Shae Himmelberger poeticizes cultural phenomena on popular YouTube channel ‘mister amazing’
Jim Moster | Friday, April 12, 2019
It’s no secret that Notre Dame’s art scene lacks extensive visibility. Everyone knows a handful of household names like the indie artist Felix Rabito, but who conjures up the canvases in the Duncan Student Center and organizes the creative events advertised in [email protected]?
First-year student Shae Himmelberger personifies one possible reason for this crisis of artistic recognition — humility. Despite his YouTube channel “mister amazing” boasting roughly 250,000 subscribers — about 28.7 times the University’s population — I stumbled upon his internet persona by chance after knowing him for months.
As “mister amazing,” Himmelberger scans the ponderous expanse of popular culture for subjects of interest and analyzes them with razor-sharp precision. He describes the content of his channel as situated “at the juncture between video essays and post-irony,” with topics ranging from the development of the ’80s-style Vaporwave aesthetic to the impossibility of time loops.
“The scripts of my videos do exist as essays with body paragraphs, but I try to be humorous and poke fun at the subjects,” Himmelberger said. “It’s not just about providing information. It’s about engaging with the topic and me sharing an experience with that thing.”
Himmelberger’s empathic approach to complex subject material manifests at the confluence of his writing and editing techniques. After organizing and reviewing research for a topic, Himmelberger ascribes specific “emotional beats” to portions of the video’s script through precise diction and pacing. He conveys the mood of his writing by adopting strategic vocal presentation during the audio capture process. Finally, Himmelberger aggregates sound bytes and visual assets to construct a unique theme for each video that immerses the viewer into the pedagogy of the script.
Perhaps above all else, Himmelberger’s audience recognizes his video editing prowess.
“I never took a course on editing or typography,” Himmelberger noted. “I would watch other people edit videos on YouTube and try to copy the things I liked, and Wikipedia was another good source of information.”
Himmelberger regards his analysis of XXXTentacion’s mental state and musical style as the turning point of his channel towards popularity. The video, with 1.9 million views, still assists in maintaining subscriber growth for the channel.
“The subscriber rate is more important than subscriber count,” Himmelberger said. “The rate implies that people continue to think and talk about my content and consider it relevant.”
Gauging public interest requires Himmelberger to abandon certain topics of personal enthusiasm, but he hopes to revisit the organic brainstorming process that characterized his earlier videos.
“I want to express my thoughts without putting limitations on them. I want to comment on something I like just because I like it,” Himmelberger said.
Himmelberger’s channel partners with a company called Standard Broadcast that pays him to record advertisements for sponsors. He only accepts offers from groups that align with his morals, although this hasn’t been an issue thus far. As a creator under YouTube’s financial umbrella, Himmelberger wishes to see YouTube meet the same ethical criteria to which he holds his sponsors.
“No one visits YouTube for its corporate staff,” Himmelberger remarked. “A website like YouTube can only exist through its workers, so YouTubers should have a say in how the site works.”
Himmelberger, a finance and Program of Liberal Studies double-major, envisions a future where he works in finance by day and as a social media influencer by night. As for the present, Himmelberger struggles to balance the management of his channel with coursework and his social life. He starts each day by envisioning specific steps to rectify the demands of his Google Calendar, to-do list and provisional video schedule.
Despite the difficulty of reconciling his online and personal responsibilities, Himmelberger desires to consolidate any remaining separation between “mister amazing” and his everyday self.
“I want it to be me who is putting videos out there, not myself as a persona,” Himmelberger said. “People may not want to say they do artistic things because it’s seen as divergent, but it’s part of who you are. The people who know my channel are usually chill, and you just have to take it in stride.”
Watching one of Himmelberger’s videos might be the only way to intimately comprehend the wonder he inspires as “mister amazing.” His flawless blending of visual cues and crafted prose comprises a deeply poetic viewing experience, as validated by an almost suspicious number of positive comments on his videos. Rather than succumbing to critics that delegitimize his creative outlet, Himmelberger proves the potential of unconventional artistic expression to inspire ad infinitum.