Hello, earthlings. So…I seem to suffer from a moderately crippling YouTube hogging problem sometimes. I found this man – Benjamin Cook (that’s the cherry headed drag queen up there). His channel is ninebrassmonkeys and he has been creating a certain multi-part documentary series called ‘Becoming YouTube’. It is kind of a sensation on the internet and people regard it as a treasure trove of genius. My emotions towards something of this nature should generally be articulated as the “ajwgwjnsbsnajwtqielxnzvajdjflfjagagroejenaksppqnrvskjsdjdkslwvskyeialbdksdhalqlajddjdjakajavrhriwuqodpnanqwdrtbskebbsajqousbcbzmzmwiyfuwkahwjeyqqirhdnnhsgs” type. But, no. The tenth installment of Becoming YouTube just released. I watched it. I shut up. And I think it is a good time for me to write this post. ~if anybody is sleepy, please nap first because this will be long~
Firstly, you ask who is Ben Cook and what is Becoming YouTube? Cook is a British journalist, writer and interviewer. He is most renowned for authoring The Writer’s Tale, which is an in depth e-mail correspondence between him and the executive producer for the fourth Doctor Who series, which occured as Cook was researching for journalistic ventures. It is described as a humorous and revealing insight into the show’s construction. Its recognition runs deep within the fandom and amongst writers in general too. Hence, Becoming YouTube being the original idea it is, doesn’t come as a surprise. However, he isn’t a traditional youtuber by any means and joined the creator’s community only 7 months ago when the documentary was launched.
Becoming YouTube aims to comprehend the emergence of the ‘YouTube celebrity’ phenomena. It explores the world of the youtubing industry and what it takes to be ‘crazy internet famous’ through the medium of online video. Ben incorporates fantasy and sketch comedy with interviews from notable internet icons like Vlogbrothers and UK YouTube personalities like Tomska and Myles Dyer (or the self titled digerrati). Each 30ish minute episode intends to examine a specific topic – no quintessential cats or explosions involved. It is a documentary about YouTube and youtubers…on YouTube.
Secondly, now comes the part where I start barfing out reasons for having problems with the series.
In the beginning, Mr. Cook declares his mission statement as giving YouTube a go to discuss and question the culture and to “try becoming crazy YouTube famous”. I find this contradictory. How does he expect to offer a panoramic overview of something he expects to embed himself into? How can you provide analytical discussion when your real intentions lie in becoming a part of the culture you wish to critique? The condescending humor featured in the sketches, as (admittedly) entertaining as it is, defeats the purpose of it being a documentary. So is he just fulfilling dreams and is Becoming YouTube “THE DOCUMENTARY” just a clever label?
Another thing, Becoming YouTube at the very heart of it, is misleading: When the series launched, masquerading as a common YouTube viewer, Ben said: “I’m going to give this YouTube thing a go. Let’s become crazy YouTube famous together. You can do it too.” What he told the audience to join and create for themselves “too” is a full blown production enterprise. Something that took a year of researching, writing and campaigning, so the featured celebrities would acknowledge his merit. Ben is not a kid with a fringe and webcam in his bedroom, he is a mainstream journalist.
He gives the audience a false sense of security when his own channel demographics thrive due to the collaborating celebrities’ fandoms. Fandoms they have spent years gathering through talent and acquired skill to stand out. He makes it sound so easy when he knows that youtubers develop themselves as brands that are marketed and invested in. He’s hired the best videographers, musicians, animators and editors and urges an audience just equipped with mediocre webcams to do the same? He is either too encouraging or is just kidding himself.
