Web Video / Captain Disillusion

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"Love with your heart, but use your head for everything else."
Captain Disillusion

Captain Disillusion is a web video series created by Latvian-born independent filmmaker Alan Melikdjanian. The series was started on September 18, 2007, and is still going on today.

The titular Captain D is a skeptic from the future who uses his superior critical thinking powers and intimate knowledge of digital editing and effects to debunk viral hoax videos on the internet. These videos include but are not limited to ghosts, aliens, impossible stunts, and much more. But Captain D isn't alone he has to put up with an annoying living Lens Flare named Mr. Flare and, more occasionally, a giant floating head goddess named Holly.

His YouTube channel can be found here. He also has a Patreon which can be found here.

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This show contains examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Mr. Flare has two episodes of his own "Mr. Flare Explains" sub-series with no sign of Captain D.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Mr. Flare, the lens flare.
  • Adorkable: Captain D when discussing a particularly ingenious or effective bit of effects work. Particularly apparent in his VFXcool series, where he gushes about the innovations in Hollywood effects in some of his favourite movies.
  • Ambiguously Human:
    • Although appearing to be human, it's never really clear what Captain D is.
    • Holly, who might be some kinda eternal being.
  • Alternate Timeline:
    • In "The Mandaellah Effekt", we're shown an alternate timeline where Holly is the skeptical superhero and Captain D is the malevolent deity. The two timelines are able to interact and hold conversations.
    • "Time Travel DEBUNK" takes place in the same timeline from Back to the Future Part II, where Captain has his own campus, a subscription based channel, and Max Headroom style stuttering in his videos. When the DeLorean leaves at the video's end (right after Captain claims Time Travel into the past is impossible) everything vanishes, and a stunned Captain finds himself sitting in his usual corner.
  • Amusing Injuries: The Captain frequently falls victim to these, mostly during his exit gags. A common image is the Captain taking off in flight, only to crash back to the ground, unconscious.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: In "The Undebunkable", we get one of the Zeitgeist.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • Despite the wide range of strange and impossible things Captain D deals within the videos, including but not limited to giant floating heads, cartoon characters visiting him, and sentient lens flares, he remains incredibly skeptical of supernatural claims.
    • This is the main topic discussed in "The Undebunkable". Captain D explains how sometimes outlandishly-appearing things can be in fact real, and how mistrusting and denying everything on the basis of "it looks fake" without doing proper research or accepting new information is ultimately unhelpful and sometimes flat-out wrong.
      Captain D: The power to tell real from fake doesn't come from being a "world expert" or mistrusting every single thing you see, it comes from an honest willingness to change your opinions and beliefs based on new facts. So learn to enjoy being wrong. The world might start making more sense. You won't feel as out of step with humanity, your words won't cause needless pain to those who suffered real tragedies, and the words of others won't sway you into believing myths over truth. You'll be able to love with your heart, but use your head for everything else.
  • Brick Joke: Early in "Cicret Bracelet DEBUNK", the Captain makes a quip about how the projector's proposed light source won't display anything "on a sunny Miami day, projected onto the arm of my black son". Later in the video, apropos of nothing:
    Captain D: (to his phone) Give me black my son!
  • Catch Phrase: "Love with your heart, but use your head for everything else."
  • Conspiracy Theories: Discussed at great length in "The Undebunkable", namely of how a mindset of arbitrarily dismissing things because they might be fake can lead to pointlessly negative conclusions, such as the moon landing being a hoax, the "Paul is dead" theory, or how 9/11 was all faked.
  • Couch Gag: Or rather, Exit Gag. At the end of every video Captain Disillusion exits in a humorous way.
  • Curse Cut Short: Subverted. Captain D shuts off Mr. Flare just when he's about to curse. Later, he turns him back on, and he finishes the curse.
  • Daydream Surprise: Happens in "Rush Hour Explanation". Captain D and Mr. Flare are chatting and addressing the audience as if on a celebrity talk show, until the convivial atmosphere is broken when Mr. Flare claims the vehicles and pedestrians passing within inches of one another on a crosswalk were all stunt performers. Cap angrily calls Mr. Flare out, before going into a detailed explanation of the digital compositing tricks used to make the video. As the explanation concludes, Mr. Flare snaps Captain D out of his reverie and the friendly chat resumes as if the previous few minutes never occurred. May count as a daydream within a dream as the two then sign off with an incoherent string of pseudoscientific nonsense about astrological quantum chemtrails, then the scene cuts to the two of them unconscious on the set surrounded by clouds of green gas and a siren warning about a "credulin leak", so the whole chat show sequence may have been a hallucination.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mr. Flare often expresses disdain for being questioned about light.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: A one-off segment in one episode is described as "Today's daily word of the day".
