Why Don’t More YouTube Channels Discuss Finance?

Money is an uncomfortable subject. Some of us are taught from a very young age that it’s like religion and politics: you just don’t talk about it. But the sad truth is, regardless of your discomfort with money and finance as a conversation topic, we all use it, so we all need it. Money is what the majority of the world uses in exchange for goods and services. Regardless of courtesy, I think it’s something we need to talk about, especially with regard to our spending habits, as well as social influence.

As you know, I love YouTube. I have my own channel, and I love watching the videos of other people too.

I spent a lot of time the other day wondering why people on YouTube don’t talk about money. And yes, maybe it’s because it’s a bit of a taboo topic. But there are other reasons as well, and many of them have to do with viewership.

Viewers are turned off by sponsored videos. When people share their lives or viewpoints on the Internet, it is the assumption of their viewers that they are getting authenticity on the creator’s part. When paid sponsorships get thrown into the mix, some viewers feel that the authenticity of the channel has been compromised. And when they feel like the channel or creator has become “fake,” they either stop watching or they make rude comments.

Viewers are turned off when a content creator promotes his or her side-projects. For the same reason I stated above, when a YouTuber promotes a side-project or side business, people get mean. And I think that’s really stupid and counter-productive; imagine you had a YouTube channel that had a decently-sized audience, and a side business that you were equally as proud of, if not more–why wouldn’t you promote a business you are proud of on your channel?

Viewers often believe that YouTubers make a lot more money than they actually do. Yes, AdSense gives creators an opportunity to monetize their videos. However, even with a large subscriber count, AdSense pays based on engagement with a video–usually by clicks. YouTubers don’t get rich based on ads alone, and this is a serious misconception on the part of people who don’t make videos. The amount of money someone can make on YouTube varies and is based on a multitude of factors.

Finance probably isn’t the most interesting subject to many viewers (or creators). I think many of us are interested in getting new stuff but not really how much it costs.  Many of us live in hyper-consumptive societies and as hyper-consumers, we like the gratification of getting something now–or if you watch YouTube, seeing someone talk about their new stuff. We’re not all that interested in whether or not a creator is putting money away for retirement or a college fund for their kids. We just want to see and hear about the new stuff (and maybe get some new stuff of our own).

It’s really none of our business. And it’s true: the amount of money my favorite YouTuber makes in a week, a month, a year, from AdSense, from sponsorships–whatever–is not my business. And it’s not your business either.

Is there anything you wish was discussed more on YouTube?
Take a shot every time you see me write the words “new stuff” and share your thoughts in the comments down below!

Strong Female Characters: What Do We Really Need?

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I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, but lately I’ve been talking to Rosa, my brain twin, and the more we talk about it, the more she and I both want to write about feminism, storytelling, and the characters we love.

There have been several posts written already about this, but I wanted to add my own voice to the numerous ongoing conversations. I don’t expect that my voice will necessarily be heard over the din, but I talk about it a lot: to Rosa, to my friend Toni, to myself (yup), and really just to anybody who is even pretending to listen. The hazard of talking about something that lots of people are already talking about is that opinions have been shaped and decisions have been made and people don’t necessarily feel like listening, even if they agree with you. However, here I am, talking about it.

I’m here to discuss the Strong Female Character.

Generally whenever there is a demand for strong female characters, particularly in film and on television, I roll my eyes. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I find that the results of making such demands set us back more than we realize.
  2. I find that “strong” is 100% the wrong word to describe what it is that we want and need.

When I say that demanding strong female characters sets us back, what I mean is that the result usually lets us down in one way or the other. A lot of shows that have a so-called feminist edge can be hurtful overall to feminism and how far we have come. And it’s not completely the fault of the show itself, but also partly due to the audiences watching.

Agent Carter is an example. Not to trash the show, as I do watch and enjoy it, but when it first aired, I was annoyed by the overall response to the show, which I will summarize thusly:

Yeahhhhhh, Agent Carter! Girls can do anything that boys can!

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I don’t want to sound like an asshole but I really recall this being a response to the show. And to some degree I get it. Women may have had the right to vote post-WWII*, but their lives were still very different from our lives now. The men who work with Peggy Carter don’t view her as an equal, even though she too is an agent of the SSR (that’s Strategic Scientific Reserve, if you don’t watch the show). What she does matters very little to them because in their eyes, her status as female makes her less-than.

