The best video essays of 2021 to watch on YouTube

As coronavirus cloistered the world, the category of video essays continued to enhance in appeal on Youtube. Regardless of the homogeny of the developer area appearing from a general look, 2021 saw POC video authors getting momentum on the platform. From leviathans like D’Angelo Wallace to simple developers like myself, there is a gradient of experiences that are lastly being represented thanks to YouTube’s algorithm “apparently” being an equalizer. That being stated, this post wants to clarify a few of gems you might have missed out on.

Beyond the gamers, the format of video essays has actually likewise progressed. Gone are the days when a midwestern guy might aggregate countless views on a video about why water is damp. (OK, jk, that still takes place.) However the majority of today’s video essays now join together a number of categories of YouTube videos. Whether it’s the commentary crossovers à la Tara Mooknee, or the stand-up funny stylings of Chill Goblin, there is a range of variations to discover. Here are a couple of that shocked us in the in 2015. —Ransford James, aka Foreign

[Ed. note: This list is ordered chronologically rather than ranked by preference, meaning everything is worth checking out. And if you need more to watch, check out last year’s list.]


I initially found this touching series on Animal Crossing: New Horizons by means of the social posts on F. D. Signifier’s YouTube channel — more on him later on, however credit where credit’s due. No place Grotesk’s bio on social networks checks out, “We’re two visual artists that create and examine art through a utopian leftist lens,” which sensation penetrates this series.

Talking About Animal Crossing: New Horizons through the lens of common living and pastoral fond memories, No place Grotesk presses back on the simple joke that Tom Nook is a greedy capitalist. Rather, this series demonstrates how Animal Crossing: New Horizons communicates the idea of neighborhood as straight in dispute with urbanization and industrialism, prospering just when everybody’s requirements are satisfied without the chaos of work. Even the addition of the Pleased House Paradise DLC, which offers gamers the alternative to work for extra results, doesn’t nullify the anticapitalist argument here; working is an option you can however don’t need to make. The island even satisfies more of the gamers’ requirements by supplying complimentary health care. Animal Crossing isn’t the apolitical fluff lots of appear to believe; rather, it’s a charming, immersive argument for anarcho-communism, shared help, and rooting our politics in neighborhood. —Wil Williams

This offering is far from unknown, however by the off possibility that Tee Noir has actually averted your eyes and avoided your ears, consider my preferred video from her up until now: “The Market of Humiliating Black Women.” Without ruining this work of art, Tee breaks down what is such a harmless experience that very few individuals even discover: How quotidian Black females’s discomfort remains in popular media. From high-budget Tyler Perry motion pictures to rough WorldstarHipHop videos, the parodying of discomfort that Black females deal with on the day-to-day is rewarded with countless countless views and countless shares.

This is an experience that is far from pre-owned with regard to Tee Noir, as she deals with examination that males don’t, just by virtue of being a Black lady on this platform — not to mention her queerness. —RJ

After striking racks in 2008, Suzanne Collins’ The Appetite Games was applauded for the method it communicated real-life contemporary class has a hard time in an odd, borderline fantastical world. The Appetite Games was clear about what it was stating and referencing, however obviously, some readers didn’t get the memo — or possibly they declined to.

In this video, Zayd pulls on the Appetite Games fandom’s history to dissect what made some readers so stunned when Amandla Stenberg, a young Black starlet, was cast as Rue, a girl who is … canonically Black. This isn’t practically individuals checking out a book incorrect, though; it’s about why audiences felt less protective of Rue the minute she “became” Black “in casting.” It’s likewise about why the majority of those remarks have actually considering that been scrubbed from the web.

Yhara Zayd’s work has actually been included on all of my video essay lists, and for excellent factor. Her sharp, succinct, enthusiastic analysis is scored by a subtle (however not always unwinded) visual and narrative design. Her periodic breaks to make a joke or relax her script highlight what’s so crucial about the subject at hand: the mankind. —WW

Unironic ASMR, charming sincerity, and amusing humor are however a few of Shanspeare’s calling cards. Regardless of the myriad of channels devoted to evaluating popular culture, none do it rather like Shanspeare. “Infantilization and the Body Hair Debate” is among the most mind-blowing videos that I have actually experienced, and it has actually provoked me — a cishet Afro-Caribbean guy — into completely resolving my own contributions to the topic. This deep dive into how the world incentivizes childish habits from females is as unnerving as it is required to view. From the method I speak with females, to my subconscious choice of well shaven legs, Shanspeare information how all of that is basically the item of a purposeful inculcation that was in progress far prior to I was even an idea. I cannot highlight to you enough that you must view this work of art and all of her other ones too. —RJ

Thanks to my particular signs of ADHD, it can be truly difficult for me to dedicate time to view video essays that are over an hour long, and even harder for me to truly fall in love with them. I hope this will assist communicate the gravity with which I am stating that I enjoyed this two-and-a-half-hour video more times than any other video on YouTube this year. What begins as an analysis of Bo Burnham’s Inside gradually changes into something else, then something else, then something else. This video shifts so with dignity in between conversations of posthumanism, the web, online popularity, and what makes something amusing, all while being stressed with CJ the X’s trademark near-absurdist blink-and-you’ll-miss-it humor. What makes this video an instantaneous classic of the medium, however, is how it lands: a deep, genuine, susceptible love letter to compassion and human connection, ended up in an individual anecdote that makes the thesis feel much more genuine.

