If you peruse my Twitter, you may be familiar with my affinity with the ASMR movement. If not, I don’t blame you, because even there I don’t make much mention of it. Instead of taking the time in this post to explain what ASMR is and why it’s so damn popular with kids these days, I’ll just drop a couple videos by prominent ASMRtists explaining in their own way what it is and how it works. I’ll wait here for your return.
All set? Cool. Even if you’ve never experienced ASMR or find it creepy, a variety of the things I plan to discuss here will be easy to translate into other trains of thought, so hopefully it won’t all be lost in translation. I’ll do what I can to thoroughly explain the criticisms I have for a general audience, regardless.
Some months ago, Reese Canada brought in five prominent ASMRtists to collaborate on a secret project. Consisting of Gibi, ASMRDarling, Matty Tingles, Seafoam Kitten, and AlbinWhisperland, this group of creators have a combined subscriber count of almost 5 million people. To say that people were curious about such starpower being all in one place is an understatement. Eventually, it was unveiled that Reese Canada had made a movie about their signature candy, and featured these ASMRtists as a means of making a feature-length ASMR experience. Indeed, Reese Canada actually went out and made an 80-minute film that serves as an ASMR experience all about Reese’s candy.
While an interesting venture, I wasn’t too concerned about it. Seeing trailers and build-up for it, I was hesitant to try it due to the heavy advertising vibe that would inevitably come with it. Late last night, curiosity took over and I decided to watch it. Sitting in my comfiest chair, already tired, and my attention set, I clicked play.
Five minutes in, I wished so dearly to have it be over.
I have watched/listened to ASMR for maybe a year and a half. My first video was from GentleWhispering, who became the first ASMRtist I subscribed to, and slowly the blueprint of ASMR was embedded into my brain after experiencing a wide variety of creators and their whimsical ideas. In this time, I’ve taken some consideration to a number of different questions faced with the ASMR movement, such as the underlying intimacy attributed to it, its vaguely sexual connotations, and how one can “truly” experience ASMR. These are questions that have multiple answers, but only serve as a basis for my core issues with Reese the Movie.
Within, we have five ASMRtists. I have no idea how much creative control they had with this project, but I can imagine that because they are ASMRtists with nearly 5 million combined subscribers to their names, they should probably get some control. After all, they know ASMR. They’re sitting at a perfectly round table with a circular light adorned above them; the room completely orange, and an ongoing white-noise-like echo ebbing throughout the video. The camera pans in many different directions, providing shots of individual ASMRtists, all of them together, or simply others’ reactions to statements made by another. Here’s the first of many issues, and we’re only a couple minutes in.
For me, personally, there are two types of ASMR viewers: Those who listen and those who watch. Some ASMR videos, such as roleplays or personal attention videos, feature a variety of visual triggers that help aid the feeling of relaxation on top of the nurturing sound quality. Other ASMR videos, such as item-tapping videos or mouth-sounds videos, are more prominent for listeners, as the visual representation (while beneficial to some) isn’t as integral as the auditory stimulation. With this in mind, where does this leave Reese the Movie? Purgatory.
From my viewpoint (figuratively and literally), Reese the Movie incorporates a methodical scrambling of the visual stimulation, hampering what could serve as effective visual triggers had it stayed positioned in one place. One of the most prominent proponents of ASMR videos—especially ones mentioned within the visual category—is that the camera is staring down the barrel at the ASMRtist. It is an inviting atmosphere (for those accustomed to it) that gives a direct connection between the viewer and the ASMRtist. In Reese the Movie, most camera shots linger within an above side-view of each person as though they’re being interviewed by police. I don’t feel any connection to them on a visual level. The immersion is lost because it doesn’t feel like I’m there with them. As such, I’m not really experiencing ASMR, I’m watching the experience of ASMR. The difference is crucial.
