Why Is Cinema

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? With video essays becoming ever more popular with both film buffs and academics, the format may well be in need of some scrutiny and criticism itself. That is what Cameron Carpenter provides in his series Why Is Cinema?


Carpenter doesn’t take the high ground: his series takes the form of a hilarious parody of self-important video essays. He mainly directs his comedic criticism at those essays that tackle pop culture movies with an academically cryptic arsenal of terms and theories. (“Symbolism is in all movies if you want it to be”, as Carpenter states when mockingly looking for symbolism in the Marvel cinematic universe).


Cameron Carpenter parodies just about every aspect of the video essay format as it is all too often practiced. He mocks their style of delivery and syntax. Their proclivity, propensity and predilection for difficult terminology and for academic namedropping. And especially, their pompousness.


But these parodies move beyond a critique of the practitioners: the audience too doesn’t escape Carpenter’s wit. The often misspelled (or just flat out wrong) film titles that Carpenter plasters across his excerpts reveal how easily an audience accepts what is offered in a video essay (without any fact checking) as much as it critiques essayists who play fast and loose with the facts. Carpenter even ridicules the economic model of big YouTube video essay channels, starting his videos with an ironic Fair Use mention and ending each video with a bungled call to fund him via Patreon.