I call it the Casey Neistat style because that’s how others call it (even though some people think the style predated him) and I don’t have an alternative name for it.
From the title, you can easily tell I am not a fan.
Okay, I am not saying I hate the aesthetic. I actually think it looks beautiful and proves every image can look pretty when captured by the right person. But, that’s also my problem with it: it looks TOO beautiful.
Before I was immersed in Youtube cultures, I had already watched arthouse films like Andrei Tarkovsky’s and Ingmar Bergman’s. They are visually stunning and narratively compelling (for me), exposing me to cinematic art works.
Also resulting in my high expectations of vloggers like Neistat.
It is already ingrained in my mind that good cinematography HAS to be accompanied by compelling stories. But, vlogs don’t tell ‘profound’ stories (mind the quotation marks), even when they showcase out of the ordinary events or the lives of perpetual travellers.
If anything, those vlogs feel pretentious. The polished cinematography seems to do nothing but overcompensating the passable narratives.
Oh, and when I said that vlogs are not narratively profound, I meant it as a compliment. Because they are supposed to narrate Youtubers’ semi-personal lives, I always expect raw and mundane storytellings; that is what I find attractive about vlogs in the first place!
I actually do enjoy some Neistat-esque vlogs, like the ones of Evan Edinger, Terry Song and Adam Neely. The difference is theirs are more stylistically restrained, allowing a greater presence of rawness and mundanity.
Thanks to its participatory nature, Youtube has opposites for almost everything. For Casey Neistat style and the likes, there are content described by Nerd City as post-ironic.
I cannot make myself enjoy the works of Youtubers like Filthy Frank, MaxMoeFoe and IDubbz (his Content Cop videos are an exception). Apart from the crassness which I find extreme (even for a relatively crass person like me), I am also anxious about the blurred lines between irony and sincerity.
But still, despite my inability to relish such content, I cannot help but respecting those creators for their unsuppressed mockery of the insincere and synthetic charm endorsed by the establishment. While I admittedly do embrace some of the establishment’s ideals, I also despise the idea of venerating them.
Thankfully, despite the increasing pressure of uniformity, the platform still has a sizeable freedom to dissent, something those employed in the ‘traditional’ media can only dream of. Therefore, almost every imaginable type of content has a place on Youtube*.
Whether it is aesthetically and thematically extreme** or middle-of-the-road, you will definitely find it.
*Obviously, there are restrictions to what can and cannot be uploaded. But, it is no secret Youtube content policing is both ineffective and misguided. ‘Lawful’ videos can get taken down and ‘unlawful’ ones stay. Supposedly, people have found porn on the site; while I do have found softcore films, I have yet found hardcore ones.
**Post-irony is extreme due to its depictions of life as an inherently ugly entity. But, I would argue overtly-polished aesthetic is also extreme for its overtly beautiful depictions of life; once one is accustomed to it, acknowledgement of the ugly reality feels taboo.
A bit of tangent here:
Andrei Tarkovsky said he utilised both colour and monochrome scenes in his films because those shot entirely in colour felt like animated paintings for him and therefore, felt ‘too beautiful’ to be realistic.
I never thought that I would reference Tarkovsky’s philosophy while discussing Youtube.
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