  • Disaster Dominoes: At the end of "Miss Ping Debunk", Cap bats a ping-pong ball off screen, which breaks something, leading to a series of series of escalating sounds of destruction ending in the entire studio collapsing around him.
  • Enraged by Idiocy: The Captain doesn't like it when people actually fall for the videos he shows.
  • Every Episode Ending: "But now it's time for me to go, kids..." followed by mentioning someone he needs to help (or hurt, on at least one occasion), followed by him leaving the set some way.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Holly taking on human form in a cute dress looks like fanservice until you notice the gigantic scar that wraps around her neck, making her almost look like she's been hanged.
    • In the Disneyland Ghost Debunk video, many fans were quick to point out that Mickey Mouse appeared to have visible breasts. Captain D responded by uploading a video in which the women of the series were presented as possible candidates for the actress in the costume...only for it to be revealed that it was the "deceptively flabby" Captain D himself, followed by footage of him shirtless and rubbing his nipples.
    • The ending of "Mystery Boob Revealed" is an attempt at Subliminal Seduction, with the aim at replacing every hint of cleavage the viewer sees with the Captain's flabby, hairy chest.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: He freaks out when he can't easily identify the trick used in his Randi + Pantry Ghost... Debunk? video and when confronted by Randi he says he is "beaten and out of the game". He couldn't identify it because it was a practical effect instead of the more commonly used digital editing.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Happens when the Captain tries (and fails) to debunk the Pantry Ghost.
  • Long List: When Captain D talks about the Fresno Nightcrawler.
    Captain Disillusion: All I have to do is figure out what's happening in an image originally recorded by an off-the-shelf security camera onto a VHS tape, then filmed off a TV screen with a handheld consumer camcorder, dumped by a TV station, edited into a news show from which it was DVR'd by another person, digitized into a video file, played from a laptop on a projector at a conference where it was filmed from the screen, compressed and then uploaded to YouTube.
  • Mean Boss: Captain D to his intern Alan during "Heroic Feats of YouTube Debunkery". In addition to making Alan give a talk that Captain D was scheduled for (and berating him over Skype when he acts reluctant), Captain D also makes Alan's family and girlfriend film the episodes because "he loves exploiting free labor". Alan is also so intensely involved in the creation of every episode, sometimes he feels like 'he' is Captain Disillusion.
  • Medium Blending: The show occasionally cuts to animated segments, such as the stories of how Holly and Cap met in the episode "Shark Surfer Debunk".
  • Mind Hive: Zeitgeist, who personifies the spirit of the time formed by the ideals and beliefs of society.
  • Mood Whiplash: Captain D pauses in the "Miss Ping Debunk" video to advertise for "Knives; they cut... and they don't ask no f***ing questions!" before cheerily returning to the topic.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Discussed at length in "Gateway to Sedona DEBUNK", where the creators attempt to present a plausible explanation for supernatural events but constantly come up with increasingly specific, evasive and arbitrary excuses when they don't work for others, all while maintaining it's still real (until they decide it isn't).
    Captain D: These creators aren't just moving the goalpoasts, they've strapped them to their backs!
  • Mundane Solution: Some videos Captain D covers don't use any video effects, objects are just accidentally hidden as they enter or leave frame (like the Russian Ghost Car, or Where Did the Ball Go?). Other times the stunt was staged, but using real props (like the Real Phaser).
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Zeitgeist — who is the actual Zeitgeist, formed by the current ideals and beliefs of humanity — resembles an evil version of Captain D because the skeptic movement of which the Captain is a member is giving rise to people so skeptical that they're doubting the moon landing, the 9-11 terrorist attacks, etc. All Captain D can do is remind people, as usual, to love with their heart, but use their head for everything else.
  • Ratings Stunt: Spoofed in the episode "Fantasy Files Explanation", which opens with Captain D analysing his YouTube viewer statistics and concluding the best way to boost his audience is to spice his show up with gratuitous 3D, cheesy green-screen effects (despite the show already using very competent green-screen effects), and a topic chosen to appeal to the young male demographic.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Captain D gives one to Holly in "Shark Surfer".
    Holly: Name one thing about me that isn't perfect!
    Captain Disillusion: Are you kidding me? You have a problem communicating. You never call, you only text. What's that about? And the text messages all contradict each other. You love making up rules for things people know to do anyway, and you get so angry about the slightest little infractions while major world problems don't seem to concern you at all! You say that you have a plan, that you know what you're doing, but you never seem to, and when stuff goes wrong it's always somehow everybody else's fault. You're paranoid, vindictive and controlling, except you don't really control anything!
  • Retraux: The magic trick VHS tape in "Cup Levitation & Train Track Rescue" shows a "pre-internet" Captain D, complete with ridiculous 1980s hair and cheesy video effects.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: In part 2 of "VFXcool: Back to the Future Trilogy", the Captain appears alongside Ami Yamato, who represents herself as a 3D-animated avatar in real-life environments, even in her own videos. In a really weird twist, the reason she's there is to demonstrate a VistaGlide camera rig and an advanced Split Screen effect used in Back to the Future Part II that allows live-action actors to appear simultaneously in multiple spots... and so the Captain uses an Animated Actor.
