Authenticity, Influence and Femininity on YouTube

Remix Video


For this class project (Media Arts + Practice - IML 201: The Languages of Digital Media), we had to choose a passage from our textbook, Practices of Looking by Sturken & Cartwright as a foundation and point of departure for our project. The quote that inspired my initial thoughts for my video was: “ads speak to us through particular modes of address, and ask us to see ourselves within them” (203). What interested me in this quote is the idea of images asking us to see ourselves within them, which is a reoccurring concept in the textbook. Because I am interested in the new media, I decided to apply this idea to YouTube.

YouTube videos have a sense of authenticity, which is what ultimately asks us to see ourselves within them and within YouTubers. It is because vloggers seem real that we see ourselves in them. Looking at the particular YouTube subgenre of beauty channels, my video examines the duality in YouTube performance that constructs authenticity to look at how it might be influencing youth.

I chose to look at the beauty genre not only because it is very popular at the moment, but also because these videos explicitly teach viewers how to behave, how to perform and put on femininity, displaying their influence more evidently. 

The view count of each video that shows up on screen is from March 14, 2017. The videos with a + next to their view counts are videos that were reposted on other channels and their original view counts could not be found.

Rather than proposing a single interpretation of this world in the new media, my desire with this remix video was to start a conversation and spark questioning, something that we are not used to doing when watching YouTube videos since vloggers feel so authentic, like they are our friends.

Some questions that came up in developing the project were: how is a YouTuber’s authenticity constructed? Does crying on camera spontaneously balance more polished videos? Are these vulnerable videos completely authentic? How are beauty gurus influencing youth? Is this community solidifying a stereotypical femininity or evolving it towards fluidity?