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Phantom of the Opera, 50 Shades of Grey, air disasters

Lindsay Ellis (Axiom's End)

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For more than five years, Lindsay Ellis has been producing video essays on YouTube, analyzing everything from the Transformers movies to Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals to popular tropes in film and TV.

Last year, after more than a decade of wanting to be an author, she published her first book — the bestselling sci-fi novel Axiom's End, which was informed by that same attentiveness to pop culture. After 9/11, she noticed, popular alien invasion stories had shifted from "goofy" stories to "dead serious" ones, like Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

"It's an alternate history that takes place in the late 2000s," she says of the first book, which is getting a sequel in October called Truth of the Divine. "Basically, it's what if first contact happened during the Bush administration? ... It's a thought experiment of how would we react if civilization has to keep on trucking the way we have, but now we have this great existential quandary that, at least in the universe of the book, is heavily politicized."

On today's podcast, Lindsay talks about four people she loves to follow on YouTube: A pop music analyst who breaks down one-hit wonders, band-breaking records, and more; a prolific video essayist who wears her enthusiasm on her sleeve; an aviation expert who explains the history of air disasters; and a former Vine star who cooks up brilliant video ideas like it's nothing.

You can get bonus episodes of Follow Friday every week — including an extra follow recommendation from Lindsay, coming early next week — when you back Follow Friday on Patreon, starting at just $1 a month.


Follow us:
- Follow Lindsay on YouTube @LindsayEllisVids (and don't follow her on Twitter @thelindsayellis, she asks)
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Theme song written by Eric Johnson, and performed by Yona Marie. Show art by Dodi Hermawan.

Thank you to our amazing patrons: Jon, Justin, Amy, Yoichi, and Elizabeth
Full transcript of this episode
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ERIC JOHNSON: Today on Follow Friday, we're going to talk about Phantom of the Opera, creepy musicians, 50 Shades of Grey, bad-faith actors, air disasters, poorly-designed game shows, and weird internet purchases. That's in a minute with author and YouTuber Lindsay Ellis.

But first, here is the big news I was teasing on last week's show: Follow Friday is doing a live podcast next week! I'm going to be interviewing my former boss, Kara Swisher, at Manny's in San Francisco on Friday, September 24th. That is one week away from the date I'm dropping this episode. You can come see us in person if you are fully vaccinated and wearing a mask, or you can get a virtual ticket to watch live on Zoom from anywhere. Get your tickets now at followfriday.net/swishertickets.

[theme song]

ERIC: I'm Eric Johnson. Welcome to Follow Friday, a podcast about who you should follow online. Every week, I talk to creative people about who they follow, and why. This is a guided tour to the best people on the internet, led by your favorite writers, podcasters, comedians, and more.

You can support the show and get bonus episodes for as little as a dollar a month at patreon.com/followfriday.

Today on the show is Lindsay Ellis. She's an author, a critic, and a video creator who you might know from her YouTube channel or from the PBS Digital series, It's Lit, or the podcast, Musicalsplaining, or from her best-selling science fiction novel, Axiom's End.

Or, failing all of that, you might know her as the face of an animated GIF that says, "Thanks, I hate it," which is one of my favorites.

LINDSAY: Or more famously, the one of someone getting hotdogs thrown in their face?

ERIC: Oh, no, I haven't seen that one!

LINDSAY: That one will outlive me, will outlast civilization. By far and away, the most shared image of me is one of me in 2013 getting hotdogs thrown in my face. You might know me from that!

ERIC: You can find Lindsay on YouTube @LindsayEllisVids, on Instagram @namebrandlindsay, and on Twitter @thelindsayellis.

Lindsay, welcome to Follow Friday!

LINDSAY: Thank you for having me.

ERIC: I first started following you through your YouTube video essays. I think the first one I saw was called "Is Beauty and the Beast about Stockholm Syndrome?" That was three, four years ago.

To start off, explain the sort of videos you make and how you decide what topics to pick, what to focus on.

LINDSAY: Well, primarily, I do things on film and media. It started out being primarily about film theory, but it's branched out to be a little more all-purpose. We do essay-style videos. They tend to be pretty long-form; at least 30 minutes long.

The way we choose it is following bliss, starting from a topic and a thesis or a question and expand it from there. The most recent one we did is about Loki from the MCU and this discussion around, is he a narcissist or not? And what is a narcissistic personality disorder, anyway? We did a relatively short one on that, a mere 38 minutes.

