Okt 23, 13 YouTuber


Table of contents

1. The beginnings of the film vs. YouTube

2. The funfair vs. YouTube

3. Originality and YouTuber

4. Distinguishing marks of YouTuber videos

5. Overall distinguishing marks of YouTuber videos

6. New ways of YouTuber



The following dialogue never took place in the form shown below. Friedrich v. Zglinicki is the author of the book Der Weg des Films – Die Geschichte der Kinematographie und ihrer Vorläufer (translated: The Way of the Film – the History of Cinematography and its Precursor). All his statements in the following dialogue were taken from the mentioned book either literally or were altered in such a fashion they might fit into the dialogue. However the meaning of Friedrich v. Zglinicki’s statements was not altered at all. Jan Dem and Andrea Djemsen are fictitious persons.



The beginnings of the film vs. YouTube


I: Check this out: The film made its first steps during the travelling shows around 1900. Emma has always wanted to witness these rudimentary origins. YouTube has fulfilled her wish.

Andrea Djemsen: What’s that?

I: I found this statement in Emma’s Blog. What do you think of it?

Andrea: Let’s see. What does she say exactly? She says that the first films were to be found in the travelling shows. She says that she would have liked to live in the time around 1900. And she says that watching YouTube gives her the opportunity to cast a glance over this epoch and the films of the travelling shows. Is that right? Does she imply that you may also find the very old films on YouTube?

Jan Dem: I think that what she says is that the film industry ended a life cycle and it starts a new beginning now. This beginning is seemingly to be found on YouTube.

I: Do you say that what happens now on YouTube is exactly what happened in the travelling shows more than hundred years ago?

Andrea: What happened in the travelling shows?

Friedrich v. Zglinicki: The prehistory of the film goes back to the cave painting, followed by the shadow plays, the puppet theatre, peep-cases and the street ballad singers, until the appropriate technique was developed well enough as to allow the making of the first film cameras and consequently the first short films were shot. That happened in 1896. At the beginning what was remarkable about the film was not its content but the technique. It was fantastic that the photographs could be aroused to life. However the kind of scenes that were shown was irrelevant. Thus there were shown mere street views, moving trains, gambling people or filmed jokes.

These first short films with trivial contents were shown as part of the variety shows. It was only as the spectators started to be fed up with the simple daily routine scenes that the content of the film became more and more important.

The funfairs and the show booths were the first to discover the potential of those films. The owners of the stalls and the booths at the fair showed films as attractions instead of engaging expensive and demanding artists, fire-eater, boxers and malformed humans.

These initial films were meant solely to attract the fair-goers and make money. There was absolutely no ambition of any artistic value. It was offered simply what the public wanted to see. The most popular were comedies or stories about horrible crimes.

I: Do we find exactly the same things on YouTube nowadays?

Jan: Well, let’s see. The funfairs presented unusual things, which were not readily to be found in the normal life. For instance, as already said, there were acrobats, fire-eaters and malformed humans. Exactly the same is to be found on YouTube nowadays. If anyone can perform a somersault, he displays it in the web. If there is another who has elephantiasis, he places a video of himself in the web.

Andrea: It hasn’t even to be something extreme like an illness or a malformation. There are loads of videos that show large, festering pimples.

Jan: Exactly. It seems they already satisfy the curiosity of the people.

What you may find on YouTube are also channels that broadcast news more or less seriously. An example could be the Philip DeFranco Show.

I: The earlier films also showed public occasions like processions and parades, inaugurations and such things. Later they turned into the weekly newsreels, which presented short news similar to the newspapers.

Von Zglinicki: The first “cinema owners” were persons who had projecting devices (mostly filming devices as well) and also owned films. They travelled from a place to another in order to show their films. The Marzens, father and son, were two of the innumerable cinema owners, who were roaming about in Germany. The remarkable with their presentations was that they added local scenes to their programme, so to speak a local weekly newsreel. They filmed personally these scenes as soon as they approached a new place.

Andrea: How far can we compare these weekly newsreels with our current news?