Moreover, he is not even a vlogger. If he were one, despite being so witty, opinionated and quirky he would be struggling for views – sailing the same boat as the audience he claims to be. But when he was just 6 videos in, the channel already had a million views. He started off with a statement that clearly reeks of deceit and whatever he says after that I will treat with piercing scrutiny. Just call it Pretending YouTube instead. -.-
In addition to all this, most of Ben’s opinions are badly judged and impetuous. An example: Ben made an episode which declared that women are non-existant on Youtube and if any do exist lack any success. He considers himself a proper YouTube feminist, feeling sorry for women and cheering them to take up vlogging and try harder. However, he’d rather neglect beauty gurus because apparently partaking interest in makeup and fashion is shallow and is beneath the esteemed art form that is Marcus Butler. Even beauty gurus aside, he turns a blind eye towards the thousands of females who inspire discussion and create things just because they don’t suffice a petty demographic threshold he’s set up. Need I say more? He has only good intentions, is a proud pseudo feminist, if only women were more funny and intelligent like him, make music and share opinions. With this video nd the narrow minded opinions Ben expressed on the Becoming Youtube VidCon panel 2 days ago. He has crossed a mind field of gender politics, sparking dissaproval from men and female alike. Most vocal of which were the names featured in his video. You can read the debate on his Twitter profile, if interested. Ben says he is completely against the state of union on attitudes towards women isn’t he, so why do all the female vloggers hate him? I wonder why.
~have a breather now~
Lastly, let’s talk about the latest episode. This week’s episode of Becoming YouTube asked the question whether youtubers can change the world. AND GOD, WHAT A FAILURE OF AN EPISODE. 27 minutes of video out of which less than 4 minutes comprised of youtuber interviews. This man is a YouTube noob as he says and wants the “digerrati” to educate him. So how does dedicating this episode to the life history of Tom Milsom (^ dude with blue mop sitting around face) achieve that? Confused. He rants a bit then begins the journey of this video to not find a conclusion but to make a song himself that “makes a real difference” and asking people to donate to two charities he picked. It features a monlogue that was a little reminiscent of charity ads that guilt trap people into making donations. He pulled the “LOOK AT THIS WILD ANIMAL EATING THIS BABY’S CORPSE!! YOU FIRST WORLD BUTT GET A JOB GIVE. US. MONEY. NOW!!!” act when accused his fans (that pay his bills) of being dumb, emotional teenagers that would rather send packages to their favorite youtubers instead of being humane. This assertion is highlighted again and again. In Jack Howard’s blogpost and in the song featured towards the end that Tom Milsom wrote so Cook could “make a difference himself”. He did not even talk about the charities or say why he supports them. Literally went just rant rant rant sing goodbye and support these. He sings “Becoming YouTube was a waste of time!” when he is off at VidCon now promoting the same series. Still confused.
Are youtubers making the world better? Yes and through more lucrative ventures than what he preached. The army of world shapers that exist on YouTube are never acknowledged: conspiracy theorists, independant journalists nature promoters and social activists. People from all walks of life analyse and criticise politics here, here and here. Charity isn’t the only way to change the world. And what about YouTube being a source of inexhaustible knowledge, don’t forget gurus for everything. 80% of my general life lessons, I learned through YouTube and I am not even getting started on school related stuff. But the problem is: all of these are obscure youtubers, they aren’t amongst the top 100 most subscribed list. He doesn’t accept the YouTube middle class that exists and contributes most in these aspects. He says “Smosh and Ray William Johson are not the cult of YouTube you stupid fans!!” whereas that’s where he searches when trying to answer questions. He’d find all the female youtubers and the world shaping youtubers he wants if only his research wasn’t so constricted. He is promoting “digeratti” elitisim himself.
In a nutshell, Benjamin Cook is a hypocrite, an egotistic and prejudiced douchebag whose main purpose was to beguile the internet through his charm. However, I love the digerrati interviews that he generously squeezes in for 5 minutes everytime. If Benjamin shut up about his own ill-judged opinions and eased down the offensive jokes, it would be an actually brilliant series. But that equals more informative and less entertainment-y and the internet doesn’t want that? That would defeat the purpose. It’s not like it promised to be an analytical documentary or anything, it is a comical rant show featuring Cook’s witty jokes and beautiful hair, right?
P.S. You can watch the series here. Beware, Cook’s tendency to dramatize and spur controversy steers the series to *HORRIBLE!!!!* inappropriate-ness sometimes (not referring to the multitude of grown men sporting scene hair though). Worry not. Two decades of wasting away on the internet has shaped my ninja censoring skills so, you will learn too!