Anghus Houvouras spotlights YouTube creator Sarah Z…
One can easily get lost in the sea of content creators waxing philosophical about pop culture. The difference between the most entertaining creators on YouTube and the countless throngs of noise making time-wasters churning out worthless reaction videos comes down to the quality of their analysis. That thought lingered through the recesses of my cerebellum as I took a tour of YouTube creator Sarah Z.
Over the last three years, Sarah Z has been exploring pop culture and creating well-thought-out long form video essays on a variety of topics. From more standard review-ish fare on popular shows like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why to more obscure perusals like dissertations on DashCon or the absolutely insane world of fan fiction, somewhere between the standard and the strange is where Sarah Z finds a cerebral sweet spot. In videos like “The Politics of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog”, SarahZ provides a unique insight into Joss Whedon’s cult phenomenon, examining a wide variety of things bubbling beneath the surface of the pithy meta-musical. What does Captain Hammer’s lack of vulnerability say about Whedon? Is the tragedy of Penny’s death undermined by the need to provide the titular title character an emotional moment? Is Doctor Horrible ultimately unsympathetic because every bad thing that happens to him is a product of his own agency?
These are questions I hadn’t considered on my initial viewings of Dr. Horrible, and the video compels me to go watch it again armed with this new perspective. Even if I ultimately don’t agree with every insight from the video, it’s engaging enough to make me want to consider her slant. This is where Sarah Z succeeds and surpasses the vast majority of other voices in this space. She also tackles a number of topics that feel like the periphery fringe of the pop culture tapestry. Videos like “The Weird World of Theater Bootlegs” examines a trend that I didn’t know existed while providing some intellectual discourse on whether these online contraband copies are a harmless, victimless crime.
I appreciate the time taken on some of these topics to provide history, because a number of them are so outside my field of vision that I didn’t even know they existed. That element of discovery makes the channel downright educational on a number of topics that aren’t familiar but still fascinating. There’s an ease to Sarah Z’s presentation. Her videos are simple in presentation and feel almost analog in a digital creator landscape where the quality of videos continue to improve. There are some rough corners here and there with the technical aspects, but the thought process and how she presents it to the viewer are always impeccably crafted.
If you want professional looking content, there are popular creators like NerdWriter who make visually appealing, technically proficient essays on popular topics with puddle deep insights. Sarah Z is the other end of the spectrum, where the production values are prosaic but the quality of the prose is damn-near unparalleled. It’s the difference between the refined emptiness of ‘Pop’ and the raw passion of ‘Punk’. Like ralphthemoviemaker, Sarah Z’s essays are more ‘Sub-Pop’ than ‘K-Pop’.
While the total sum of her output is minuscule compared to other creators, Sarah Z has created some incredibly insightful and thought-provoking video essays of a variety of pop-culture topics that are totally worth your time and consideration. Visit her channel here.