I: Not at all. At that time they simply used to put a filming device in front of a restaurant and filmed the guests, or they showed how someone took a ride on horseback or similar things. Later on a live commentator explained the events shown. It was at this moment that the news in these films became similar to our own.

Andrea: What do you mean by “commented live”?

I: At that time the films were silent. If the films were to be commented, it was necessary for a person to stand beside the screen and to explain what was happening as the film was played, or to give further information.

Jan: On YouTube there are also loads of How-To-channels. There you may learn all kind of things that you don’t know yet.

How do I repair my car, how do I cook, how do I get fit, how do I survive in the wilderness, how do I learn a foreign language, how do I use make-up, etc.

The most popular of these How-To-channels are the make-up channels. The providers are called beauty-gurus. A small selection: MichellePhan (USA), juicystar07 (USA), AllThatGlitters21 (USA), Sasakiasahi (Japan), and a lot moreThe countries and the names mentioned above are only a short summary of everything that you may find on YouTube ( or similar channels, like for instance Youku (, in internet at present.
At this point I would like to give some explanations for the benefit of those who are not familiar with YouTube. The names are the names of the channels. Each YouTuber has his own channel which he can call as he wishes. Some use their real names, or only parts of them, like Michelle Phan (= Michelle Phan), Shane Dawson (= Shane Dawson), Kevjumba (= Kevin Wu), Charlieissocoollike (= Charlie McDonnell), Normanfaitdesvidéos (= Norman Thavaud), etc. Fred is not the name of the artist, contrary to the reasonable assumption, but the name which Lucas Cruikshank gave to his fictional character, the main character of his channel.

There are also channels which are specialized in giving advice in connection with the computer, or some other help with cooking, a.s.o. Most of the How-To-videos are uploaded by private persons, who otherwise broadcast videos on their channels which don’t belong into the How-To segment.

I don’t know whether these kind of videos might have any relation to the earlier fairs.

I: Well, they have no relation if you consider them to be an equivalent of the fair stalls and booths. The people who visit a fair don’t go there only to amuse themselves, but also to exchange news, to share tips and to gossip. Something similar offer the videos, you talked about, although they do it in a somehow more professional way. However most of these videos cannot replace a teacher. They are something like a hint, an indication showing in which direction to look for the solution of a problem. Who can really build his car from the beginning up to the end solely on the basis of YouTube videos? Or who can learn a foreign language solely through YouTube? For the time being the videos are still amateurish. They are well-meant, but not competitive with the classical educational institutions.

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The funfair vs. YouTube


Andrea: Where else could we find similarities between the funfair and YouTube?

Jan: Maybe, if we consider the locality. The persons who run a fair travel around and put their stalls and booths in a village or a town for a certain period of time. YouTube comes exactly like the fair to you – in this case not only to your village or to your town, but also inside your house through the computer – it has however a fixed place, namely on the website of YouTube, which you have to click on actively, with other words you have to visit it. The difference between YouTube and the cinema is on one hand that you haven’t to go out of the house, and on the other hand that you can see whatever you want as often as you wish and whenever you wish.

I: That is not absolutely correct. YouTube blocks videos, which violate the copyright law, over and over again. In my opinion this doesn’t justify the blocking of the entire video.

Andrea: Why not?

I: Because often the pictures belong to the channel owner, only that he used aural material which was protected by copyright. In such a case only the sound should be blocked, and not the images. This violates again the copyright of the channel owner.

There are also channel owners who delete voluntarily videos or their whole channel. In such a case the viewers have no access to the videos any more.

In conclusion it seems that you are not so free to choose whatever you want, whenever you wish.

Andrea: But anyway more free than if you had to be in a certain place at a certain time to be able to see a certain film. This is the case with the cinema or the TV, as long as you don’t record the programme by the latter of course.

Jan: There are parallels between the habit of watching films on YouTube and the earlier movie shows. Both times short films of several minutes are shown or watched in succession.

Von Zglinicki: That’s right. In the course of time as soon as the films didn’t travel any more, but settled down and were shown in the precursor of the cinemas, more and more films were played in succession. There prevailed a wild mixture of films. All the films, which were in stock, were shown at random: documentaries and comedies, news and drama – all kind of films had to be found in only one show, because the viewer was accustomed to see 10 to 20 films during a programme.

