Recently, I went down the Buzzfeed video rabbit hole, and I’ve only recently emerged. First of all, it’s easy to keep on clicking on suggested videos, which is exactly why they do it the way they do it. Let’s face it, they have honed the science of getting people to keep on clicking. I’m not even really interested in the videos, but, hey, I’m here, anyway, so I might as well click. I keep them on as background noise while I’m doing other things, so it’s easy to keep the chatter going. I really think of them as white noise, which is perfect for me.
Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The videos are mostly fluff. I’ve seen a dozen videos of people trying different kinds of food, and there’s usually some kind of theme to it like weird foods or spicy foods or Thai foods. They usually show their faces as they react, and the reaction is big and bold. On purpose, I’m sure. It’s not normal for everyone in the room to react so wildly for something that is just a bit weird and not, say, an entire person on fire. It feels as if one of the requirements for working with Buzzfeed is being an out-sized personality–at least if you’re going to be on camera. Let’s face it, though. It wouldn’t be half as interesting if someone took a bite of, say, lutefisk (actual thing that happened) and just shrugged their shoulders. They are masters of selling their product.
Two, they have a wide variety of people who work for Buzzfeed. All races, colors, religions, genders, sexual orientations, but not age. The videos are definitely geared towards hip twenty-somethings–which I am most emphatically not. Not only because I’m not twenty, but I’ve never been and never will be hip. Also, ninety-percent of the people in the videos are good-looking, but we’ll get to that later (if I remember).
Three, the videos that try to be deeper…fail. The ‘girls acting like guys’ and vice-versa–by the way. It’s 2018. WOMEN, not girls. It’s irritating that this is still a thing, especially when it’s used in the same sentence as men. Such as, “The girls and their men.” Ugh. Anyway, I know these videos are trying to highlight stereotypes, but many of the issues they cover are not easy to breakdown in five minutes or less–especially not in video. What usually happens is that they have the women do stereotypical male things, then have a short, pithy statement at the end why the stereotyping is bad.
First of all (on the third point), the stereotypes are all tired. Dudes like to talk about sports. Dudes have trouble committing. Chicks are overly emotional and go to the bathroom in pairs. OK, the second is true, but still. I know they are taking an ironic look at it, but it’s the age old question of whether focusing on the stereotypes so much is beneficial or not. I think it can be if there is enough down to deconstruct said stereotypes, and we’ll get to that in a minute.
Two, these videos count on the fact that the people watching the videos are already hep to the stereotypes and agree that they are laugh-worthy. There’s already a healthy amount of buy-in before you even click the start button, and they’re counting on that to keep you watching the videos.
Three, the pithy statement at the end of the video is usually something like, “Be true to yourself”, “Don’t let anyone tell you what to do”, “You are beautiful the way you are”. They’re fine statements, and I don’t disagree with any of them. However, they’re also nothing earthshaking or even worthy of statement in and of themselves.
Side note: It feels disingenuous to have them say, “Be yourself” in videos where people are clearly not being themselves. I mean, not just because they’re hamming it up for the camera, but because they’re usually following a script which might or might not be written by them, and the videos are carefully edited.
Here’s another thing as an older woman watching these videos. A shit-ton of the women-focused videos are on makeup and clothing. I don’t give a shit about either. No, I’m not mad because it’s not targeted at me because as I said, I know I’m not the demo (I’m never the demo, but that’s fine because I don’t think there’s much to sell to the demo of single fat Taiwanese American old agnostic socialistic bi lady who has a black cat, does taiji (and LOVES the Sword Form) and hates people), but because it’s hypocritical to say, “Be yourself” and then only push the hyper-glam look of women. There was a video of the dude doing his girlfriend’s makeup (or vice-versa. Like I said, they all blend together), and she dumped out her bag of makeup. Girl. I was like, “Whaaaaat????” By the way, that would fit right in at Buzzfeed. At the end of the video, she said something like, “It’s OK if you want to wear makeup; it’s OK if you don’t” as her final inspiring thought. Which, yeah, you know, sure, but nothing about the video said it was fine to not wear makeup. None of their videos say that. Which, as I said, is fine, if they would just own it. It’s really hard to take seriously their claim that it’s just as good to not wear makeup when they never highlight it.
