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Elsagate is a phenomenon on YouTube involving supposed children's videos which actually contain content inappropriate for children, such as sexual content, fetishes, violence, or drugs and alcohol. The videos tend to feature popular children's characters such as Spider-ManWikipedia and Elsa from Frozen, hence the term Elsagate. The existence of these videos has spurred notable interest from conspiracy theorists, especially on Reddit.[2]

Elsagate videos take on a variety of forms, from live-action costume videos to (crudely) animated ones using either Flash animation, claymation, CGI, or even machinima,Wikipedia such as those made using Grand Theft Auto V of all things (although this is perhaps due to the wide selection of skin mods available, including but not limited to the usual Elsa and Spider-Man, as well as the game being a versatile platform for machinima production).[3]

Despite having a bit of overlap (e.g. the juxtaposition of children's franchises with mature content), Elsagate should not be confused with YouTube Poop,Wikipedia whose videos are often aimed at an adult audience and with a clear intent to satirize instead of deceive (although in fairness, YTP initially started as a series of bait-and-switch videos meant to shock or confuse unwitting audiences).


It's uncertain as to how the trend started, although precursors to the phenomenon have existed, such as the Tijuana biblesWikipedia during the early 20th century (which also involved popular comics and cartoon characters in lewd situations, sometimes even drawn by the original artists themselves), and in the 2000s with the "finger family" videos made by small animation studios in India such as Pebbles, Inc. (who made dozens of those videos on DVD for local consumption prior to the internet becoming more accessible throughout the subcontinent):

I'm from India and I think I could clear up why most of these channels are from India. These nursery rhymes videos with rudimentary 2D graphics were popular in India way before the widespread access to the internet.

A company called Pebbles Inc. would churn out these videos, package them onto CDs and DVDs (I'm talking about a time before Blu-Ray became a household name) and flood the market with them. They were such a hit with the Indian households that you could see atleast 5 CDs in every house with an infant/kid and many schools had these CDs too as a part of their education routine.

YouTube gave the platform for other amateurs to exploit this lucrative market, and hence we could see the barrage of Rhymes channels overrunning YouTube.

- Naughtius Maximus[4]

Around the late 2000s to early 2010s, a cottage industry of children's content creators sprang up making "educational" videos for children, but as they are unable to compete toe-to-toe with the juggernauts that are Disney and Nickelodeon (among others), some of these creators started to resort to copyright-infringing depictions of popular characters from major studios.[5] In 2016, the YouTube channel "Webs and Tiaras" gained notoriety when the Guardian ran an article about the channel and its bizarre premise, where costumed performers dressed up as Disney Princesses and comic book characters like Joker, Spiderman, or the Hulk act out bizarre or nonsensical scenarios. The article also reported that several nearly identical channels called "Toy Monster", "The Superheroes Life", and "The Kids Club" had appeared on YouTube.[6]

The high numbers of views by the videos have led to speculation that the channels have resorted to means such as farms and bots to artificially inflate audience statistics. However, it could also be assumed that this could just be due to unwitting children being attracted to them. Further concerns were brought up when the live-action costume videos have began to feature scatological if not outright fetishistic acts such as "peeing, pooping, kissing, pregnancy, and the terrifying notion of going to the doctor and getting a shot".

Due to rampant proliferation of the videos and the ensuing moral panic from it, YouTube began to crack down on Elsagate videos starting in 2017, where it took down countless channels uploading or mirroring questionable content aimed at minors. It also implemented a series of restrictions on videos involving actual children e.g. those uploaded by minors themselves due to concerns about pedophiles leaving unsavoury comments and collecting playlists of videos showing juveniles for them to lust upon, as well as the "for kids" flag in 2020, which restricts user interaction and monetisation on videos perceived as aimed towards children, much to the chagrin of animation enthusiasts and amateur cartoonists who find themselves unfairly censored over policies done in the name of children's safety.

Conspiracy theories[edit]

Given the enigmatic and intriguing nature of the phenomenon, it isn't surprising that Elsagate videos have become the subject of conspiracy theories. Rapper-slash-conspiracy theorist B.o.B took notice of the trend,[7] as did Joe Rogan.[8]

Some have alleged that it is a state-sponsored scheme to desensitize unwitting children, judging from foreign-language versions of the videos, while others have linked the trend to either pedophilia, or in extreme cases, satanic ritual abuse. It can be argued, however, that the videos, despite their unsettling nature, were made mostly to cynically profit on the popularity of children's content by tricking the algorithm (similar to how spammers bend Google's SEO to their will through equally unscrupulous means) and churn out videos with reckless disregard to their educational value. Not to mention that the pedophilia allegations amounted more to a moral panic than a genuine cause for concern (e.g. poor parenting by those who'd just leave their offspring glued to a screen and treat it as if it's a cheap alternative to babysitting).[9][10]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]