Jan: Precisely. And exactly the same happens on YouTube nowadays. After you saw a video, you click on another and so on until you find yourself watching the cartoon of a bedtime story for infants although you started with a film about the cultivation of vegetables. Something like that. Well, that was only an example.

Andrea: That is why you can often read comments of confused viewers who write under the respective film that they don’t know how they got to that video or “to that part of YouTube”.

I: The earlier films developed in the course of time and the content became more and more important.

Von Zglinicki: Soon there was hardly a subject that wouldn’t have been already filmed in the first decade of the cinema. One helped himself of the literary models from the very beginning. However the literary works were usually to such an extent shortened, simplified and provided with a happy end that it was almost nothing left of them. There were also situations when the rights of a literary work were bought, but nobody cared to read it. The script writers simply wrote a story which was considered suitable to the title.

I: This is for instance something that you cannot find on YouTube. You don’t find films based on literary works there.

Jan: No, you don’t. Literature hasn’t been filmed, yet. The fact is that a load of other subjects mainly from already existing works are interpreted and you may hardly find original themes.

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Originality and YouTube


I: Well, I find some YouTube videos rather original.

Jan: Can you give some examples?

I: I’ll rather give you the names of the channels and not the names of the single films. In alphabetical order would be: Charlieissocoollike, HappySlip, Kevjumba, MonsieurDream, Nigahiga, Normanfaitdesvideos, Shane Dawson, Smosh, Werevertumorro,…

Jan: And you find them original?

I: Maybe not all the time, but to a great extent, yes I do.

Jan: Are you sure that you find the content of their videos original and not their presentation? Unless you don’t speak about the content, I agree with you. What I said a moment ago was that you may seldom find original content.

I: Well, I am afraid you have to explain that to me.

Jan: These channels which you have just listed now belong to a very special kind of YouTube channel. The owners of these channels produce videos with an entertainment purpose in view. All of them do it professionally. Their income is generated through contracts with customers, who upload their advertisements on the channels of YouTube. The clientele of the channels are the YouTube viewers, who either find the videos when surfing on YouTube, or subscribe the channels they are particularly interested in. For the viewers is everything free of charge. The only thing that they are expected to do is to comment the videos and “like” them, and certainly to subscribe the channels.

Generally speaking the content of the videos is based on already existing material of other media. For instance, the commercials with their sales gimmicks are the favourites in making fun of. Folk wisdom is interpreted in an exaggerated manner. Pop culture is ridiculed, and so on. Therefore one can recognize the subjects very easily.

The way in which the content is presented helps some videos to emerge out of the sea of YouTube videos. That is the reason why the channels are so strongly associated with their creators.

I: What do you mean? Why are the channels strongly associated with their creators?

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Distinguishing marks of YouTuber videos


Jan: I want to say that all the well-known and successful YouTubers“YouTuber” is a burning name at the moment. Who is a YouTuber?
– The one who produces a Vlog? (a Vlog is a kind of a diary. The everyday life of a person is filmed, then commented and it is presented to the whole world)
– The one who shares his opinions about whatever with the whole world? (“Share the opinion” must be taken with a pinch of salt. Is it really mere his opinion or does he make it up in order to obtain the attention of the viewers?)
– The one who creates art-videos especially for YouTube? I will use the term for this last one.
transformed themselves into fictional characters. The first movie stars did the same. For instance, Charlie Chaplin is known as the tramp. Buster Keaton was the man who never laughed. Stan Laurel is known as the thin, clumsy fellow and Oliver Hardy is the heavy, pompous one.

Exactly like that each YouTuber created his own trademark: the way his video begins or ends, the persons he invented or his typical gestures and movements, the film techniques he uses, etc. Here are a couple of examples:

Nigahiga (USA) ends each of his videos with the written and spoken word Teehee. He introduced the How to be series (How to be ninja. How to be gangster. How to be…) and also the extremely exaggerated parodies about the teleshopping. For a while one of his running gags was the big bouncing green ball. He likes to play with words, with their meaning and phonetics.