I had a hard time to have standard hope or faith in mankind this year. I had a hard time to inform myself that whatever deserves it. No piece of media assisted me more with those battles than this video. I composed a piece on my read of Inside prior to seeing this video, and after enjoying it, my continued reading Inside has actually altered. And I’m so grateful. —WW

I hope that this developer requires no intro, since I feel woefully unequipped to present them myself. Khadija Mbowe strolls the walk, and the walk is a difficult one. Being a feminine-presenting nonbinary developer of an obsidian color, they brazenly break down a few of the most nuanced subjects with compassion and levity. Furthermore, they pay it forward by promoting developers that the algorithm might have missed out on — just like myself, and in the very same method Tee Noir promoted them a year back.

“The Reign of the Slim-Thick Influencer” is arguably my favorite Khadija Mbowe video this year. It’s a discussion of the trend of Brazilian butt lifts, how influencers like Kim Kardashian perpetuate unrealistic beauty standards, and the awful origins of commodifying the Black woman’s body. This is a must-see for everybody who consumes social media, which is … everybody. —RJ

An installment of Voice Memos for the Void’s Romance in Media series, “make more characters bi, you cowards: why (not) romance?” does what it says on the tin. This video analyzes the strange state of bisexual characters in media, pointing out how rarely bisexual characters get to fall in love. Not have sex, but fall in love. Voice Memos for the Void effortlessly combats rebuttals to this idea that we hear every time we ask for more representation and romance: “Why do they need to be queer?” “Why do they need to be in love?” It also dives into different depictions of masculinity, a history of Byronic heroes, and the troubling tropes that follow bisexual characters around in media, like that of the Magical and/or Hedonistic Bisexual. Forgive the glitchy camera in this video; equipment is expensive, and the commentary more than makes up for the video fidelity. We can thank F. D. Signifier’s feed for putting this video on my radar, too. —WW

While Tee Noir enjoys (?) a visibility that many POC developers don’t, Anansi boasts a dedicated 15,000 subscriber count but is deserving of far more. They stay closer to the format that many video essays have in the past of concealing their face in their videos, relying more on the merit of their musings than the luster of their looks. Many of us simply create and comment on the actions of others, but Anansi, for lack of a better term, is really in the field. They are deeply entrenched in American activism, which makes their videos simply an accompaniment to a much larger concerted effort.

This video on The Black Right Wing is redolent of the very fight that they have fought on many occasions. It details this unique subset of Black Americans that embraces the Trumpian conservatism that still plagues the United States to this very day. If you are fascinated by the neurosis necessary to align oneself with a party that is antipodal to your existence, then this is the video for you! —RJ

By now you must see the peaks and valleys that this list is riding, from creators who have passed the 100,000 mark to those who are still in the 10,000s. The themes that combine in all of them are apparent: their marginalized status, the video essay format, and most of all, the quality. Over the last year, the Trinibagan St. Andrewism has amassed over 50,000 subscribers, and his video On Leftist Disunity is a highlight. This video is the quintessential love letter to the leftist community that encourages the embrace of the many differences it has within it. Instead of approaching this with the pessimism that many people do, St. Andrew seems gleefully optimistic that this diversity of thought will end up saving not only the United States but the world. —RJ

OK, now we can talk about F. D. Signifier in earnest. In my video essay list for our Masterpieces of Streaming series, I gave a brief history of video essays through the lens of educational videos. In “Breaking Bread,” F. D. Signifier offers an uncomfortably accurate parallel history: the rise of video essays from rant reviewers like The Nostalgia Critic. The pattern of debate bros and, in F. D. Signifier’s words, every LeftTuber making a video about Ben Shapiro, isn’t just rooted in the medium’s history, though; it’s likewise rooted in whiteness. That lens and style of video stays prominent thanks to the YouTube algorithm, and while the homogeneity of video essays has been critiqued lots of times, “Break Bread” breaks down the issue with an astounding level of complexity, research, and guests from all over the video essay ecosystem. How much of a video essayist’s success comes down to talent? How much comes down to luck? And how much comes down to the algorithm knowing that what keeps people watching is simply who appearances familiar? —WW

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.