[clip from the video]

LINDSAY IN VIDEO: "The contradiction of Loki as a show is that much of the tension comes from Loki's history of narcissism. His history of narcissism is what makes him the most likely in the room to betray anyone at any given point ...

MOBIUS: 'You're really good at doing awful things and then just getting away.

LOKI: What can I say? I'm a mischievous scamp.'

LINDSAY: ... while at the same time, the most likely to do whatever it takes to be liked or gain power. There's this constant tension of, will he betray Mobius? Will he betray Sylvie?

LOKI: 'Mobius, come on! What could possibly go wrong? We've gotta properly test this theory.

MOBIUS: Well, here's a fun theory: You lure me out into the field and then you stab me in the back. And that's a theory I don't wanna test!'"

LINDSAY: Or an older one I did was about the technical filmmaking prowess of Joel Schumacher in his The Phantom of the Opera. I'll just pick a thing and try to do a take that hasn't been done to death because it's YouTube, and all takes have been done to death.

ERIC: I think on your website, you describe yourself as a "Phantom of the Opera thought leader" or something to that effect. I've never seen the play. I've never seen the movie, but I gather that maybe I should steer away from the movie, that I should hold out for the play?

LINDSAY: I feel like all Phantom media is worth seeing at least once just so you can be like, "Huh." It's weird, because people really like that movie. I've made some forever enemies of some zoomers who grew up with it.

I'm just like, no, it bad. It's bad on a technical level. It's bad as an adaptation. The casting is terrible, but it's eminently watchable too. I'm very fascinated with watchably bad things. Showgirls is one of my favorite movies of all time. The new Cats movie, I was really fixated on for a while.

That's part of the things we do. We're working on a video about the Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies, which was an official sequel, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. He worked on it for like 10 years and it was so universally reviled, it didn't even make it to Broadway. For an Andrew Lloyd Webber joint not to make it to Broadway is really saying something.

ERIC: I mentioned your novel, Axiom's End, which is getting a sequel next month, called "Truth of the Divine". For people who haven't read the first book, explain the premise of this series, of this alternate history you've made.

LINDSAY: Well, I say alternate history ... it's very inspired by alien invasion movies of the 90s and 2000s. It's sort of a genre hybrid of the two because I've always been fascinated by the way action movies and science fiction changed after 9/11, how there was just this really remarkable demarcation in the way media was presented.

In the 90s, it was very goofy and kind of brainless. Then all of a sudden, after 9/11, it was dead serious. You had like Spielberg's War of the Worlds and Signs, and even Transformers was dark and gritty compared to the stuff that came out in the 90s.

So it's an alternate history that takes place in the late 2000s. Basically, it's what if first contact happened during the Bush administration? And trying to root it in this hyper-grounded realism and trying to play that question as straight as you can, while also still being very tropey. It's also like a Beauty and the Beast story with the aliens.

The series itself is following this through-line of an alternate history where aliens happen, but neither of the two common outcomes, which is, A, we come in peace, B, apocalypse, neither of those things happen. So, human civilization, and in particular, at least in the first two books, America has to react to this.

It's a thought experiment of how would we react if civilization has to keep on trucking the way we have, but now we have this great existential quandary that, at least in the universe of the book, is heavily politicized?

ERIC: I bet. So the sequel, "Truth of the Divine" that comes out October…?

LINDSAY: October, 12th. The second book is much more about humanity's reaction to the events of the first book. It's a lot more human-focused than the first one. There's a bunch of new characters. Most of them are human. It's more setting the tone for the rest of the series, which hopefully, I'll get to actually finish.

ERIC: All right. Well, that's "Truth of the Divine." Let's find out who Lindsay Ellis follows online. You can follow along with us today. Every person she recommends will be linked in the show notes and in the transcript at followfridaypodcast.com.

Lindsay, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me for people you follow, who fit in those categories. Your first pick is someone you've followed forever, and you said Todd Nathanson, better known as Todd in the Shadows. A bunch of sketchy fan websites claimed that Todd Nathanson is not his real name. I don't know about that.

LINDSAY: It's not.

ERIC: It's not. Well, I'm going to call him Todd. He's on YouTube @ToddintheShadows. Todd is a video essayist like you are, except he focuses on pop music. Explain how his videos work and what you like about them.