Shane Dawson (USA) interacts with a large amount of characters mainly personified by himself. There are among others Shanaynay, the white woman from the ghetto who has got into her head that she is black; Ned, the nerd; S-Deezy, the gangster who has problems with his sexual life; aunt Hilda; Mom; Fruit Lupe, the stereotype Latin woman from soap operas and much more. He portrays himself as an inhibited teenager who is prone to self-hatred.
His videos begin (as long as they are not his vlogvideos) with his looking aside. Then he turns his head and starts immediately with the subject. He ends his videos with kissing his palms and covering the camera with his palms. The frequent ingredients of his sketches are blue screen, costumes and props.

Werevertumorro (Mexiko) ) is a group containing a number of persons, whose main performer is Gabriel Montiel. The channel has an animated introduction showing a train which speeds around the world and is accompanied by the sentence “Proxima estación Werevertumorro” (translated: “The next stop is Werevertumorro”). But what was special about the beginnings of his videos for a long time, was the fact that Gabriel chose an absurd title, which he began to discuss in a very serious manner and all of a sudden he burst into laughter and started with the real subject. The end of his videos are also often marked by the “Y si tienes Internet, ay nos vemos.“(translated: “And if you have internet, we’ll meet again.”) A feature that strongly distinguishes Werevertumorro from the other YouTubers is its political interest. Over and over again it pronounces its opinion about Mexico’s politics and demands its subscribers to go to the polls.

Normanfaitdesvidéos (Frankreich) uses a fish-eye lens to record his videos and shouts once in every video the word faux! Since he is a drummer in a band, the music which accompanies his videos is often original music of the band.

Cyprien (Frankreich) also uses a fish-eye lens and places the letters FAKE somewhere in the middle ground of the image.

Charlieissocoollikes (GB) videos end with the following sentence spoken by Stephen Fry: “You’ve just had the imponderable joy of watching Charlieissocoollike, which makes you like cool”.

Smosh (USA) consists of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox. Their trademark is a greatly exaggerated way of playing the parts. Their subjects are frequently derived from the world of the computer games, comic books, children’s toys, etc. The colourfulness and the polish of their videos fully support these subjects. Their parodies take everything to such an extreme that they can almost be called parodies of parodies. On the one hand they parody already existing parodies, on the other hand they parody the parody itself.

HappySlips (USA) best-known sketches show her dressed-up as members of her own family. Each member has his own quirky characteristic. The only one who has a separate shot is the father, who is also played by Christine Gambito (=HappySlip). His shot is taken from a close up so that we cannot see his eyes.

HappySlip is no longer very active on YouTube, but she was one of the very first female YouTubers.

Freds (USA) trademark is his computer-generated, high-pitched voice. He is played by Lucas Cruikshank and depicts a small hyperactive boy. The rest of the persons in his world, like his mother and his neighbour, are not to be seen and we get to know them through Fred’s comments. Another distortion of the reality takes place when Fred refers to small dogs as squirrels. Fred carries the camera around frequently. Meantime Lucas Cruikshank developed his Fred character away from YouTube and he works increasingly in domains like film, television and music.

This enumeration could go on and on, but I think it is enough for the time being.

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Overall distinguishing marks of YouTuber videos


There are however not only individual distinguishing marks of YouTuber, but also something like “overall distinguishing marks”.

I: What is an “overall distinguishing mark”?

Jan: YouTube started in 2005, which makes 7 years of life span till now. You might think that this is a much too short time for structures to get developed in the YouTube videos and therefore it must be a chaos there. But that is not true. The YouTube VideosI mention here the videos which are produced especially for YouTube. There are also very many videos on YouTube which were not produced for YouTube. These are private videos which are placed in the web in order to share them with friends and relatives. For instance holiday videos, videos of sport events, etc. The only point of intersection with the “other side” is if they become viral videos. Such viral videos are for instance the ones from the channels of Ray William Johnson(USA) and Adam Thomas Moran(Russland) (See links below article). I would like to impose another restriction and to talk about the videos produced especially for YouTube which have an artistic value.
A great number of the videos produced especially for YouTube are nothing else but comments on other videos. These (mainly negative) comments are called “rant” and it is one of the most significant characteristic of the videos produced especially for YouTube. In my opinion the videos which comprise only rant haven’t any artistic value, although there are some artistic videos which take up “ranting” to parody it.
Another amount of videos which you may find on YouTube are the homage of favorite persons or favorite works like serials, computer games, music, etc.
Further YouTube functions as a huge stage on which everyone can extol his abilities. The singers present their songs, the painters their paintings, etc.
developed a very particular form of expression and have their own rules.

