This morning I woke up to see that Lindsay Ellis had quit producing content for good. I really don’t know how to feel about this. On one hand I’ve been following her work for at least five years, so I’m sad to see her go, but on the other hand, if she needs to protect herself from the mob, good on her for taking this step. In the post in which she announced all of references Omelas. If you are not aware of what that is, you should probably look into it.
I don’t have a clear memory of stumbling upon her work, but I’m fairly sure I was trying to figure something out regarding three-act structures for some now-forgotten project of mine and it just happened that she had just published an essay on that very subject:
Sure enough, I clicked the subscribe button. Some time later, another happy accident happened: I was trying to look into the basics of film theory and she began on a series on that very subject, known as The Whole Plate.
This is where I became a fan. Have you ever tried to read a book on film theory? They manage to make a very interesting topic very boring. Sure, I haven’t read them all, but I’ve read several. Obviously, these books use a lot of examples, but the way they choose those examples seems to be more about showing how cool the author is, when they can name obscure movies the 50s, whish are often more or less impossible to get your hands on these days.
But not Ellis. She chose to do her series on Transformers.
Now, to be honest, I have only seen the first movie of that series (and Bumblebee) and I don’t even remember much about that specific movie (I do remember Bumblebee pretty well, though), but still: she chose something that can be relevant to many people. There must be plenty of people who have interest in film theory besides me and here Ellis was making that actually accessible to a lot of people. Or maybe other way around: Maybe a lot of people, who wouldn’t have interest in film theory found a new interest in this series.
I do also think that there’s value in critiquing these movies in this way. Sure, it’s sometimes difficult to say how a specific movie has changed culture or it’s media, if you don’t have proper hindsight, but also there’s also more value in looking at more contemporary movies.
And it’s not like she only makes shallow observations on these movies. Her extended (three parts) take on feminist theory is especially interesting and this is actually where the decision to do this with Transformers pays off. Her take is that the male gaze employed on Megan Fox through much of the first film is actually there to belittle the viewer.
She also seems to have a genuine appreciation of Michael Bay and his work. And I tend to agree. I don’t really like any of his movies, but I do see why there has been a small movement to see him as a true auteur, because he definitely has his own vision he is very . She isn’t just dissing on the movies, but is instead taking a serious look at them. Sure, she finds many negative things to say about them, but that’s due to the nature of the movies, not because she is specifically looking for those things.
This different way of looking at movies was very fresh to me at the time. I’m not an expert on YouTube history, but it does seem to me that she was on the forefront of bringing video essays to the fore and she managed to create a niche on the platform for herself and those who came after her. A niche, which has in the years after me finding that story structure video become a huge part of my life.
The thing is, people like her have given me hope for the future. She is around seven years younger than I am (according to Wikipedia) and seeing smart young people does make me feel like perhaps the next generation can fix the problems my generation has taken a very slactivist attitude towards. I’m not trying to say could do this alone, but to me she and her kind do represent a better tomorrow… or at least aspiration for one.
I did also read her first novel, which I did find enjoyable, but since I don’t read much fiction, I don’t feel I’m the right person to comment on it too much.