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However: this is the twenty-first century. “Girls can do anything that boys can” is no longer an appropriate response. For fuck’s sake, guys. Wasn’t that the same message that audiences got from Mulan? And even in 1998, the concept of girls being capable of the same things as boys was by no means a revolutionary idea.

Having this response, in my opinion, sets us back. It’s part of what I call “Hollywood feminism.” The male execs running the show(s) decide to acquiesce to the request for female stars and storylines, in hopes that getting those female characters and storylines will distract us enough that we won’t ask for something else.

If you think I’m just making it up, you’re right. This is a conspiracy theory that I haven’t really backed up. But in some cases I feel that it is at least half-true, and that is how I felt about the response to Agent Carter.

Moving on to my second point, “strong” is not the correct word to describe what we want.

There are many Strong Female Characters in books and movies and on television. I’ll name some: Michonne, Lagertha, Brienne, Mulan, Lexa from The 100, and so on.

The problem here is that strength is more often portrayed and perceived as a physical quality than an emotional one, although a sort of emotional strength is displayed by many female characters. I like a lot of the characters I have named, but it has nothing to do with their strength, physical or emotional. The issue isn’t a quality of the character; it’s the quality of the creator. A good creator is going to treat their characters well: they will have a backstory, a personality that reflects that backstory in addition to whatever outlook they have on life, they will have goals and the capacity within themselves to change (for better or for worse) and most importantly, the creator will be consistent in all of these.

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Here I’m going to use a character who may not be physically strong, but is incredibly written**, and her name is Melisandre. Many readers, and especially people who only watch the show, do not like her. She is easily one of the most hated characters, and Dick & Douche (the producers/writers) have made it so. However, George R.R. Martin has made the comment that she is the most misunderstood character, and has also stated:

Melisandre has gone to Stannis entirely on her own, and has her own agenda.

Part of what I love so much about GRRM in addition to his incredible worldbuilding skills (not just in ASOIAF, but also his 1000 Worlds universe) is how much work he puts into his characters. Each one of his characters, regardless of gender, brings to the table their own strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. He gives them backstories and has these backstories influence their outlooks on life and personalities in some way. Most importantly, and this is what sells GRRM for me forever and ever and always, is the fact that they all have a) goals and b) the capacity for change.

Part of why Melisandre is so misunderstood is due to how mysterious she truly is. We don’t know a whole lot about her past; she claims to be from Asshai and to have been a slave named Melony. We know that she is a priestess of R’hllor (the Red God) and that she believes that Azor Ahai has or will be reborn. Her hobbies appear to be burning people alive as sacrifices and giving birth to shadowbabies. She also is not impervious to compassion, although we don’t always see this.

However, we don’t know, for example, who her parents are. We don’t know how old she is. We don’t know what her endgame is, although many have guessed. And I am positive that GRRM knows exactly what he is doing with her. While she may not be physically strong and her motivations are dubious, Melisandre is an incredible character who is lucky to have had a very skilled creator who does right by her.

Saying we want “Strong Female Characters” sets us up for failure, due to the perception of the word “strong.” The people in charge would rather take that word literally than put in the work to give us fully-developed characters. I’d say we need “Good Female Characters” but “goodness” is also a quality of character that doesn’t mean what I want it to mean. “Well-Written Female Characters” is a little more on the mark, but when you talk about film and TV, things start to get dicey because of all the people involved with the project who aren’t writers, such as directors and actresses.

Strong Female Characters are problematic for more than one reason, and I’ve listed two of them here. Should we change our perception of the meanings of words or should we change the language we use to describe the characters we love and hate?

What do you think of Strong Female Characters? Do you like or dislike the terminology? Comment below with your thoughts!

*this sentence sounds so clumsy… what I mean here is that women have had the right to vote in the US since the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, so by the time WWII happened, they’d had the right to vote for a while.

**as far as Melisandre goes, GRRM has written an amazing character, and Dan and Dave have done her show counterpart an incredible disservice. Also, Carice van Houten is phenomenal in the role.

