For some, unboxing videos are addictive. For others, they’re a source of pure bafflement. Still, they seem relatively harmless, a way for kids to get a look at a toy they want to buy before dropping their hard-earned allowance. A new piece from The Outline, however, frames their place in culture as much more insidious—a cunning, cynical manifestation of mindless consumerism.
If you’re unfamiliar with the unboxing video, the piece describes it thusly: “[A] box is obtained, a box is opened, and its contents are presented to the viewer in a simulation of the basic act of consumption.” While there used to be an air of anticipation in the videos, the rise of subscription-box services like Loot Crate has changed everything. Now, popular YouTubers are paid by these companies to feature their products, resulting in an unboxing culture that’s thoroughly, almost hilariously, capitalistic and unenthused.
The geek subscription-box business model treats the actual contents of the box like prizes handed out for reaching a sales goal. The product itself, the thing being consumed, is second to the generalized act of consumption. The Loot Crate subreddit seems to confirm this — nearly every post is a complaint about three-month shipping delays and “exclusive” items being spotted on store shelves. Some unboxers have realized this fundamental disconnect. Instead of feigning excitement for “Deadpool Funko Pops” and T-shirts designed to repel women, they openly admit that “LOOT CRATE SUCKS!!!” while they do their still-obligatory unboxings.
The piece describes unboxing videos as “the purest and most repulsive manifestation of consumer culture yet.” It’s enough to make us long for more commercials like this one.