Thus leaves the auditory standpoint, whereas the visual aspect doesn’t benefit as much. Even here, Reese the Movie makes executive decisions that thwart the goal of ASMR. More than anything, the quality that drove me absolutely insane was the writing. It is not uncommon to have an ASMR video simply be an artist talking or rambling, and it can be effective. In Reese the Movie, the dialogue consists of one individual talking about complete nonsense for a minute, then having another person react to it as a normal person, then someone else talks about how cool Reese’s are. This takes up a large majority of the film.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so aggravating if the dialogue wasn’t so horribly “LOL RANDOM XDXD.” I’ve criticized a variety of films time and time again about adhering to popular trends without taking the time to understand what makes them popular or why—it is a similar case here. What’s popular with kids/teenagers? Random humor! Remember that awesome “HI, WELCOME TO CHILI’S” vine? That was great! Let’s try and recreate that five-hundred times over the course of an 80-minute video over and over and over and over and over again. It is never funny. It is never endearing. It is akin to shooting spitwads at a chalkboard for the sake of it, and is not relaxing. It’s cringey.
And this isn’t to say humor can’t be a part of ASMR content, either. Look at some of Gibi’s videos featuring one of her most well-known roleplay characters in Daisy, where the content of the videos are primarily humorous. Seafoam Kitten also has numerous videos that are almost purely satirical and not meant to be taken seriously. The difference between these cases and Reese the Movie is that those videos have a point. Reese the Movie doesn’t have a point to these nonsensical comments. They’re there to be there, and to serve as humorous dialogue to better capitalize on (studied) viewer preference. Reese the Movie doesn’t have any sort of plot or commitment to a scenario where these ASMRtists can focus on honing their craft in a relevant way.
What might be the most frustrating part of the whole thing is that it did have some nice moments to it. When the camera zoomed in on the creators’ hands as they traced the Reese name on the packages, or slowly ripped the seams off the front, or Seafoam’s weird “sliding” maneuver—these were nice! I liked the seamless movements that these five experienced ASMRtists had when working with their hands, a major tool to ASMR. And it was among the only times within the video where the camera focused less on the hideous orange color of the room (most ASMR videos are dark/feature non-obstructive colors for a reason) and the fact that there are five stars all expecting equal screentime. That focused viewpoint was the only inviting time to experience the work of ASMR through mundane, but captivating movements and actions, without the flashy cameras and BIG, IMPORTANT PRODUCTION vibes getting in the way.
Reese the Movie‘s finest moments came when the stars weren’t talking, which is a shame because each of them have relaxing voices. To make matters worse, while the dialogue didn’t suit me, neither did the quality of the microphones that each person was wearing. The microphones within the table actually had better sound quality than the earpieces. One can easily hear the muffled, almost echo-y quality to each whisper said into the mic. It’s, again, very distracting and ruins the immersion that the film could have if not for the numerous problems I’ve already discussed. When a majority of the movie is them talking, it becomes irredeemable.
Upon release, a popular description of the entire video is “cult-ish,” which I can understand. The strange dialogue, the echoed background noise, the completely orange room, and five people sitting at a circle table, stabbing and aimlessly playing with Reese’s cups, sounds pretty cult-ish. ASMR is meant to be relaxing, and some videos push the boundaries of what can be relaxing (see: Seafoam Kitten’s library). This, though, has an atmosphere of absurdity too great to be of any use as an ASMR experience. Many of the most popular ASMR videos include measures to aid in sleep or everyday roleplays such as study sessions or library checkouts. Reese the Movie is more likely to evoke “Wtf?” than “Zzz…”
If nothing else, Reese the Movie is an interesting experiment. Hopefully the producers learned from the experience and got to know more about ASMR through first-hand accounts of those who live by it. Reese the Movie has a substantial amounts of problem, both as a “film” and as an ASMR experience, which is why I think it ultimately fails. I wouldn’t recommend it as anything but a case study of how not to make an ASMR video, but I applaud the attempt. All of the creators involved have stated that they enjoyed the experience and are glad that it exists. For me… it’s a little more complicated.
What do you think of ASMR? Have you tried it? Have you seen this? (I don’t expect a “yes” to that.)
For more pieces on this topic, be sure to check out the accompanying archive.
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.