Whenever I get pulled back once more into that YouTube whirlpool—which is basically my life right now since winter decided it wanted to majorly shit on us one last time—I tend to go for one of two things: conspiracy/horror videos and review shows. Ever since Channel Awesome became exceedingly less “awesome”—there were rumors of mismanagement and general ego inflation, and I just didn’t like the people who decided to stay on the site—finding reviews for things I actually cared about was a bit of a crapshoot. However, thanks to an opportune link in the sidebar of a completely unrelated YouTube video, I managed to find myself back on Lindsay Ellis’s channel (she was previously “the Nostalgia Chick” when she was a part of Channel Awesome) and was subsequently led to Dan Olson’s media review channel, Folding Ideas. Low key and introspective, Olson presents his analysis with a good mix of easy to understand technical terms, a dash of social commentary, and sometimes even a bit of humor. And hey, anyone who doesn’t immediately start their review of No Man’s Sky with “aaaah!! It was the worst game everrrrrrr” is okay in my book.
Folding Ideas is difficult to narrow down, in a sense. Each larger topic, a film or a game, is explored through various lenses that reveal a message to the modern-day audience. While Rantasmo, a previous web crush and fellow media reviewer, focuses on the importance of diverse LGBTQ+ representation in media, Folding Ideas is more about the messages conveyed beneath the surface. These messages can be shown and twisted through mechanical means (camera angles and so forth) and through the success or failure of playing with tropes—though the channel as a whole is more focused on cinema techniques. For instance, Olson’s Bloodborne video discusses the idea that happy endings and completing the stereotypical hero’s journey isn’t necessarily a benefit to the “hero” or the world they live in, subverting an expectation that typically comes with video games. In another video, he discusses the musical RENT and how various choices in cinematography lead the viewer, for example, to make subconscious choices about who is “right” and “wrong”, even when the implied “right” is potentially relapsing back into a drug habit and the “wrong” is paying ya damn bills. Each video stands on its own with its own interesting thesis, but all of them are about the underlying idea that we are in an era where we need to realize the power of media beyond what is produced and instead look at how it is produced, and to what ends.
One of Folding Ideas’s most important videos discusses the history and the lies behind Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, arguably the most well-known Nazi propaganda film. As someone who took a few political propaganda classes in college, I was surprised at how much I learned from this video. In the first minute of the video, he explains that even considering Triumph of the Will as an important milestone in cinematic technique history is due mostly in part to the effort of the Nazis themselves: it’s a worrying thing to know after hearing about its importance, despite the reason of its creation, in every film class I took. Going forward, we need to be aware not only of fascist verbal language, but the cinematic language fascists can use utilize as well, so explorations like these are vital.
While it will always be important to keep fighting for, and bringing to light, good examples of all types of representation, there’s a lot we can all learn from gaining a familiarity with the importance of certain angles, lighting techniques, and so forth in the media we consume. Olson’s channel and viewpoints are a breath of fresh air in a landscape where it seems like YouTubers and other media creators are throwing themselves into the “I’m a shitty person” dumpster fire on a daily basis. Make sure to check out Folding Ideas here, or follow Olson on Twitter for some real-time discussions of media stupidity and adorable pictures of cats.