A particular style of fandom-exploring YouTube video essay has gained popularity in recent years. Consider Izzzyzzz’s summary of the debates that have occurred on Neopets over the years. Perhaps you used to spend hours on the website for virtual pets when you were younger. You might not have been aware of some of the odd activities on the website, which Izzy investigates, such as the black market for unique Neopet designs, its several significant data breaches, or its ties to the Scientology cult.
Izzy is one of several creators on YouTube, TikTok, and Tumblr that have been using nostalgia and knowledge to investigate the history of the 2010s online and fandom. Creators of these videos have re-embraced the idea of cringe and urged viewers to embrace their devotion without guilt. past or present.
Izzy stated, “I gather fandom and online stories. They have described events like the Rise of the Brave Tangled Dragons crossover fandom and the development of online chain letters and copypastas in a series of popular YouTube videos.
Izzy shares these tales with a sizable, enquiring audience thanks to her 420,000 subscribers and numerous videos that surpass a million views. These subjects may be unfamiliar to viewers, providing them with fresh information regarding the development of the internet. Videos may also discuss events that the makers themselves have experienced, allowing them to explain how those events fit into a larger context. Many of these creators spent time on websites like Tumblr in the early to mid-2010s as they were growing up online. And they tap into that extensive knowledge base to make their videos.
As YouTuber Sarah Z said, “[it] was such a distinct and specific era.” Sarah Z uses their sociological background to investigate fandoms as subcultures. For reasons of privacy, Izzy and Sarah both favor using simply their first names online. Along with writing with Emily Bray, Sarah also creates movies about fandom history and media critique that routinely receive more than 1 million views. Their most watched video, a history of the Onceler phenomenon, explains how a minor character from The Lorax, a children’s film, rose to fame on Tumblr. They also utilize it as a starting point to investigate which figures in the fanbase receive greater attention overall and why.
While Tumblr still has a thriving, if smaller, user base these days, for teens in the 2010s it was an absolute haven of community and fandom. And many of them are coming back around to appreciate the spaces they inhabited earlier on in their online lives through watching these videos. Sarah describes the comments sections on their more nostalgic videos as similar to a high school reunion.