Once known under the internet pseudonym ‘The Nostalgia Chick’, Lindsay Ellis was hired by the website Channel Awesome in 2009 as a distaff counterpart to their most popular series, ‘The Nostalgia Critic’. Much as her predecessor did, Ellis originally focused on media from the 1980s and 1990s (in her case, media targeted at girls). But after breaking from Channel Awesome in 2013, Ellis began to produce independent content on YouTube that was more focused on academic analysis of media rather than the punchy, entertaining reviews she did under the ‘Chick’ persona. These include Loose Canon, (a series of video essays on different iterations of stock characters throughout media), An Unexpected Autopsy (a three-part series in which she examines the troubled production history and flaws of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films), and… The Whole Plate.
The Whole Plate is an ongoing series that attempts to use the Transformers series to introduce academic theory concepts. It’s one of those things that sounds crazy on paper, but in practice works surprisingly well in making lofty concepts of theory easy to understand for the average viewer. And it turns out, you can use Transformers to examine pretty much anything!
Feminist theory (where are all the lady robots?), queer theory (homoerotic friendships are apparently a huge thing in Michael Bay movies — who knew?), the idea of authorial intent, and Death of the Author (we don’t know very much about Michael Bay’s opinions, so can we use his movies to intuit them?), and even Marxist theory (can the Transformers franchise be considered art if the reason it exists was originally to sell toys?)!
I recommend this series to anybody who has trouble grasping theory concepts or applying them to texts. Ellis focuses on film theory, as that’s what her specialty is, but her points could apply to any text that is examined in this class. She uses language that’s easy to understand and accessible, and uses humor in order to get her points across. More to the point, her style is refreshing in that the whole point of the series is to make lofty theory concepts accessable to the average viewer, but doesn’t talk down to her audience at any point.
Here’s a link to the first video in the series!
If you have time after watching The Whole Plate, I would definitely recommend her other videos! She has interesting perspectives, and her sense of humor is infectious.