You say as much about what you believe by what you don’t say as by what you do. In addition, it makes me tired that we’ve swung back to the heavy makeup look. And the insistence that it’s purely because of personal preference. “I feel more confident with makeup”, but why is that? One woman said, “I do this because I look dead if I go out of the house without makeup.” Why do we believe that? Yes, I’m going to drag out the age-old observation–dudes (still) don’t do it, and they’re not penalized for not wearing makeup.
Here’s the thing. I really don’t give a shit if someone is wearing makeup–well, OK. A bit. But not enough for me to say anything–but watching these videos back-to-back-to-back-to-you-get-the-picture has made me question my womanhood. I’m not even being sarcastic here. A little sarcastic, but mostly sincere. I watched the videos on makeup and hair and clothing, and I felt like a kid again who was outside looking in. I didn’t have friends as a child, and this brought it all back again. I’ve had a difficult history with makeup. I didn’t wear it until I was sixteen, and then only for a few years. I stopped wearing it my second year in college because I deemed sleep more important than makeup, and then in my senior year, I was invited to attend a murder mystery dinner. I got all tarted up, and I did my makeup. It took forty-five minutes, and I realized why I didn’t do it on a daily basis. In addition, I’m allergic to almost everything, including air. When I used to wear makeup on the regular, my skin would break out even more than it normally did. I know there are better products now, but I’m still not down with it.
Let me be clear. I am not trans. I do not feel like a man (though I wanted to be a boy when I was a child because they got to do everything that I didn’t as a girl). I am not a man. I don’t want to be a man. I identify as a woman. However. (And, yes, I have to be as troublesome as possible because that’s me.) I am not a woman according to the standards set forth by my society (both of them). It’s strange because these videos are meant to be empowering for women, and I feel like shit after watching them.
Let’s bring back something I’d mentioned earlier. 90% of the people in the videos are gorgeous AF (also a favorite phrase of theirs), and they do not look like ‘normal’ people. This is a problem in America in general. I’m watching some Irish people eat American ______, and they all look like real people. Some are better-looking than others, but they all look like you could go down to the pub with them. I used to say this about foreign flicks versus Hollywood, and it holds true for the YouTube as well. Plus, they all have this ‘quirky’ style (and I’m sure they’re hired in part because of this), and while it makes for an amusing video, it definitely takes away from the authentic factor.
I started down the Buzzfeed rabbit hole because of the Try Guys (I’m doing a whole post on them later), and, yes, they are theatrical because it’s a video, but they are actually authentic (within a limited definition of the word) and funny and Eugene is hot as hell (and not only because he’s Asian). They’re not trying to be philosophical, but they are often affected by what they do. Granted, their videos are longer in general, but they really get into whatever they’re doing. I appreciate and admire that. In addition, they never laugh at the people they’re interviewing/following. Yes, they make jokes because that’s what they do, but never at the expense of the expert. In addition, they’re willing to do really painful things, like simulated labor and wear high heels for a night out, so they gain a deeper appreciation of how women live.
I digress. My point was watching the Try Guys videos make me feel good. Watching the Buzzfeed videos about how to be an empowered woman make me feel like shit. It just reminds me that I’m doing woman wrong, and that’s my biggest issue with them. They claim to be about empowering women and being yourself, but that’s not what they’re actually promoting. They don’t take the space to seriously discuss the issues (which I don’t expect them to do because it’s video), so it ends up feeling very shallow and almost insulting. I’m done with that particular rabbit hole, but it left a really sour taste in my mouth. The videos only reinforced my belief that I am doing woman wrong.
It has made me more determined to make content on my own, though. Again, not because I think there’s a demographic for it but because I have a need for it. It’s the reason I started blogging politically–because I didn’t want Michelle Malkin to be the representation of Asian American female political bobbleheads. It’s why I started writing murder mysteries–because I didn’t see any Asian American women who were protagonists in series written by an Asian American woman.
It’s frustrating that in my fifth decade on this earth, there still is so little representation of me in my own goddamn country. I guess it’s up to me to start changing this fact.