The Mike Show Ep 4 – Mariana Colin (The Morbid Zoo on YouTube)

Mariana Colin is a video essayist and film scholar, who transformed her video essays about movie monsters into her Master’s thesis and then again into a successful YouTube channel, The Morbid Zoo. Interested in both cinema as an artform and modern cultural behavior, Mariana’s work focuses on film, especially horror, through an academic lens, unpacking the social and cultural meaning and significance of it in our world.

On this episode, Mike and Mariana discuss how her attempts to reach an audience beyond the cloistered academic community led to creating her YouTube channel. They break down the relationship between new media and educational institutions, how the ever-evolving social media ecosystem is affecting the film industry, and talk about how momentum, excitement, and community curation are key to meaningful growth on YouTube. 

“As my academic study moves more towards mass communication, social media and less about textual analysis like… whatever, I’m trying to make things that interest me and make me happy and that I think are important and I hope that, like with any kind of creative pursuit, the voice will just build on its own and become something I’m not in a position to see right now. That’s the hope.” – Mariana Colin

“I’m certain that more people have encountered my ideas through YouTube than most of my department combined. And that’s cool but it’s also a little scary, because anybody… anybody can post whatever they want on YouTube.” – Mariana Colin

“Horror deals in areas of things we don’t understand about ourselves and the way that we react. And I think you can peer into the soul of mankind if you analyze horror looking for reflections of the era.” – Mariana Colin


Highlights This Week:

  • Mariana tells Mike her origin story. Tired of the closed feedback loop of academia, Mariana joined the “video essay boom” to share her love of and analysis on movie monsters, which quickly grew into a YouTube channel, The Morbid Zoo, that in turn became her Master’s thesis.
  • Mariana and Mike discuss the challenges presented by her unorthodox presentation of her Master’s thesis when it came to the “Super Boomers” of academia making room for new media in educational settings.
  • Mariana explains the peer review process and why that helps lend credibility to academic research… and how that operates in direct opposition to the free-for-all of YouTube and new media, in good and bad ways.
  • Mariana and Mike discuss how, in many ways, film is a medium of affect and expression and how video essays allow some of that feeling to be presented more effectively than written words.
  • Mariana and Mike discuss how hosting on corporate sites challenges the idea of new media, research and analysis, and educational institutions, as well as how social media platforms are changing the structure of our relationship with content.
  • With new media and videos emerging as a new form of critical analysis and theory, Mariana and Mike discuss how university libraries and archives will need to adapt and make their way into the modern age.
  • Mike asks Mariana to detail how she’s seen her channel and community  grow in the face of the myths of analytic-fueled formulas and algorithm-hacked channel growth. It’s all hard work, patience, and passion, which pays off more than shortcuts.
  • Mariana explains how she had to guard her community and content from misunderstanding and toxic rhetoric.
  • Mike asks Mariana to break down the process of making her videos, including how these video essays are being filmed, edited, and published. They discuss how film school did, and didn’t, prepare Mariana for operating her YouTube channel as well as the film industry at large.
  • Mariana discusses some of the other YouTube channels and content creators who helped inspire and shape her channel, including Every Frame a Painting and The Nerd Writer.
  • Mariana explains how she thinks the decentralized nature of new media allows for boundary-pushing, resulting in some of  the research and analysis to be more adventurous and just plain good.
  • Mike asks Mariana to explain the difference in performance between acting and her video essays.
  • Mike and Mariana talk about the value of enthusiasm and excitement both in YouTube and academia. Mike asks Mariana how she deals with moments where she doesn’t feel that enthusiasm and excitement. They talk about momentum, consistency, and community curation  as YouTube tools.
  • Mariana discusses how she’s inspired to research, un-pack, analyze, and study the things she doesn’t understand, like her Run, Hide, Fight video essay.
  • Mike and Mariana discuss if it’s possible to make art outside of politics.
  • Mariana dives into what types of movies inspire her work and capture her imagination. Spoiler: it’s horror. But also movies and shows made for kids and family. 
  • Mike gets down to the important questions: Does Mariana do the Tiktoks? What social media are they interacting with? Does Mariana plan on branching her work into short form platforms?
  • Mariana and Mike discuss how the agendas of platforms like YouTube and other capitalist media structures have altered audience habits and the content being produced. 
  • Mike wraps things up by asking Mariana what her future goals are for her work and YouTube channel.


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