LINDSAY: He does shorter-form videos. They're also a lot more scripted; more in the essay category. They'll run from like 15 to 20 minutes.

He has several shows. Like one is just pop song reviews, which is exactly what it sounds like. It will be about a top 40 single of some sort. Whenever he tackles a single, it's never just the song, it's like we need the context. It's like, "Okay. Let's talk about Justin Bieber. How has he got here? How has his evolution changed? How has his image changed? Why is he on every song? Why is it you turn on the radio and he's everywhere? When will he go away? When will this plague end, of Justin Bieber?"

[clip from video]

TODD IN VIDEO: "I said the last review that, in the wake of scandal after scandal, Bieber's newer singles have an unmistakable meta quality to them. This is the most obvious on 'Sorry,' which, on a literal level, is about a romantic relationship, but has been understood by everyone as Bieber apologizing directly to his fans and the public for the six billion embarrassments he piled up between 2012 and 2014.

And the public has lapped this apology right up. They forgave Bieber with wide, welcoming arms. And that includes, I gotta say, me.

You know me. I am loathe to praise anything Justin Bieber does because I find him so profoundly uncharismatic. It took me months to admit that I actually liked "What Do You Mean?" But "Sorry" ... I don't know what to tell you. Despite my resistance to Bieber and my distaste for him, look, there's just no way around it: It is just a fantastic-sounding song."

LINDSAY: Whenever he tackles a subject, he tries to paint a complete picture while also delivering an opinion on whatever the song is. He also has a show called Trainwreckords which is about albums that ended careers, arguably.

It'll be like how Van Halen's career ended with this record, or Oasis ended with their record in 1997. Why was this album so bad that it ended a career? Was it actually that bad? Did it deserve its negative reputation? What other factors might have led to this career ending or this band breaking up?

That one, I really enjoy. I think that's probably my favorite of the series he does.

ERIC: Trainwreckords? Is that what it is?

LINDSAY: Trainwreckords, yes.

ERIC: That's great. Then he also does another series called One Hit Wonderland?

LINDSAY: One Hit Wonderland, which is, again, exactly what it sounds like. It's almost like a behind-the-music on a band that is a one-hit-wonder. How did they become a one-hit-wonder? He asks the question of, did they deserve better? Did they deserve to have a real career?

Usually, the answer is no. Sometimes, it'll be a genuinely talented person that just became famous at the wrong time. Maybe their genre was on the way out, or they had some tragedy or something. Like in the case of the guy who sang Return of the Mack, he kept ending up in jail. The personal issues kept them from having a career that took off.

ERIC: How did you first start following Todd? What was your entry point into his many types of videos?

LINDSAY: Well, he's also like one of my best friends. I'm extremely nepotistic. The reason I put him on here is when I say I follow him forever, he started about when I did, about 10 years ago. Of all the people that I knew of from back then, or knew back then, his is the only channel that I still religiously follow.

Even though his format hasn't really changed, I think he's really grown as a writer. He still finds ways of making it feel fresh and not like he's saying the same thing over and over again. I tend to watch a lot of my peers and colleagues because I find them inspiring. It gives you ideas for your own stuff.

I think he's really good about that. That's why I put him there just because even though I have known him forever and have been watching his stuff forever, that's not true. Most of my colleagues from the early 2010s. I've fallen off, most of them.

ERIC: Well, if you had to pick one video of his that's the perfect entry point for a new viewer, someone who wants to start watching Todd's channel but there's 10 years of videos, they don't know where to start, what's the one video that you would suggest they start with?

LINDSAY: Well, he recently did a video about Aaron Lewis' new song, who you might know is the lead singer of the nu-metal band, Staind.

ERIC: I do not. I'm sorry.

LINDSAY: Well, do you remember Limp Bizkit? It was one of their big protégé bands. The lead singer left the new metal scene and is now a struggling country singer. He had a top 20 hit recently by catering to angry conservatives.

ERIC: Oh, great.

LINDSAY: He's explaining, well, how did this get to be on the top 20 when it's a terrible song that nobody likes, even the people that it's catering to? I thought that one was really good. Any of the Trainwreckords, I think, are good. The one he did on Oasis, their album Be Here Now, is a good one. He also did a Trainwreckords on Robin Thicke's follow-up to Blurred Lines.

