Do you let your child browse on YouTube? Do you think they are just watching those toy videos and Minecraft demos? Well what if I told you that there is an entire underground of unlicensed superhero/Disney-themed live-action and cartoon videos with sometimes quite-sketchy content? And that this bizarro universe of videos were as easy to access as typing “Elsa Spider-Man” in YouTube’s search box?
Folks, I just spent several hours last night watching a number of these creepy kid videos—and this is time I will never get back in my life. You may say I am even slightly traumatized by the experience (by the end of this post you will understand quite well what I mean). But I researched this curiously still relatively unknown subject so YOU don’t have to!
Let me preface this investigation by saying: if I was a kid I would have went completely batshit over these videos. They have tremendous appeal in that sort of broad, iconic, crude, slapslick, scatalogical sort of way (most are also done in pantomime, depending on funny sound-effects); and this is why they are so massively popular on YouTube.
So what you have basically is a seemingly infinite # of YouTube channels—with child-friendly names such as Nursery Rhymes For Children, Super Kids Funny, Supergirl TV, Plucky Superheroes Today, and Webs & Tiaras—featuring either adults wearing cheap superhero & Disney Princess costumes or cheap computer-animated superhero/Disney mashups. Everything of course “bootleg,” unlicensed…the video equivalent of a knockoff Spider-Man action figure you might get at a Dollar Tree.
The core characters in these videos are Elsa from Frozen and Spider-Man, who are often presented as being in some sort of romantic relationship or even married. The Joker is in most of these videos as well (sometimes several versions in one video), as the bad guy (Maleficent from the 2014 movie also makes appearances). But you will also have everyone from Snow White, Superman, the Hulk, Venom, Deadpool, Iron Man, and even Pennywise (recently more scary clowns in general have been added to these videos, to keep up with the times).
The production quality, as you can imagine, is low…with the costumes themselves being of varying qualities from “really good Halloween costume” to DIY. In many respects, these almost look like underground films. Many seem to be shot outside of America, some even in what look like impoverished villages.
They usually consist of a bunch of skits edited into one video, and these skits and videos will be repackaged and reuploaded to YouTube many times. Themes (especially as you start with the higher-end of this genre) can include things that model “play” for young viewers, such as playing with toys, eating snacks/having “tea parties,” and acting out very simple superhero scenarios. As you go on, however, the humor gets more crude, with farting, pooping, and peeing gaining increasing prominence.
Many stories revolve around characters sitting on a toilet (with their clothes still on), straining and letting out gas; some will even “poop,” but this is represented by a cascade of multi-colored balls. In one video, the Joker sneaks up on an oblivious headphones-wearing Elsa and farts a green cloud of gas in her face. In another video…the Joker hides in a bathtub and “peeps” at a (fully-clothed, but still…) Elsa straining at the toilet. Suddenly, he jumps out and takes pictures of her with his phone as she pleads for him to stop. He then runs to upload these photos to his laptop in order to…I guess shame her on social media???
So now we are moving into more and more dicey stuff. In one animated video, a baby version of Spider-Man fills a juice dispenser with his piss so baby Superman can drink it. In another, a female version of the Joker in a nurse outfit sneaks into a house, approaches a row of baby dolls sleeping in a human bed, picks each one up, and methodically sticks them in the ass with a needle; the babies then go on some sort of “trip.” The theme of “dosing” or contaminating a drink, and sticking people with needles, is common.
But let us move on to the videos that focus on what I can only describe as “fetishes.” One, the pregnancy fetish videos, focus on mostly Elsa or even Spider-Man himself being pregnant. In one, “Doctor Hulk” lays pregnant Elsa out on a table, puts (Frozen-branded) blankets over her pelvic region, and then simulates reaching under the covers and her dress into her vagina to pull out objects, or stick objects (like a replica of the Eiffel Tower). In another video, Spider-Man wakes up to find that he is inexplicably pregnant; a thumbnail for another video promises a “double-pregnant” Elsa, with a bare belly coming out on either side of her body.
Then we have the “dentist” videos. These involve some sort of grotesque dental calamity happening to Elsa or her sister, with “Dentist Joker” putting her in the chair and seeming to torture her more than help her. Or lets go to the outright bondage videos, which start innocently enough with simple superhero-plot scenarios (Elsa gets kidnapped) but get more and more “fetishy” (with thumbnails that are sometimes outright sexual) to the point where you don’t know anymore if these are still videos for kids, or videos for sexually-creative adults disguised as children’s videos.
To be clear: there are fetish videos for adults featuring people dressed as superheroes. These are not how these particular videos are being presented. They are being presented and linked to children’s YouTube content.
Anyway, the more you watch these videos, the more you fall into this liminal rabbit-hole filled with foreign languages, comment sections filled with bots, increasingly nonsensical channel names (“Princess & Superhero’s funny moments in real life”), and darker and darker images and storylines. For example, you start having “killer clowns” wielding axes. One video thumbnail promises a gory scene of the Joker getting a nail stuck through his toe; another seems to show Elsa either getting punched in the face with blood, or perhaps even shat on. And then there is the video where the Joker and Spider-Man confront Elsa and cut a hole in her pants with scissors (scissors & cutting off clothing: yet another big theme in these videos).
And then there are the centipedes—a whole subgenre of videos with centipedes being unleashed and crawling over bodies. And here is where I chose to stop my investigation, because I began to find videos that outright just featured children in these creepy scenarios. Like: no more superhero/Disney context (though some of these videos lure you in with that). In the last video I saw, a girl about eight years old or younger was lying in bed as the camera followed a “centipede” slowly make its way over her body. I’m going to ignore the shirt with the bear she was wearing that reminded me strongly of the “pedobear” meme, and just focus on how weird and…pointless that video was.
Why would a child want to watch this video? Or one of the many offshoots of these sorts of videos that feature children (or dolls substituting for children) being tied up with insects crawling on them and so on?
Who is the REAL audience for some these videos???
Now, I don’t want to paint this entire genre with one brush or completely trash it. Maybe in the future this Elsa/Spider-Man genre will be a cult favorite among adults, the same way “Turkish Star Wars” and other weird ripoff movies are now. And the very first videos I watched—easily accessible by simply typing the keywords “Elsa Spider-Man” in YouTube search—were occasionally crude but I think ultimately harmless and probably entertaining to kids. The problem is that those videos lead, through YouTube’s “recommended videos” feature, to sketchier and sketchier videos until you feel you have somehow accessed the Dark Web.
But with so many videos being shut down and/or demonetized for copyright and political content…why isn’t YouTube doing a better job with these clearly copyright-violating and sketchy vids for children? Because I know for a fact that a small child, given an iPad and a YouTube app, will easily find these vids.
More to read about on Butterfly Language:
Spider-Man As An Alien Archetype
The Year Of The Mask
Journey Against The Centre For The Earth: Justice League The New Frontier