Here there are a couple of distinguishing marks which you may find in all these videos:

The creators of the videos are persons who apparently portrait themselves. It is only apparently because each one of them is in fact a fictional character. Although they don’t deny it, they don’t point it out either. The viewers should believe that they watch a vlogger, who presents his life in an interesting and exciting way.

The main features of these fictional characters, regardless of the country the YouTuber come from, are the following:

They are not simply Mr A.N.Onymous but even a level more “anonymous”. So they are basically losers. But they are likeable losers, who put up with their situation and face their fate smilingly. Keep an eye out for actions or sentences like “I have no friends”, “I am ugly”, “I am clumsy”. If they make fun of a situation, they are always the stupid ones at the end.
A slight break with this image is to be found in the short scenes at the end of some videos, a kind of “making of” which show that the YouTubers are not at all clumsy fools. Quite the contrary, they are even able to do things, which are difficult for others. For instance, during the main video the YouTuber makes fun of himself to his heart’s content and shows that he is not even able to climb over a very low wall. At the end of the video he shows us that in reality he isn’t only able to climb lightly over the same wall, but to prove that he has the feeling of being unchallenged, he performs a backwards somersault. Here in the credits it is accepted to show what they really can. Under no circumstances should the YouTuber show any ability during the main video. If he happens to do so, he will be branded as a show-off and earns ill-will.

Because they “don’t have any friends”, the subscribers become their friends. They share their thoughts, wishes and worries with their subscribers. Certainly a lot of these thoughts, wishes and worries are developed especially for the subscribers. The subscribers return the friendship through their comments and share also their thoughts, wishes and worries. This exchange is actively required by many YouTubers: “Write in the comments your opinions”. There is also the possibility of producing a reply video and to attach it as a comment to the original video.

If a YouTuber has a pet, his popularity increases steeply.

On the other hand the sexuality has the contrary effect. There are videos on YouTube which get a large amount of viewers simply because they have a sexual Thumb-nail
A thumb-nail is a small picture from a catalogue of the web page. Its function is to draw attention to the video.
. But the YouTuber loses the sympathy of the viewer if he uses his sexuality too strongly. If he is already established and it is within reasonable limits, it is accepted. If it is presented as a joke, it is willingly applauded. This phenomenon can be easily explained if we remember that the character impersonated by a YouTuber is basically a loser. Being a loser excludes successful sexuality.

I: Doesn’t it become boring if all the YouTubers use the same basic rules in creating their characters?

Jan: Interestingly enough it seems that the possibilities are not exhausted. On the contrary: the fans find fault with the established YouTubers criticizing them to become commercial. I don’t think that they become commercial, i.e. their creativity diminish, but they simply use the rules as a matter of course. They know the rules so very well in the meantime that the feeling of tentative attempt disappeared. This matter of course entices them to cross the borders, so that a gag doesn’t work anymore, or the gags become simply obsolete. This fact is known to the YouTubers, too and they try to find new gags, new subjects and especially new ways of presentation. However a lot of fans are conservative and they don’t want to see anything new, but mere the tried and tested in a clever way.

The established YouTubers mature during their work. The youthful freshness suffers a little as a result of it. Besides they are simply established. In this way they lose the position of an aspiring person who emerges from amidst the viewers. They cannot convey the hope of ascent anymore, because they are on the top already. That distinguishes them from their fans. That’s the way it is.

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New ways of YouTubers


I: Which are the new ways of the established YouTubers?