ERIC: I didn't know there was a follow-up. I thought it was just…

LINDSAY: No, it's really bad. It's kind of infamous. It's called Paula. It's about his wife, Paula Patton, who left him after Blurred Lines came out because he was a philandering ... fellow. He wrote an entire album to get her back. The lead single was called Get Her Back and it's just really creepy and manipulative.

ERIC: Oh, no. That's terrible.

LINDSAY: Any of the Trainwreckords are good.

ERIC: Well, that was Todd Nathanson, who's on YouTube @ToddintheShadows.

Let's move on to your next follow. Lindsay, I asked you to tell me about someone super talented, who's still under the radar. You said Amanda the Jedi, who's on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram @amandathejedi. She says in her bio that she does video essays about pop culture, current events, and a lot of movies. What do you like about her channel?

LINDSAY: Well, there's a part of me that's like, "How are you so prolific?" I'm like, "One video a week? How do you even do that?"

Well, she'll talk about a lot of the topics that ... I don't want to say that I also talk about. Basically, she'll pick a piece of media. It could be whatever the Netflix movie of the week is that everybody's talking about, or Loki, or Twilight, or 50 Shades of Grey.

For one thing, she's really funny and animated and it's kind of rare. Usually, women in the media sphere on YouTube are very sedate and don't allow themselves to get too animated. She's very high energy and a lot of fun but also will do these deep dives.

No one ever gets sick of 50 Shades of Grey deep dives. It's just funny. It's the same with Twilight. No one ever gets sick of Twilight deep dives, especially because she used to be a big Twilight fan. So it comes from a personal place.

It's the thing where somebody will take something that either she might not have any interest in, or something she has a personal attachment to, a nostalgic attachment, and makes it entertaining. Also, her videos are relatively short; 20-minute range, sometimes longer.

ERIC: She's doing one video a week. I think if she were publishing your length of videos, some of which are feature-length movies, it may be harder to do that.

One of her most recent ones is called Loki and Existential Dread, and your most recent video, as you mentioned earlier, is Loki, the MCU, and Narcissism. So different angles on the same pop culture phenomenon, franchise, IP, whatever you want to call it.

What would you say is the biggest difference between your respective styles? When you watch her videos, what do you see as the thing that demarcates the two types of videos?

LINDSAY: Well, I think aside from her being younger, I think she's more honest. She seems less dead inside. She doesn't fear her audience in the way that I do. Honestly, that's part of why it takes us so long to do anything is, A, burnout, and B, having to work around every potential controversy. Do we accept the risks of saying this? Or, every single thing, is it going to be a big deal? On the other side, are we going to say a thing that is defending some marginalized groups? Are we ready to incur the wrath of the transphobes? It's really exhausting.

I think that's the thing. She's not a teeny channel. She has six-figure followers. I think there is something, when you're in that below half a million range, you haven't really got ... She's just barely below half a million, but you haven't really caught the attention of these bad-faith actors.

When you do, it affects your ability to put stuff out and be unfiltered. That's part of why people who are up and coming are able to be so prolific. The more you do it, the less prolific you are because it's impossible to work around these bad-faith actors.

It's one of those sad things, and I see this with every single person. Once you start getting around the 600, 700 [thousand] range, that's when you get their attention. That's when you start getting antis, depending on something you said. Sooner or later, it's going to get to you. I think that is true of pretty much everybody. It's less true for men, but it's still kind of true. They'll come for you eventually, especially if you're any shade of progressive.

ERIC: You identify them, correctly, as bad-faith actors, but I sort of wonder about all the work that you put into anticipating how people might react to something. Unpack that a bit for me. Is that for the benefit of people who might be swayed by the bad faith actors? Why ... ?

LINDSAY: Well, let me give you an example. A couple of years ago, we did a video about Robin Williams and his feud with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner. Now, as we were making it, it didn't even enter our minds that Katzenberg and Eisner were Jewish.

Then, when we put the video out, we were like, this early 90s Disney thing is funny, and it would be funny to do a video about the feud between Eisner and Katzenberg because it's like a mean girls' drama. It's so petty and bitchy.

