Content creation is among the few industries that have thrived amid the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding in both format and popularity. Streaming content, such as podcasts, vlogs, and live streaming, has become an undeniable trend. As people were forced to stay home and their daily routines were upended, entertaining videos like streamer Do Mixi’s casual banter or vlogger Giang Oi bathing her dog offered the online audience a soothing escape.
However, the success of vloggers and streamers was not solely due to the pandemic. The foundations for their growth were laid much earlier by a group of visionary pioneers who paved the way for vlogging and built a community of digital content creators. While their contributions may be overlooked by many, their impact on the local vlogging scene is irreplaceable.
Among these trailblazers are JVevermind, Toan Shinoda, Huyme, and lesser-known names like Lam Viet Anh and Duhocsinhmy. These Vietnamese vloggers made their mark on the vlogging scene long before it became the popular trend that it is today.
The early days of vlogging in Vietnam
I vividly remember how I came to know JVevermind for the first time. I was a middle-school student who enjoyed reading comics or playing League of Legends for pleasure back then. One day, my close friend showed me a YouTube video where a glass-wearing guy talked about oral tests.
I had never seen anything like that before. In the video, the guy who played the narrator expressed his loathing for oral tests and the characters in his illustrative skits.
In one scene, the young man played the role of a teacher, sternly declaring, “Duc Viet, your rope skipping skills are poor, zero points!” Yet in the next moment, he seamlessly transformed into the role of a student who received a failing grade, quipping, “But you said it was an oral test, so I opened my mouth as you requested.” He constantly switched roles and acted out different characters in the skits, then switched back as the storyteller to end the video with a touch of sarcasm.
Aside from his unpredictability, what drew me in as a fan was his charming humor and refined vulgarity. He was a master of his craft, knowing precisely how to entertain the audience with his witty banter, convey his message through his facial expressions, and when to pepper in profanity or two for added effect. These elements were skillfully showcased in a less than eight-minute video, leaving students like us in stitches on the floor with laughter.
And just like that, JVevermind’s vlogs were added to my hobbies besides League of Legends and comics. Each of his weekly vlogs focused on a student-friendly topic in a simple and approachable way.
Simplicity, intimacy, amusement, and adequate vulgarity became the early vlogging recipe in Vietnam. The plainness of earlier vlog-like content can be partly attributed to the technological limitations of the time.
However, JV’s and Toan Shinoda’s videos struck a new balance between elegance and vulgarity, which was a key factor in their success. Previous attempts at vlogging were often either overly serious and dull or excessively crude and offensive. These content creators found a sweet spot that was both entertaining and engaging, which paved the way for the vibrant and diverse vlogging scene that exists today.
Moreover, those early vlogs caught students’ attention as, besides student-related topics, they openly discussed unfamiliar or sensitive ones, such as sexes, online behaviors, friendships, and familial relationships. Indeed, they taught me that parents and teachers were either too busy or too ashamed to talk to children.
From JVevermind to Giang oi — the old and the new
While JVevermind and Toan Shinoda are often credited with jumpstarting the vlogging trend in Vietnam, they were not alone in their efforts. The movement was first sparked by Duhocsinhmy and subsequently supported by other influential creators like Huyme, Pho Dac Biet, and He Always Smiles. JVevermind’s contribution to the scene elevated it even further, resulting in a vibrant community of vloggers that continues to thrive today.
Their success set the stage and standard for vlogging successors. More importantly, they also created content that predicted what would become popular in the industry, even today, ten years later.
It is easy to notice that content clips on Tiktok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts bear similar traits and techniques to early-day vlogs, such as employing one-man show performance, voice-over, background music, and sound effects, to name just a few.
But all good things must come to an end. The vlogging trend gradually receded after Toan Shinoda’s sudden death. Those early video content creators either lost their allure or produced fewer vlogs and abandoned their channels.
As new vloggers like Dino Vu, Khoai Lang Thang, Giang Oi, and Hanna’s Lexis entered the scene, the first generation of Vietnamese vloggers became less relevant. These new vloggers, as well as Gen Z creators like Vung and Jenny Huynh, introduced new trends to the vlogging community.
Vlogging has evolved greatly over time. Creators now make videos about a wide range of topics, like travel, education, food, makeup, career advice, and self-care. These topics are usually relevant to younger audiences and cover themes like career choices, personal identity, and finding the right university or job.
Today’s vlogs are visually more appealing than the older ones. In the past, videos were simpler due to low-quality cameras and limited editing options. Now, creators use eye-catching thumbnails, high-quality images, planned backgrounds, and various transitions to attract more viewers.
Even when a vlogger prioritizes authenticity by intentionally cutting down on those visual elements, such authenticity has been adjusted and refined during a deliberate video editing process. Even ads of all forms, explicit or implicit, are incorporated in many vlogs, which were not available in their early days.
It’s not my intention to judge the good and the bad by comparing early and modern vlogs. Neither do I mourn “the good old days.” Their differences derive from the development of social media and technology.
Collaborations between vloggers and brands imply the inseparable connection between mass-audience-oriented content and daily consumption. What if vlogging had thrived with the support of more advanced technologies in its early days? What if those early vloggers had integrated ads and effects into their video content?
But those questions do not matter now, as what-ifs should not be the topic of discussion. Instead, it’s more important to appreciate vloggers’ hard work and recognize their inheritance and continuity from their predecessors.
Since my university days, I haven’t been watching vlogs regularly. However, JVevermind’s recent comeback video reminded me of the good old days when I used to enjoy his content during my middle school years. It’s heartening to see that even after being away for so long, he still has a place in the audience’s hearts, just as he welcomed me into the world of YouTube and social media ten years ago.