I vividly remember a few years ago randomly scrolling through Youtube recommendations when suddenly I stumbled upon a video. The video had a thumbnail that caught my attention. It had a white guy and a girl with their jaws dropped in amazement to a scene from the trailer of ‘Bajirao Mastani’. Curious to know what did they found so astonishing? I quickly played the video & found it to be very engaging. The idea that Indian content is getting some attention worldwide was fascinating to watch.
The trend of foreign reaction channels reacting to Indian content began an approximately 5 years ago in 2015. Reaction channels were quite new at that time. Most of these reaction channels reacted to Hollywood trailers and TV series. A few of them started reacting to Indian trailers as requested by the Indian audience. The initial response they received was tremendous and came at a time of rising growth of Internet users in India.
Why do we tune into these foreign reaction channels?
The reason for the success of reaction channels beyond this Indian context is simple. It captures the immediate response or reaction of a particular work of art. Something is compelling about seeing a reaction for the first time and capturing it on the camera. This is one of the major reasons why reaction videos do so well without providing anything of value in return.
How and Why do they grow so fast?
Apart from the compelling human emotion of seeing a reaction for the first time and capturing it on camera, there are a few factors which played a vital role in the growth of these channels. Let’s dive into some of the common factors that play a key role in the success of these foreign reaction channels-
We as humans are always looking for validation from people we love, trust or regard highly on a particular subject matter. Most of us Indians are obsessed with validation from the west. To state my point precisely, one of the biggest examples of this is the movie ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. Anurag Kashyap’s modern gangster masterpiece ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ released in 2012 was surprisingly underlooked by the Indian audience.
The movie was first released at the Cannes film festival where it was highly appreciated and also nominated for C.I.C.A.E award. Even after receiving so much international praise from film critics around the world, it was ignored by the Indian audience. Finally, it took a letter from the legendary Hollywood director Martin Scorcese to Anurag Kashyap expressing his love for the movie to be accepted by the Indian audience.
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person is one of the strongest human emotions. Watching another person going through the same emotions as you instantly creates an emotional bond. This is one of the reasons why we sometimes connect to movie character on a personal level.
The tendency to search for, interpret, favour and recall information that confirms or supports one’s prior personal beliefs & values is very human emotion. Most of the time we watch reaction videos to seek confirmation for our love of a particular content.
The most important factor is the entertainment value these channels provide. We watch because we are entertained. No matter what, even the bad foreign reaction channels have a little entertainment value to provide. Looking at people reacting to the same stuff you love is a very interesting and also a very entertaining proposition.
The growing Indian market
Now, this is the most important factor why we are seeing so many westerners suddenly go gaga over our Indian content. As cellular data has become cheaper and cheaper the number of people spending time online has seen a sharp rise. Combine all the other factors stated above and a viewership of millions of Indians and Voila! you have a formula of a perfect reaction channel.
The problem with foreign reaction channels
I’ll be honest that I loved to watch these reaction channels. Sometimes I used to binge-watch reaction videos for hours without ever getting bored. The reactions were natural as it came out of genuine curiosity towards our content, but a case with a lot of reaction channels as they grow is the reactions start to feel like an act rather than an honest reaction.
To keep up with the growing reaction requests and to avoid losing an audience who might stumble upon their videos, many reaction channels start faking their reactions. The fear of upsetting existing viewers and losing them reflects in many of their videos. The most common theme that can be seen in many of these reaction videos is that they are seldom critical about the content they react to. Why give an honest reaction and lose your views? It’s easy and profitable to fake your reactions rather than give an honest opinion about something.
Another thing I find very annoying is that just reacting to Indian movie trailers is not enough for them. Is it necessary to react to anything and everything under the sun? Reacting to TV commercials, cricket videos, standup comedy, songs and even tribute videos has become very common now. Most of this content talk about things that only Indians can relate too as they are very typical Indian things. Like reacting to standup comedy videos and pretending to relate to every joke are just some of the most pretentious things which cannot be ignored.
My final thoughts on foreign reaction channels
Now I do not mean that foreign reaction channels should not exist. The argument is not over the existence of these reaction channels but rather over the quality of their content. I do believe that reaction channels have somewhat brought attention towards our content and contributed towards it’s spread in the west. Moreover, not all reaction channels are bad, there are a few channels who take a genuine interest in our movies and culture. They dissect each and every aspect of the movie like a film critic and tell us what they liked or didn’t like about a movie. It’s refreshing to get a different perspective from people belonging to a different culture if it’s put forward correctly.
We as Indians have a bigger role to play than these channels as we are the consumers of their content. Instead of using this platform just for the sake of entertainment, it can be used as a medium to exchange thoughts, views, insights on different things around the world. We can suggest content which is often ignored or underlooked in our country so that their creators might get the recognition that they deserved.
Finally, I would love to suggest a few YouTube channels who I follow and maybe you would like with regards to Indian content.
Pieces of Work
Our Stupid Reaction (P.S- I only like their movie reviews)