ON “BOOKS EVERYONE SHOULD READ”

Last week, I went to Barnes and Noble with my mother. If I was 14, this wouldn’t have been a particularly notable event; when I was younger, my mom and I went to the bookstore all the time together, but that was before Borders went out of business and my mom never really liked Barnes and Noble.

For the first time in a long time, I was at a bookstore with my mother. One of mom’s coworkers is retiring and Mom, knowing that her coworker quite likes wine but doesn’t necessarily know what beverages pair the best with what foods, thought that if there was a book that kind of explained how that went, it would be a good retirement gift. We did end up finding it, and it was a lot bigger than we had imagined it would have been. It was thorough, apparently.

As a lover of books, I started frequenting Barnes and Noble after Borders went out of business. As a lover of bookstores, I like to look at displays to see what they’re promoting and how they’re promoting certain books. It’s summer, so of course they’re going to have a table that is all books for the junior high and high school summer reading lists. I marvel that apparently my 11th grade English teacher is still assigning Richard Wright’s Native Son as summer reading (it is a book I probably would have liked better had we read it as a class), and that the teacher at my old school’s crosstown rival still assigns The Poisonwood Bible. Other displays (ones that aren’t school-related) promote books that I find questionable, but I can live with the existence and bestselling status of 50 Shades, because I’m glad people read, and I’m glad that they talk about books, my opinions of those books aside.

However, I am forever iffy about the table with the sign that says “Books Everyone Should Read.”

Truthfully, I like the idea of a world where everybody reads. Even better is the idea of a world where everybody likes to read. But those lists of books that everybody should read? I tend to disagree with any statement that says everybody should read a specific book.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant may well be my favorite book ever, and while I recommend it to a lot of people, I understand that it’s not going to be a book that will appeal to everyone (menstruation! childbirth! Biblical figures!). It’s great when I do find someone who has enjoyed it because then I can talk about this amazing book that I am lucky enough to have found and read and loved.

But the phrase “everybody should read this book” is flawed. It implies that there is something to be gained, often a level of personal growth, from reading certain books. A life lesson.

And not everybody is going to pick up on those hidden messages. Not everybody will learn something from those books.

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In my 12th grade English class, somebody applied “everybody needs to read this” to the book Nineteen Minutes (notable to me because it was the only book by Jodi Picoult that I liked). But even within the book, there is a character who survives a school shooting, and despite having friends who died in the event and even having been shot himself, he doesn’t get that he was targeted by the shooter for having bullied him. He doesn’t change his outlook or behaviors.

It’s also notable that one of my classmates didn’t think the main character’s boyfriend is “so bad.” This was worrisome, even to my teacher, because it’s obvious that the guy is bad news. He has abusive tendencies and refuses to wear a condom when they have sex, and also, right around the time we first encounter him in the book, he’s telling his girlfriend that she’s fat and food-shaming her for eating French fries (I think it was French fries, anyway–12th grade was a while ago).

Not everybody is going to get it. And that’s why, when acting like there is something to be gained by reading a specific book and that everybody should read it, you could be doing more harm than good. Not to mention that the implication that books are for learning from explains why a lot of people don’t pick up books outside of school.

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Confession time: I never understood the appeal of To Kill a Mockingbird, and I didn’t learn anything from reading it. I knew by the time I had read it that racism was bad, and that you should always do the right thing, even if the people around you aren’t. Reading the book didn’t reinforce that message, and ultimately, I didn’t enjoy reading it, even though it’s a standard text in classrooms across the country. Almost everybody has read it, and yet I am sure that there are many people out there who also didn’t enjoy it.

And that’s just talking about texts that are in the American literary canon. There are myriad works that are important in other places that I have neglected to mention here. And to some degree I am happy that they aren’t “books that every American should read” because many Americans aren’t going to understand issues in other countries as they apply to those countries. They might understand an issue as it applies to America, but the context of one’s reading of a text is going to affect the lens through which that text is read. And the culture of that reader is also going to affect the lens.

So, yes, I like the idea of a world where everybody reads, but I’m okay with living in a world where not everybody reads the same books.

Do you think that everybody should read certain books? Why or why not?