  • Science Hero: A weird variation in that Captain Disillusion doesn't use gadgets to stop crime but rather promotes rationality (And might probably not count as a classical hero).
  • Science Show: In a sense, as the show gives simplified technical explanations debunking many videos on the internet and framed in a cartoonish and zany universe with an eccentric host. It's more explicitly so in "Free Energy Devices", a crossover with Beakman's World.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Alan Melikdjanian has experience in film production and visual effects, and alongside additional research, every debunking is incredibly thorough, able to break down the technicals of how the videos were made, as well as disprove them with scientific explanation. One notable instance was when the Captain identified the exact plugins and stock effects pack used in one video, right down to their individual file names.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Holly. Captain D even introduces her as having delusions of grandeur.
  • Special Guest:
    • Penn & Teller show up, in Captain D costume and makeup, to do the sign-off at the end of "Reptile Woman Debunk".
    • James Randi helps the Captain debunk an illusion that relies on old-fashioned physical effects and not digital editing in "Pantry Ghost Debunk".
    • Mickey Mouse shows up when Captain D debunks a video of a supposed ghost at Disneyland, claiming he's there to audit the video because Captain D said "Disney" three times within a few seconds.
    • Beakman of Beakman's World co-stars in an episode debunking perpetual motion machines to provide scientific explanations of thermodynamics and magnets.
    • In the debunk video Quick D: Flying Girl, Cirque du Soleil performer Erica Linz has a brief appearance.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Holly is like this towards Captain Disillusion, badgering him for dates and insisting they were made for each other despite Cap's repeated rejections.
  • Stealth Insult: The ending to "Quick D: Traffic Dodging" has him point out that the video's original creator made a response asking for 777 subscribers in exchange for "revealing" whether the video was real or a hoax, which the Captain finds "adorable."
    Captain D: Let's all help him out! (presses subscribe button) There, subscribed! In fact, I better click it again just to make sure it worked. (presses it again)
  • Stylistic Suck: In "Heroic Feats of YouTube Debunkery", Alan performs a "typical skeptic's presentation". It's a PowerPoint Presentation filled with unreadable text, a "free trial" watermark in the corner, clipart stolen from Google Images, and clips played in tiny (mute) video players. Alan even has to dig through a (fake) desktop screen to find it, and hyperventilates through nearly the entire performance. The entire point of the talk is to walk the audience through the process of turning that presentation into an episode of Captain Disillusion.
  • Take That!:
    • In "Fresno Nightcrawlers," the Captain notes that "lesser minds" have analyzed the footage before, just as a clip from the Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files episode featuring the video plays.
    • In "UFO Over India", the man playing the UFO Hoaxer is a drunken man who was kicked out of his girlfriend's house, blows all his money in Atlantic City, and then gets arrested for public indecency after watching his view count hit a million.
    • "The Undebunkable" is meant to be a serious episode, but a lot of the Captain's (actually Zeitgeist's) "debunkings" are made on exaggerated, flimsy evidence like "not knowing how things work and refusing to look it up".
    • "Skiing Ostritches DEBUNK" is a massive Take That! toward PewDiePie; particularly his reaction to the new YouTube Algorhithim.
    • In his "The Unbearable Loneliness of Being Right on the Internet" live panel, he brings up the "Skeptic Asshole Singularity", which many skeptics like himself end up sucked into, and he cries out in despair when Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins end up crossing the "Assholevent Horizon" along with other YouTube skeptics Thunderf00t, Sargon Of Akkad, Armoured Skeptic, and The Amazing Atheist. Penn Jillette almost passes into it, but thankfully pulls out at the last second since "it is possible to change your tone."
  • Take That, Audience!:
    • In general, the Captain has no qualms with making fun of members of his audience who ask him to debunk things that are way too obvious, or things that are actually real but they just assumed were fake, not having done any basic research.
    • Done a lot in Ghost Caught by Dog Debunk, where the Captain feels people were way too easily tricked by something really simple.
    Captain Disillusion: That's not a face of a demon in the window, it's just you being a gullible doofus.
    • He also responded to the massive amount of people that saw that Mickey Mouse had breasts on his Disneyland Ghost Debunk video. Who was playing Mickey? Himself.
  • Take That Me: When Mr. Flare almost takes over the show, he claims one of the changes he'll make is they'll stop using "debunk" as a noun.
    Mr. Flare: That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!
    • The Captain relies on a lot of self-depreciating humor, especially regarding his subscription numbers.
  • You Keep Using That Word: The Captain expresses disappointment at the comments of the UFO Over India video claiming it was done with "CGI."note 
  • Worthy Opponent: Captain Disillusion will sometimes give credit to impressive effects that leave little to no trace of how they work.

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