Jan: Many YouTubers toy with the idea of using established entertainment institutions like the television or the stage. Most of them wish to have their own TV show, or they work for films. Some of them also go on tour and create stage shows based on the characters and features of their channels. Several YouTubers come together to produce such shows and found even a group with a new name YTF from the USA is such a group made of the YouTubers Ryan Higa (nigahiga), Kevin Wu (KevJumba), Dominic „D-Trix“ Sandoval (theDOMINICshow), Chester See (chestersee), JR Aquino (JRAquinomusic), Victor Kim (victorvictorkim) and Andrew Garcia (andrewagarcia).
I also know some YouTubers from France and Mexico who are active on stage. (See links below article)
An example of a show from France is Le Zapping Amazing!!! mit Norman Thavaud, Cyprien Iov (MonsieurDream), LaFermeJérôme, Direct8, LeKemar, mistervofficial, and some others.
Another example coming from Mexico is Werevertumorro Crew (Ricardo Ortiz, Gabriel Montiel, Alex Montiel, Luis Torres, Federico Díaz, Israel Gabriel, Allan Cristhian Martell Herrera, Felix Hernandez).
Jakobo Wong from Mexico has already played his Chiste Chiste segment on stage. Although the show was not his own, but he was one of several YouTubers who participated in the show.
. These shows work obviously only because the YouTubers are primarily individual fictional characters, as I said already. Besides it is the next logical step of a fan to go from watching in the internet to the touching before and after the show on the stage.

I am not sure whether I heard correctly: Touching?

Jan laughs: Well, it hasn’t to be really touching. Although it happens often enough. But already the possibility to see an adored YouTuber very closely and with their own eyes give many fans a feeling of happiness.

I: Do you mean to say that they are treated like actors, rock stars and suchlike?

Jan: Exactly. The YouTubers aren’t classified under the same category as the art creators of other distribution channels only at first sight. That is because they claim very strongly for themselves the label of being unprofessional starting with their very beginnings until today.

For instance they break innumerable established film rules. One example would be the jump-cut which is avoided by the film-makers as much as possible. On YouTube it is used universally and often in a very polished way.

In many videos created by the YouTubers we can see the YouTuber who is a single person interacting with himself. Well, this could be cut in such a fashion that nobody notices anything. However the following example shows a different picture: it is a fight between the YouTuber and himself. The YouTuber plays the whole sequence of the attacker without any cut, which means that he punches and kicks the air. Then it follows the cut to the same YouTuber who is now the victim and plays again the whole sequence of the one who is beaten-up. He lies on the floor and tries to repel the imaginary blows. He couldn’t make it more obvious that it is no> real fight, but mere shadow boxing.

This kind of performing is a distinctive feature of the YouTube videos.

The YouTubers make full use of their apparent unprofessionalism when they dress up. You can reach a great deal using clothes, make-up and light. A man can be turned into a woman, an adolescent into an extreme old man. But the YouTubers put on their heads the worse-fitting wig they could find or even a scarf as a replacement for hair… this is only one example of their work.

I: In other words: Are the YouTubers art creators like all the others? Is the only difference between them and the others that they work on one of the youngest art platforms of the world at present?

Jan: In my opinion: Yes.

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Links to footnote 4:
RayWilliamJohnson (USA) und AdamThomasMoran (Russland)

Links to footnote 6:

Ryan Higa (nigahiga), Kevin Wu (KevJumba), Dominic „D-Trix“ Sandoval (theDOMINICshow), Chester See (chestersee), JR Aquino (JRAquinomusic), Victor Kim (victorvictorkim) und Andrew Garcia (andrewagarcia), Le Zapping Amazing!!! mit Norman Thavaud (normanfaitdesvidéos), Cyprien Iov (MonsieurDream), LaFermeJérôme, Direct8, LeKemar, mistervofficial, die Werevertumorro Crew (Ricardo Ortiz, Gabriel Montiel, Alex Montiel, Luis Torres, Federico Díaz, Israel Gabriel, Allan Cristhian Martell Herrera, Felix Hernandez), Jakobo Wong


Zglinicki, Friedrich v.: Der Weg des Films – Die Geschichte der Kinematographie und ihrer Vorläufer, Berlin 1956.