Cadet Kelly has a gay agenda (but not in a fun way)

LGBTQ rights, homonationalism, queer subtexts in popular visual culture, military recruitment strategies, the othering of Muslims, heteronormativity, culture wars and the War on Terror… YouTube video essay maker max teeth uses the 2002 Disney Channel movie Cadet Kelly as a jumping-off point for quite the wide-ranging exposé. But to their credit, they find a way to combine all those topics into a coherent and committed piece of videographic criticism. The video essay points out moral paradoxes all over the place, from military practices over foreign policy to kids’ tv shows and comedy movies (sometimes quickly progressing to the next ethical inconsistency instead of engaging more deeply with one debate).


The specific format of this piece is rather conventional. It’s an example of the classic voice-over driven discourse, richly illustrated in this case by well-researched visuals from various domains. (The way posters, tabloids and advertisements in particular are incorporated broadens the visual analysis). The editing and graphic design are mainly functional, illustrating the argumentation rather than guiding it.


What makes this video congeal into a coherent and captivating piece is the personal connection max teeth has with its topics. In the best essayistic fashion, that private interestedness is used as poetic license to skip through time, space and from topic to topic. In fact, two specific moments in the video break with the classic conventions of its chosen format to highlight that intensely personal bond. The first such instance deliberately forgoes using visual illustrations of an offensive trope, opting instead for a text slide explaining this choice. Here, personal and moral considerations take precedence over the visual demands of the video essay. The second example is a personal aside: for one brief instant, the camera reveals the face behind the voice-over and max teeth takes center stage for a funny (but relevant) digression. Again, the video essay briefly strays from the conventional form to allow for more personal expression. Those small moments add character and authenticity to this fine piece.