If there’s one controversial genre on YouTube, it’s the genre of reaction videos.
At its base definition, a reaction video is exactly what you’d think it’d be: Someone records his or her reaction to another video. It’s not inherently a bad genre. If you’d like to get really technical, our review could be considered a very loose “reaction.” Our review of SSSniperWolf’s videos is, in large part, an informed, hopefully thoughtful, reaction to what we see.
But not all reaction channels are created equal. A good reaction channel is meant to add new information or otherwise augment what the original vid offered. But often, reaction channels can be lazy at best and as thieves at worst. And it’s ultimately up to the viewer to decide whether a given reaction truly adds to the conversation or not.
Perhaps the most popular reaction channel is SSSniperWolf, run by Alia “Lia” Shelesh. Originally, Shelesh uploaded videos of her playing video games as well as the occasional cosplay video. But now she primarily uploads daily reactions to TikTok videos and other content online. It’s ultimately garnered her over 34 million subscribers.
And, as one of YouTube’s most well-known reaction channels, Shelesh hasn’t been immune from the reaction channel criticism.
SSSniperWolf seeks to make people laugh through daily uploads.
As referenced in the introduction, reaction channels tend to get a lot of flak, and SSSniperWolf is no different. Many YouTubers have accused the channel of not providing anything substantial to the videos to which she reacts, since Shelesh will often just describe what is happening in each video clip. And from the videos we watched, though Shelesh did add the occasional bit of insight or transformative content, there were plenty of other moments that did not add anything of value to the original clip.
Some videos she used did not credit the original poster. Because SSSniperWolf has a large following, her videos can take potential views away from the original creators of the content—and because YouTube pays top creators, this means that she may be profiting from someone else’s work.
Some of the channel’s videos have sensual thumbnails, and others showcase Shelesh reacting to sexual things. In her most popular video, she plays a game where she places her boyfriend’s hand somewhere on her body while his eyes are closed, and he must guess what he’s touching. Throughout the video, he frequently makes sexual comments such as references to her breasts. Some of her shirts reveal cleavage. We hear references to genitalia and sex in many videos.
In a video where Shelesh reacts to a man caught cheating, a woman wears revealing lingerie, and the two talk about having sex. Another video shows a woman in a bra, and women are also seen in bikinis. When Shelesh goes onto a popular chatting website, she comments on how men flash her without her consent.
Shelesh additionally reacts to spiritual content: she reads a Twitter thread about a ghost haunting, and she calls “cursed” phone numbers to see if the rumors about them are true. In one video, she plays a jump scare on her audience.
In the videos we watched, we heard the f-word and s-word. A crude word for female genitalia is censored. Other swears, like “d–n,” “d–k” and “h—” are used. God’s name is also used in vain.
Given that SSSniperWolf offers more than 3,000 videos, viewers have plenty of hours, days and even weeks of content that they can enjoy. But a lot of that content comes paired with unsavory elements and language—and a lot of it was made by other people, which may cause parents to have a bad reaction to it.
Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”