The Rise and Reclamation of Commentary on YouTube
Updated: Jul 12, 2021
YouTube, the platform where commentary thrives.
During the past ten or so years that I’ve spent on YouTube, I’ve noticed a growing trend—especially in the past six years. A genre or trend that has been increasing in size and popularity, that seemed to have grown exponentially and still is, to this very day.
This genre or trend is best known as commentary. Put in simple terms, commentary videos usually consist of a person or multiple people discussing their opinions about a certain topic or issue. It is typically critical or negative, with more serious videos focusing on underlying problems or implications while more humorous videos poke fun at and make jokes about their topic.
Commentary has given rise to various different sub-genres: movie and TV show commentary, book commentary, YouTube or celebrity drama commentary, music commentary—you name it. Anything you can think of, there is probably commentary about. But, at its core, commentary is just that—sharing your opinions about something.
If you were around when commentary started becoming popular like I did, you might notice something when looking at the biggest commentary channels: they were (and still are, to some extent. But I’m getting ahead of myself) mostly all white men.
That’s not to say that people don’t enjoy commentary produced by these white men. However, the problem is that often, voices of marginalized communities being hurt are drowned out because these white men have commentary channels that are so prominent.
And so, ever since the beginning of commentary, these voices have begun to speak up by making their own commentary channels.
People like D’angelo Wallace, Smokey Glow, tiffanyferg, Jarvis Johnson, and ContraPoints have risen to prominence in these past three years for their insightful and often eye-opening commentary. The rise of these people reflects a growing trend on YouTube: more and more BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, and womxn are being recognized for their commentary.
A drawing made by D’Angelo Wallace of the commentary channels that had been nominated for a Streamy Award, an awards show for YouTubers and their accomplishments. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/post/Ugz0_DSdPuEuJ8QDIRl4AaABCQ)
In a way, it is a reclamation for these communities. When someone is exposed for racism, it is the BIPOC community that is hurt. When someone is exposed for homophobia or transphobia or aro/acephobia, it is the LGBTQ+ community that is hurt. Thus, why is it that their opinions have not been heard as prominently as the white male commentary channel?
Again, I am not saying that you should not enjoy commentary produced by white men. Many of them have stood by these communities, doing their best to be allies. But let us also acknowledge the importance that BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and womxn have when it comes to commentary and speaking on the underlying issues that are often brought up in commentary videos.
And, let us continuously and increasingly support the voices of those who are constantly hurt by the actions of ignorant people. Let us support their reclamation of the commentary sphere, because they both deserve and need to be heard.