As the internet news cycle continues to accelerate and the time between an event happening and us hearing about it collapses into itself, the YouTube commentary genre expands. In essence, these days, everyone’s a critic.
The YouTube commentary landscape is sharper and more jagged than it seems. What on the surface are exactly three guys joking around is, in reality, a vast array of digital philosophers with incredible reach.
What's disconcerting is that many of these play-button pundits espouse dangerous and discriminatory beliefs about women and minorities that can easily permeate online discourse and, scarily, result in real-life action. And because of their following and presence online, people can take any old commentator with a channel and an opinion at face value.
Writing this article without warning about the dangers of placing online personas on an offline pedestal is difficult for me. And while I respect the talent and ingenuity of all the commentators listed below, I don’t know them personally and won't pretend I do. So yes, to end this public service announcement, I say check out these YouTubers, appreciate their content and then go out and develop your own hot takes.
My first experience with YouTube commentary was courtesy of MAGCON veteran Nash Grier and his posse of swoop-haired pals, who decided to release a video called "What Guys Look For In Girls" in 2013. As you can tell from the title of the original video, Grier and company weren't exactly spitting radical feminist theory, and their comments on women's body hair, height and role in romantic relationships drummed up much ire from within the YouTube community.
In response to the controversy, Nathan Zed, then known as TheThirdPew, released a 9-minute, hilariously nuanced takedown of Grier and friends' comments. As a middle schooler just starting to dip my feet into the internet, this video played a pivotal role in informing my sense of humor at the time.
Seven years later, Zed still knocks it out of the park with hilarious commentary about TV, film and generally random (and sometimes controversial) opinions. Plus, all his videos run for approximately 10 minutes, making them perfect little nuggets of humor digestible for those who'd rather not sit through a 40-minute dissection of why one particular early 2000s Disney Channel movie deserved better (which is honestly something I wouldn't mind watching either).
If you're interested in replicating my middle school years (you really shouldn't be), you can check out Zed’s videos, "I’m the Only Avatar Stan on Planet Earth," "The Slow Death of Award Shows" and "When Should A TV Show END?"
Mina Le is an it girl if I’ve ever seen one. Always equipped with an impeccable outfit, a gorgeous hairdo and a well-researched argument, Le analyzes the latest in pop culture and entertainment through the lens of fashion.
What makes Le stand out amongst the thousands of fashion commentators on YouTube? Many of these content creators either focus on a fashion trend's historical origins or its current popularity, but Le holds a unique ability to bridge these two aspects together in every video she makes.
Beyond examining style trends, Le's repertoire includes film and TV reviews, with a special focus on period pieces — I’m looking at you, Keira Knightley's filmography.
I would suggest diving into the Le-verse by watching one of her most popular videos, "TikTok is kind of bad for fashion," which garnered more than 3.6 million views. And then you should delve into some deeper cuts like "fashion in The Queen's Gambit (an analysis)" and "explaining the ballet trend in fashion (balletcore)."
If you're looking for something to put on while you're multitasking or even getting dressed up yourself, I would recommend looking into Le's insightful critiques and reactions to red-carpet fashion at events like the Met Gala and Oscars.
Tessa, the mastermind behind the YouTube channel, ModernGurlz, is the moon to Le's sun. In addition to their collaborations, both YouTubers cover similar topics like fashion, beauty and pop culture. Though ModernGurlz focuses less on the history of a trend and more on its social, cultural and economic impact.
ModernGurlz's comprehensive, full-length video essays are its bread and butter, featuring a discussion of the topic at hand accompanied by colorful visuals as well as Tessa's cool-toned voice narration. The channel recently began to experiment with shorter, more direct forms of content, such as monthly pop culture rundowns and reactions to red-carpet fashion.
For a channel so invested in a longer comprehensive analysis, this pivot could have been disastrous, alienating its loyal fanbase and causing a reduction in its production quality. But ModernGurlz manages to produce its flagship video essays and snappy shorts without compromising either content’s quality.
Here are some ModernGurlz videos I always come back to: "how the economy affects the height of high heels," "analyzing the outfits in clueless" and "how have fashion brands reinvented themselves to stay relevant?"
Aonso is an internet historian, parsing through Twitter threads and obscure Tumblr posts to provide her viewers a sip from the fountain of knowledge — which primarily consists of a list of celebrities in PR relationships, multiple reviews of the "After" franchise (yes, the one based on the Harry Styles fanfiction) and all things Liam Payne.
Aonso strikes a balance between being online enough to understand a specific internet phenomenon and being rooted in reality enough to provide a sharp and hilarious take on it. Like a modern gossip columnist, she serves witty commentary on today's weirdest celebrity news stories and laughs with her audience at the absurd behaviors of the rich and famous.
While Aonso has videos where she dives deep into a singular topic like celebrity endorsements or the rise and fall of Fifth Harmony, her forte is ranking people, events and ideas into an entirely subjective tier list. The commentator has ranked cringe-inducing celebrity couples, nepotism babies and the crimes of one Matthew Morrison (of which there are many).
Regardless of your interests, Aonso has you covered with explorations of issues like in "hustle culture is an absolute nightmare" and "exploring the world of toxic ships" as well as lighter fare like "Exploring the Famous Singer to Dookie Actor Pipeline" and "so influencers are ... 'boxing' each other now?"
Ancient civilizations upheld orators, philosophers and storytellers as conduits for public discourse, and people everywhere stopped to listen to their thoughts and ideas. In a weird way, we carry on this legacy when we listen to YouTube commentators.
So feel free to check out the above channel recommendations — just remember to be cautious about whose opinions you adopt and place priority on forming your own.