5 Oddly Hypnotic Genres Of YouTube Videos
As YouTube grows and evolves, with its many millions of users helping to continuously define and redefine what YouTube is every hour of every day, its digital halls have become filled with secret doors and alternate routes leading off the beaten path of mainstream videos and into less-traveled lands where highly specialized genres gather and proudly declare, "You'll watch the shit out of us for hours, and you'll never know why!"
They're boring. They're stupid. They're useless. They are an absolute waste of time ... but, they're impossible to look away from. These are the YouTube microgenres that have no right to be as addictive as they are.
Ambient Noise From Fictional Space Ships
It used to be that if you wanted to listen to relaxing ambient sounds, you had to visit that kiosk at Target selling CDs of forest and ocean sounds and run the risk of people thinking you were a hippie. Then, YouTube came along. With a couple clicks, you can spend 11 hours listening to a cave, spend 10 hours in a rainy meadow, or be transported to another world full of magic and wonder where you will listen to a fan for 11 hours.
YouTube is all about the ultraniche, so science-fiction fans decided they deserved 10 hours of interminable droning tailored to their own interests. That's why, right now, you can listen to the Millennium Falcon's engine hum for 12 straight hours:
If you're more of a Star Trek fan, you can listen to 24 exhilarating hours of the Enterprise-D not doing anything:
You can even listen to the ambient whirring of the Satellite of Love from Mystery Science Theater 3000 for six hours, and not a single second of which is funny:
There's also the TARDIS from Doctor Who, the Normandy from Mass Effect, the Serenity from Firefly, and the Death Star. YouTube users have supplied us all with the soundtrack to closing our eyes and pretending all of our petty earthly problems have been replaced with the constant anxiety of maybe getting sucked out into the frozen black of space after a hull breach. The dullness of these videos has a lulling effect that makes it easy to slip into a sci-fi-induced techno-coma of mindless dedication to whatever task you have at hand. No wonder the Empire was able to build 3/4 of a brand-new Death Star within four years. Once they kicked on the ambient hum, everyone immediately got to work, rebuilding a thing so dangerous they forgot it had history of being blown up.
People/Machines Doing Their Jobs
For every entry on this list, it's important to ask if the subject is inherently interesting and worth viewing. So, I ask: Do you have any interest in taking time from your busy day to watch a 14-minute video about how disposable chopsticks are made? You're insane if you answered yes ... but, you're not wrong. It's mesmerizing:
Maybe, in the wake of the Great Recession, it's just nice to see people with jobs. Maybe the world has veered so far away from people being paid for doing things with their hands, other than writing reports and filling out spreadsheets, that watching someone get paid for manual labor is like watching the Food Network when you're hungry.
Whatever the reason, YouTube loves to watch people build things. Well, in most cases, robots are doing most of the work. The humans are there to help until someone figures out how to turn his or her contribution into a robot, too. Still, the fact remains: Generally, people hate their jobs -- but love watching other people do theirs.
I can only guess it started with the Discovery Channel series How It's Made, which made factory work as compelling as a Breaking Bad season finale. It even made pencils deeply interesting. YouTube is carrying on the tradition. For example, I don't even need to ask you if you care about how big-ass steel pipes are made. We all know the only people who would answer "yes" are either in the steel business or are boring as shit, and I imagine there's a lot of crossover between the two. But, an Internet video of a big-ass pipe being made? That's solid entertainment. (Warning: This video is very loud):
But, what if the specific job you wanted to be mesmerized by was food preparation? Well, YouTube's got a genre for that ...
Foreign Street Food Vendors With Style
For most of us, making a meal is more like a series of fumbling Mr. Bean-like comical catastrophes that somehow result in a plate of food. The art of the meal takes a backseat to survival. That's why places such as Benihana have always been so popular. They employ people so good at the mechanics of food preparation that they've turned the act itself into a show. It's like if a Cirque du Soleil performer made crepes for the audience and then twisted into a nightmare and writhed away to a standing ovation.
Foreign street-food vendors have a lot of competition, so making an impression matters. For a lot of them, this means being super goddamn amazing at what they do. Masterfully good. Hypnotically good. So, few of us will ever be as good at anything as this guy is at making cotton candy:
Or even half as good as this guy is at making dessert crepes:
I don't think it's too far a stretch to imagine that this guy's dick is completely worn out from all the sex he gets, simply by virtue of how beautifully he can make tiny pancakes:
I would have sex with him just for the pancakes the next morning.