When the video went up, and it went viral, I think it's my most viewed video. Around when it started to hit the one or two million views mark, the anti-Semites come in and start spewing all these conspiracy theories about how Katzenberg killed Williams or whatever. As that happened, it was like, well, if we do a video about Eisner and Katzenberg's feud, is this adding fuel to the fire? And we canceled the video just because we didn't want to risk inviting more anti-Semites.

The feud between Eisner and Katzenberg has nothing to do with their Jewishness. They're just petty bitches, but the knowledge that these people might weaponize it made it not worth even pursuing.

ERIC: That makes sense. So, it would invite so much of the wrong attention ...

LINDSAY: It could invite. The thing is you don't know. It could be nothing. It wasn't something that we felt very passionate about and the lesson learned from that was, don't say anything remotely negative about anyone Jewish, even if they did something kind of iffy.

ERIC: Wow. That's a level of responsibility when you have a gigantic platform that doesn't occur to most smaller creators.

LINDSAY: Exactly. I think that's the truth. The bigger you get, the less you output, because of this sort of thing, not necessarily anti-Semites, but you invite more and more. It is sometimes overwhelming the flood of people that say these nasty things. They'll be like, racism, misogyny, transphobia.

It's a question of emotional energy. Do you have the wherewithal to endure these people? Whenever I did the video about transphobia, that's putting a target on my back, if nothing else. I know that sounds, wow, how privileged of you to say that you're the target? But at the same time, it's like, well, yeah, I don't have any skin in that game. I don't have to say anything.

Just by doing the video about transphobic tropes and media over the last 50, 60, 70 years, it does invite a lot of cruel, bad-faith actors that add you to their list of targets. That absolutely happened and I knew that would happen. That was a risk we had to accept. It was not even a risk; it was a consequence.

This is true for anyone that is either a trans creator or even remotely supportive of trans people, but the more out you are about supporting trans people, the more of a target you become. That's just the reality. This is true of anti-racism. Let's not even touch on misogyny.

The "smart" thing to do is just to be really basic and not stand up for anyone, never stand up for yourself because every time you do, whatever group is adding more targets to destroying their culture war is just going to add you to it. That's just the reality. So the more you produce, the less you want to produce because you add up this roster of enemies, both on the left and the right, as we've seen.

ERIC: That's dispiriting, but I'm glad that you and other creators keep on doing it anyway, even if it does diminish your output. More generally speaking, and back to Amanda the Jedi's channel for a bit, film YouTube is a very big, complex world; lots of different channels, lots of different people with different angles, different lanes that they're in.

When you are preparing your own material, how much are you watching folks like Amanda and watching other folks who are in the pop culture, film space that you are? Are you watching their essays and taking notes on their takes and their reactions?

LINDSAY: Not really. I think we do fundamentally different material. She's more of enthusiast YouTube, whereas mine tends to be more like essay-style. We'll try to root it in some research. Not that she does no research, but we frame it from more of an academic lens, which is another reason why it takes so long.

Also, we have very different styles. I think in terms of inspiration, I will look more at people who do things that are more similar to what I do like ContraPoints or Todd or Hbomberguy. But where Amanda is concerned, it's someone that I will watch for fun, which is also necessary.

ERIC: Is there a particular video of hers, again, a good entry point or a favorite that you recommend?

LINDSAY: There was a Netflix movie that nobody watched called 365 Days that she did a video on, which was pretty funny. Any of her 50 Shades, of which there are many. Any of the Twilight ones, again of which there are many. She just released one about the new Cinderella movie, which everybody hated. That should be fun.

ERIC: Well, that was Amanda the Jedi, who's on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram @amandathejedi. We're going to take a quick break now, but we'll be back in a minute with Lindsay Ellis.

Today's show is brought to you by Follow Friday LIVE. Our very first live episode is coming up on the evening of Friday, September 24th. I'll be interviewing New York Times contributing writer Kara Swisher, live in person at Manny's in San Francisco. If you're in the Bay Area and you're fully vaccinated, then please come on down and join the fun. If you can't be there in person, though, you can still watch the show live with a virtual ticket on Zoom. I worked with Kara for many years and she is one of my favorite people. But please, don't tell her I said that. You might know her from the podcast we worked on together, Recode Decode, or from her current shows, Sway or Pivot. Or you've probably read something she wrote in the New York Times, or before that at Recode or Vox. I'm really excited for this live show, Kara is so fun to talk to. And I hope we will see you there! You can learn more about the event and get your tickets at followfriday.net/swishertickets. That's followfriday.net/swishertickets.

