How do you make history hip? OverSimplified is taking a shot at it.
This hugely popular, crudely animated YouTube channel has racked up hundreds of millions of views by offering history lessons that feel like they got dropped through some kind of South Park filter (only not quite as profane).
Whether we’re talking various revolutions (American, Russian, French, etc.), the World Wars (I, II, Cold), or critical battles, animated characters using contemporary slang and vernacular narrate the story of what happened in each historical moment.
The upshot? It makes history seem accessible for those might otherwise find it stuffy and boring.
Some people are naturally drawn to historical records of what’s come before. But most people? Probably not. And that certainly goes for many students.
OverSimplifed certainly doesn’t advertise itself as a replacement for detailed or academic history—as the very name of the channel implies. Instead, what you’ll find is broad-brushstroke vignettes about the important characters, ideas and events that a given video focuses upon.
As a jumping off point for developing a baseline understanding for these historical events, OverSimplified offers an digital door into history that’s not only not intimidating or boring, but downright entertaining.
OverSimplified feels a bit like an animated, 21st-century version of CliffsNotes, those notoriously summarized written takes for students who can’t be bothered to do their homework. This is likely not what the channel’s creators intended, but one could see the temptation in using these videos as a short cut in that way.
Some historical depictions (like, say, Henry VIII’s infamous relationships with his wives and lovers) are treated with a suggestive wink. Mild profanities creep in, too, such as “crap, “h—” and “a–.” And viewers may hear name-calling such as “freaking weirdo.”
As with most hugely successful YouTube channels, corporate sponsorship, product placement and calls to action for brand-related merch appear in every episode.
OverSimplified makes history fun and engaging, albeit with a bit of profanity, and at the cost of a deep dive into the complex details of the historical situations these videos summarize.
Note: Plugged In’s YouTube channel reviews are not exhaustive summaries of everything viewers will find, but a representative sample of recent videos to give you a sense of the kinds of things you might expect to see.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.