With some, it's the mastery of an individual tool. The knife is usually the most impressive. Here's a guy slicing mangoes like he recently retired from scalping humans, and this was the only job he was suited for:
So, of course, I want to see Mango Man get into a knife fight with this guy, a man so skilled with a blade that his murder sprees would confused for interpretive dance routines:
If real food doesn't do the trick, you can always get sucked into a state of slack-jacked awe/boredom by ...
People Making Kits Of Tiny Fake Food
In Japan, people can apparently get small kits of powders that, when mixed with water and shaped in a mold, be made into tiny versions of real food. I haven't been able to find a name for these kits, so, as I do with most things from Japan, I'm going to call them Fucking Weird. Some Fucking Weird kits are edible, and some aren't. Some Fucking Weird kits are candy-flavored, regardless of the dish, while others attempt to approximate the flavor of the tiny food facsimile being made. It's fucking weird. Even weirder: People devote entire YouTube channels to the delicate assembly of these little fake foods. Even weirder than that: They're almost impossible to stop watching once you hit play.
Whether it's tiny fake pizzas ...
Tiny fake bento boxes ...
... tiny fake ramen noodles and dumplings ...
... or tiny fake burgers and fries.
I think the appeal of these videos has something to do with cartoon food. Food in cartoons is idealized. It's perfect. No piece of chicken ever made will ever taste as good as a cartoon chicken leg looks. No real-world slice of cake or pizza or sandwich or burger will ever be as satisfying as its cartoon counterpart. What porn does for a man's idea of a woman, cartoons do for food. They create an unrealistic standard. Fucking Weird kits give food the perfect cartoon look. All burger buns are bouncy and airy. All noodles look thick and inviting. Everything looks like it would be emotionally, physically, and psychologically satisfying to sink your teeth deep into and luxuriate in its textures.
You shouldn't make these around kids who regularly eat Play-Doh. It'll confuse them and give them weird ideas.
First-Person Camera Phone Footage of Theme Park Rides
Wait in line for an hour, and a Disney technician flips a button that gives you a strictly regimented allotment of thrills, and then they yell at you to get off so the next round of dull people can get their dose of excitement. It sounds like I hate theme park rides. I adore them, actually. But, let's call them what they are: simulated high-stakes adventure for people who want none of that. They let us experience the sanitized, safety-tested death-defying adventure and exhilarating thrills of the incredible life no one is living.
But, thanks to YouTube, you can even further dilute the thrills of a theme park ride by watching a POV video of someone else riding it. Just be sure to watch it in your nuclear bunker while wearing a helmet and a suit of pillows.
Never again will you have to worry about all that bumping and jittering and fun and understanding what in the hell is even happening when you can just watch a blurry, dark mess of a video devoid of anything resembling fun:
It's especially great when it's a low-quality, poorly shot video of a screen on a 3D ride that you don't have the glasses for, as if it would even matter if you did. If you've ever wanted to watch Star Wars while drunk and atop a mechanical bull, here's a POV video of Star Tours:
My personal favorite ride POV is one that best illustrates how stupid yet so frustratingly addictive this genre of video can be: Space Mountain. If you don't know, Disney's Space Mountain is a roller coaster that happens almost entirely in the dark.
The video is a lot of thudding and clicking heard through pitch-black darkness. If you didn't know it was a roller coaster, you would think it was POV footage of a guy going for a late-night piss without turning the lights on. Cut out the beginning and end, and this could be an idiot pretending his bathtub was a rocket ship. I'm not sure why it's so good. I guess it's the fact that people think they can bootleg Space Mountain that makes it so hypnotic. I'm surprised there aren't bootleggers in front of Walt Disney World selling DVDs of the It's A Small World ride.
All that being said, the best ride POV video on YouTube is, hands down, Space Mountain. But, Space Mountain with the lights on ...
... reveals that you're not in space -- you're in a public train station that hasn't been drenched in homeless piss just yet.
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For more from Luis, check out 4 Recipes That Came From The Mind Of A Child (Taste Tested) and 5 Terrible TV Shows (That Began As Great Movies).