Jenny Nicholson Strikes Back!


YouTuber Jenny Nicholson, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. Angry Disney parks employees and adult stans most certainly agree with that sentiment after her she posted a scathing, four-hour, twenty-part review of her experience at the short-lived “Galactic Starcruiser” hotel at Disney World, which closed down last year after only a year. “The Spectacular Failure of the Star Wars Hotel” has amassed almost 6 million views in the past 9 days, going viral in the old-school sense of the word: her name trending on Twitter, subreddits torn apart, receipts poured over. When was the last time a single YouTube video generated this much discourse and extemporaneous content, from memes to fan art to media discourse? Two Girls, One Cup? Chocolate Rain? Keyboard cat?

And those early videos, which are the closest parallels in terms of sheer cultural saturation, didn’t manage those kinds of numbers overnight, the way Nicholson’s has. It’s hard to imagine anyone — let alone a YouTuber — being able to extract a response from the notoriously tight-mouthed and short-leashed Disney Imagineers, yet Nicholson’s scathing critique compelled a whole defensive essay from one on ScreenRant. (It’s telling that the part everyone’s talking about involves an ill-placed decorative pole obscuring the view during the dinner show. It’s not the most damning piece of evidence for the hotel’s failure, but somehow perfectly encapsulates all the cynical, cheap and strikingly stupid decisions Disney made in conceiving just about every aspect of the luxury resort package.)


According to everything we are told about making content online, Jenny’s Star Wars hotel video shouldn’t have been able to capitalize on any algorithmic “reach”: to use her own method of calculating the cost of her $6000 two-night stay “on-board” the starcruiser ($2 per person per minute), history’s most viral videos clock in at approximately .016% of her total runtime. This, as anyone who has been pressured by YouTube into making Shorts could tell you, is not the way the system is supposed to work. In its bid to replicate the success of TikTok, YouTube has incentivized videos that run under a minute. Four hours, even before Shorts, is an ungodly amount of time for people scrolling the Internet. It’s commonly understood that the majority of viewers — anywhere from 60-90% — will watch only the first 30 seconds of a video. Since audience retention is one of YouTube’s key analytic factors in determining how much a creator gets paid, the platform will straight up tell you to make your intros flashy, expository, and above all, brief. Retention is worse for “long form” videos than shorter ones, and it’s to be noted that YouTube defines the former as 10 minutes or more. Even if you were to condense Jenny’s video to 1/24th its runtime, it would still be considered “long form.”

In short: YouTube tells us there is no galaxy, not even far, far, away, where Jenny’s four-hour video about a shuttered theme park hotel should retain the vast majority of its audience for more than the first 30 seconds, let alone the following 28,870. (Sorry, I’m no math wizard.)

Then, there’s the timeliness factor: creators are constantly being told they need to upload consistently, the same time every week, so both subscribers and the algorithm can expect it. This isn’t some casual guideline, it’s marketing 101 for the platform: YouTube Studio offers uploaders the ability to see peak windows during which their audience is most likely to be online and interested in watching your content, and it calculates down to the minute. Anything less than rigid adherence to that timeframe and you risk losing your reach (the potential boost of YouTube’s algorithm recommending your content) and alienating your community. And it’s true that in any given fandom, there will be a vocal minority who complain about videos coming in “late,” ie, beyond that expected time frame.

This is especially true for anything in the pop culture zeitgeist, and exponentially more true when the subject involves properties owned by Disney, which include the MCU, Star Wars and Pixar (among others). If you aren’t posting your review of “The Acolyte” within the first few hours of its release, it’s going to be buried by content from creators quicker on the draw. (Now whether they’ll be forced to delete and re-upload said content, when Disney and its notoriously petty DMCA policy come knocking, is another matter altogether.)

And yet Nicholson remains a confounding outlier here as well: in 2019 her channel uploaded six videos; the following year, when most creators were producing more content than ever, she made one less. In 2021, there were only three uploads to her channel. In 2022, two. Last year, Nicholson — whose coverage area does not easily fit into a prescribed genre, but frequently covers Disney and Star Wars (she once hosted a show called The Millennial Falcon for ScreenJunkies) — put out zero new videos on her channel.

Which doesn’t mean she’s not making content: you can subscribe to her wonderful Patreon and access her “monthly rambles,” the topic of which is determined by an audience poll. Her erratic upload schedule builds anticipation rather than chills it, and because they tend to be meticulously well-crafted, incredibly detailed deep dives into unpredictable subject matter, the best way to explain her videos is to liken them to an entirely unrelated product: sneaker “hype drops.” Both have conditioned consumers to prize scarcity, rarity and quality over frequency and ubiquity. The unpredictable release schedule is a feature, not a bug.

Sure, her “Vampire Diaries” breakdown came out four years after the show ended, but it transcends the show itself to become its own Ken Burns-length work of art. The subject is really secondary to Nicholson’s efforts to explain it: in the past five years, she’s taken the same gimlet-eyed approach towards the movie “Dear Evan Hansen” as she did the failed botanical theme park Evermore, a Canadian church’s pop culture Passion Plays and the best Amazon reviews of fake spiders.

Not everyone can be Jenny Nicholson, and creators who try to replicate her success by not following YouTube’s best practices will likely find themselves at a dead end. Jenny Nicholson didn’t start off making a single four-hour video a year; it’s a right she’s earned, supported by the 43,329 members of her Patreon that pay every month for her content, knowing that when the next video arrives, Christmas will have came early.


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Shop the Funko Star Wars Collection and Receive Free Shipping on Orders Above $65!

In honor of next week’s Crossing The Streams Star Wars episode (now available early to our Patreon subscribers), Passionfruit readers can get free shipping on all orders over $65 across Funko’s entire collection.



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