Welcome back to Follow Friday. Lindsay, let's move on to your next follow. I asked you for someone who's an expert in a very specific niche that you love. You said Disaster Breakdown, which is on YouTube @disasterbreakdown.

Most of your picks today, I was researching them and I was excited to dive into their work, but I took one look at this YouTube channel and I was like, "Nope. Nope. Nope. Unhealthy. It would be unhealthy for me to get into this."

So, please explain what Disasters Breakdown does and why I am so afraid of them.

LINDSAY: He talks about plane crashes! It's just a channel about plane crashes. That's my dirty secret, is that I'm addicted to disaster YouTube. There's another guy named Brick Immortar who does structural collapses and another guy called Plainly Difficult, which will be also about things like engineering failures or nuclear disasters or dams. There are, a lot of plane crash YouTube channels.

ERIC: I found out, yeah.

LINDSAY: I like Disaster Breakdown better than the other ones, and he doesn't even have 50,000 followers, just because I think he's a little more well-researched. I think he comes from an aviation family. I know nothing about this guy. I know he's in Europe somewhere. He's got this really vague European accent.

[clip from video]

DISASTER BREAKDOWN HOST: "Getting a plane to land safely at an airport is a delicate process. The aviation industry spent decades developing optimal, consistent, and safe procedures for pilots to follow in landing their aircraft. In the morning of April 19, 2000, this relationship between the plane and the airport broke down, as Air Philippines Flight 541 crashed on its approach into Davao City."

LINDSAY: I was like, what is my favorite plane crash channel? That would probably be Disaster Breakdown. There are a lot of aviation channels. I don't want to name names, but there are some that are a lot more polished, but less polished at the same time. Their editing is not as quick and to the point and they'll be all-purpose aviation, which can get boring to laypeople.

I like plane crash YouTube because my husband works in aerospace and it's a good entryway to understanding how aviation works, how airplanes work, what's the difference between a Boeing and an Airbus and a Cessna? What actually causes plane crashes? 99 times out of 100, it was something that was preventable.

It was something, either the contingency hadn't been invented yet, or there was a contingency and somebody messed up. Or somebody on the ground forgot to take the tape off the Pitot tubes, the speed indicators. Or the pilot forgot to perform a checklist or something like that.

It's just interesting to know also that turbulence almost never means the plane is going to crash. Sometimes it does, but the things people are afraid of in aviation tend to be kind of irrational. This is what you should be afraid of.

ERIC: So, it's educational both about the mechanics of the plane and what you should actually be afraid of and how afraid you should be. I was wondering if this was reassuring to you because these are the exceptions, or is it validating a fear that you have about air travel?

LINDSAY: No, I'm not afraid of air travel at all. I do travel a lot. It's interesting once you look at the... Say what you want about 9/11, it did make air travel a lot safer. Basically, there have been very few fatal commercial air disasters in the United States since 2010.

When you look at the list, literally one of the most recent ones was Kobe Bryant. Even that is included in the commercial air disaster and that was a helicopter. It wasn't even a plane. Stuff like that does still happen, but it's interesting that every time a plane does crash, every time there is a fatal accident, or even a nonfatal accident, there's this worldwide, "Here's what happened and here are the recommendations."

A lot of times, it'll get coded into international aviation law. Well, if X airline doesn't follow these recommendations, then they'll get blacklisted. So basically everyone has to follow them. It's interesting to know, historically, why planes crashed, especially in the 70s.

Man, you were really taking your life into your hands getting on a plane. As opposed to now, you're more likely to get hit by lightning several times than be in any plane crash, let alone die in one. I'm always interested in why they happen, or used to. I think they still happen, but why they used to happen.

ERIC: How do you feel about the representation of air disasters in movies? Do you seek out movies, either fictional ones based on a true story, or ones that are…?

LINDSAY: No. Like United 93?

ERIC: Or Flight, which was loosely inspired by ...

LINDSAY: Yeah, yeah. The disaster that Flight was based on, I believe it was an Alaska Airlines flight. The interesting thing was, that movie was based on an idea that they might have been able to pull out of it if they had done this, this, and this.

It was a thought experiment. Denzel Washington's character, if they could have pulled out of it in a way that ...

