by being superficially ‘woke’. Content creators need to upload regularly and can prioritise quantity over quality, but sometimes these videos border on the ridiculous. A character who made a mistake is suddenly called ‘the worst’, or considered completely toxic.
There is a significant difference between a flawed and a problematic character. Flawed characters do or say things which might hurt others, but these are rarely serious offences that could be compared with actual toxic and problematic behaviour. Saying something mean or lying for example – not cool – but these are mistakes everyone makes. On the other hand, problematic actions often have to do with manipulation and hurting another character on purpose. A character I find problematic for example is Stacey from Gavin And Stacey, who tries to get pregnant by lying to her boyfriend about taking the pill. This is wrong, manipulative and worst of all – goes unpunished. These videos are worth making in order to talk about the broad issues presented in the show.
Mistakes come from flaws and flawed characters create drama. Everyone knows that the protagonist is supposed to change by the end of the story, so how are they supposed to change if they’re not flawed to begin with? Making a mistake is part of learning the lesson. This is why films and TV series are such an easy target for these types of videos – you can find “dirt” on every single character.
These videos are funny to watch but are often taken far too seriously. This is because any well-argued idea by a channel with a big following is deemed credible, and many people will blindly believe well-presented opinions. It is not uncommon for people to label a film or a show as inherently problematic without even having watched it. And suddenly, this label makes us reconsider favourite series, view them as a guilty pleasure and not talk about them as publicly. Or even worse, decide not to start watching at all – not to give it a chance at all, because someone said it was bad.
When it comes down to it lost of these videos are just a money-making machine and though they’re often entertaining, everything said should be taken with a pinch of salt. Sure, sometimes certain themes and attitudes supported by shows should be challenged but there should be a line. All story protagonists are flawed, that’s what makes them interesting. An ‘everything wrong with’ video could be made about any character, so these criticisms shouldn’t put us off of seeing something or finding enjoyment in watching it.