ERIC: For people who haven't seen the movie, the plane is going down and he decides to flip it upside down in order to stabilize it and then ditch it in the ground.

LINDSAY: Basically, flies it upside down for a minute and then flips it right side up and then crashes it. Well, that's not a controlled ditching. It's only a ditching if it's in the water.

ERIC: Ah, I see.

LINDSAY: Like the Miracle on the Hudson, that was a controlled ditching, Sully. And that was one of the first completely successful controlled ditchings where nobody died. Usually, controlled ditching, 10 times out of 10, somebody is going to drown. That's why it was a miracle.

I don't really have very much interest in that, to be honest, because they're always wrong. Flight gets so much wrong, which I'm glad I didn't know when I saw it because I enjoyed it at the time because it's mostly a character study. It's not really about the plane.

ERIC: But it has that one scene of the plane going down, which I think is what most people remember about the movie if they've seen it. It's just this visceral terror.

LINDSAY: I think there's another trope you see in movies all the time where alien invasion happens and a plane falls out of the sky like a rock. That's not how planes work. Like there's this movie that nobody remembers called The 5th Wave that starred Chloë Grace Moretz. It was an alien invasion movie.

I think there was a plot point that an EMP happens, and it also happens in War of the Worlds, come to think of it, where they look up right after the EMP happens and the plane just falls like a rock. But no, think of a paper plane . They don't fall like a rock; they glide.

That would only happen if it had just taken off. That trope, I think is funny. Once you learn how planes can't fall, even if they completely run out of fuel, which has happened many times. The pilot will just glide it either in a controlled ditch in water, or land on grass.

There was one that ran out of fuel over the Atlantic Ocean by accident, and they were, "Oh s**t, where's the nearest airport?" Then they just glided it a couple of hundred miles to an airport in the Azores, in the middle of the Atlantic, and landed it safely and everybody lived.

ERIC: When I run out of gas, I just have to call AAA. That's a little bit more difficult.

LINDSAY: I find it reassuring when you learn about disasters where it seems like how could this possibly be survivable? It's like, there's definitely ways. It can be nerve-wracking, but sometimes it's totally survivable.

ERIC: I don't know. I think you should do a future video essay for this. I think you need to do something about air disasters, either in real life or in movies.

Well, that was the YouTube channel, Disaster Breakdown. We have time for one more follow today. Lindsay, I asked you for someone who makes you laugh, and you said Drew Gooden, who is on YouTube @drewgooden1, and on Twitter and Instagram @drewisgooden.

Talk about the kind of videos that Drew makes and why they make you laugh.

LINDSAY: Well, Drew is one of the very few Vine refugees that made a successful transition onto YouTube, which makes sense why, if you're good at Vine, you would be great at YouTube because it's very short, snappy, very quick editing, as opposed to YouTube, which especially later, it's like the algorithm privileges longer videos.

He'll pick random topics like YouTubers often do like, "I bought every ad I got on Instagram for a week." He just put up a new one, something about a TV show, or he might do a video about other YouTube channels or Instagram or, "I auditioned for Kidz Bop." Just random stuff.

There's definitely that all-purpose YouTube channel where they'll be, "Here's a kitschy dumb thing that I did and just did a video on it." But he's a funny editor with very good sense of timing and humor. So it doesn't really matter what topic he does, he's very good at taking any topic, and making it funny.

ERIC: I just watched a video that he did that was an old game show he discovered by accident. It was a very badly designed game show and he discovered it at 2:00 a.m. It's about this guy who was really fast and really good at playing this very badly designed game show.

On paper, that doesn't sound like much of anything, but you're right. He does manage to take that and make it into something really entertaining with the editing that he does, with his reactions to how the guy is playing, and how poorly everyone else is playing. It's very creative. It's very impressive.

LINDSAY: A lot of times, it's stuff you wouldn't have even thought to do; "I watched one SNL episode from every season." Or, "Let's take a look at the best and worst rated show on every streaming service. Are they actually that bad or that good?"

I think it is honestly surprisingly difficult to come up with premises like that where you're like, "I am curious. Let's see." He's good at coming up with premises like that and actually executing them. Also, his videos are relatively short, usually less than 20 minutes, which is also good. People should make shorter videos. I'm speaking to myself.

ERIC: Were you following him back in the Vine days?

LINDSAY: Nope. I knew of some of his Vines because he had some of the more famous Vines. I'd seen the vines, but I didn't know because I didn't follow people on Vine. I'm not a fan of that type. I'll watch some compilations, but I'm not on TikTok. I'm not on Snapchat and I definitely wasn't on Vine.

ERIC: It's a very specialized skill set.

LINDSAY: If it pops up at a compilation, I'll watch it. I'll see TikTokker so-and-so, and I'm like, "Oh God, I have one foot in the grave. I have no idea who this is."

ERIC: I was going to ask you, you said that Drew was known for some of the very famous Vines. Was there a particular one that he was known for?

LINDSAY: Poor guy. I don't know Drew, but I know he's sick of this. I think the one he was most famous for was there was a sign that said "Road work ahead" and he's like, "I sure hope it does!"

ERIC: Oh, he's that guy! I have seen that one a lot. I didn't realize that it was Drew.

LINDSAY: He looked pretty young, lile in his late teens, early twenties.

ERIC: That Vine actually encapsulates something I noticed, without realizing it was him, his delivery, the way he delivers punchlines is very John Mulaney-esque. Very sarcastic, theatrical about something that doesn't actually matter. But the way he emphasizes things, it's like this is really important. It's a very fun style.

LINDSAY: I think that John Mulaney is a good point of comparison.

ERIC: You mentioned one of his videos was that he bought everything he saw advertised on Instagram for a month. Then he did a sequel to that. Do you have any weird products that you've ever bought from the internet just from seeing a random ad like that?

LINDSAY: The thing about those ads is I find that some of the time when you actually fall for them, they don't send you anything. Your money disappears into a black hole.

One time I bought a Pokémon ball weed grinder, never saw that one. That was supposed to be a Christmas present, but I never saw it. The ones I usually fall for are clothing ads.

Honestly, my experience with buying clickbait Facebook ad clothing has been pretty positive. They're cheap, s**tty clothes, but they fit and they look like they're supposed to. I guess I can't complain; it's only 20 bucks.

ERIC: I recommend his video about this. I was watching one of the ones that he did and it's a waterproof backpack. It's a $200 backpack and the guy was bragging, "Wow, it's one pocket." The ad is trying to figure out something to say.

[clip from video]

BACKPACK PITCHMAN: "'Literally, one huge pocket. There's so much space in here.'

DREW GOODEN: What?! A bag with a pocket? That's crazy.

PITCHMAN: 'In addition to this huge pocket, there's also this mesh pocket on the insides. There's this side pocket right here.'

DREW: Wow ... I bet you could put stuff in it.

PITCHMAN: '10 out of 10.'

DREW: The bag itself is probably fine, but I think this is just a testament to how hard it is to advertise a product that already exists, 'cause there's nothing to say.

DREW AS LAMP PITCHMAN: 'Let me tell you guys, this new product from Lamp.com is absolutely incredible. If you've never seen one of these, it actually turns on, and then light comes out of it. I would turn it on right now, but I can't. It's not plugged into anything.'"

ERIC: Well, that was Drew Gooden, who's on YouTube @drewgooden1. Lindsay, thank you for sharing your followers with us today. Before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how to find you online. Where do you want them to follow you?

LINDSAY: Don't. The internet is bad and should feel bad. But you can find me on YouTube and Instagram @namebrandlindsay, and don't follow me on Twitter. Don't be on Twitter. Get off Twitter. Twitter is bad.

ERIC: How can people pre-order your new book?

LINDSAY: Well, if you go to my Twitter, you'll find a bio link.

ERIC: Go on Twitter, don't follow there! Don't stick around long.

LINDSAY: Yes. Go to my Twitter bio and immediately leave. Then block Twitter from your computer or mobile devices. Or you can just go to MacMillan's website. The pre-order link is there.

ERIC: Then once you inevitably unblock Twitter, you can follow me there @HeyHeyESJ, You can follow the show on Twitter and Instagram @FollowFridayPod, and you can find clips from the show at followfriday.co/youtube.

Follow Friday's theme music was written by me and performed by Yona Marie. Our show art was illustrated by Dodi Hermawan. Special thanks to Lindsay's assistant, Elisa, for her help scheduling this podcast.

That's all for this week. This is Eric Johnson, reminding you to talk about people behind their backs, and when you do, say something nice.

See you next Friday!

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