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Web Video / Folding Ideas

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Folding Ideas is a YouTube media analysis show hosted and written by Dan Olson (aka Foldable Human). His style is relatively analytical among other internet reviewers, mostly observing works within their cultural context rather than from a fan's point of view. Dan formerly used 'Foldy,' a puppet talking box, to serve as the host of the show, but has since opted for his own appearance in later videos.

His videos are found on his Youtube channel. His videos were formerly hosted on his own website and the now defunct Chez Apocalypse.

When he is not working on his own material, Dan has frequently contributed to Lindsay Ellis' post-Nostalgia Chick work, including filming and co-writing several episodes. He also played a large role in managing H.Bomberguy's 101% charity stream, particularly with regards to the guests who appeared during the stream.


Folding Ideas presents and discusses the following tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: In his first video on Fifty Shades of Grey, he points out how the best moments of the adaptation are the ones that adjust from the flaws of the original source material, including moments where it calls itself out for laughs. In specific, he points to an early scene where Ana drunkenly calls out Christian's inconsistently possessive behavior. During his summary of Fifty Shades Freed, he admits to liking the joke about Ana admitting to having something to restrain Jack Hyde, noting that it was "funny on purpose".
  • Adaptation Decay:
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  • Advertised Extra: Plushy made it to the opening credits for a while back in season 3 but barely features even in the videos it's in.
  • Ambiguous Ending: invokedIn "Annihilation and Decoding Metaphor", Dan goes over the general purpose of this trope before decoding the example from the film, that is to force the audience to engage the work from a thematic viewpoint rather than a literal one (and often times, the diegetic ending in turn becomes obvious from this route). Rejecting a thematic approach in this scenario will likely just result in nonsensical circles that miss the point, as most online reviewers tend to do.
  • Anachronic Order: In "Man of Steel Redux", Dan discusses the film's use of this as how not to do this trope, as not only do the transitions between flashback and present day not always link up or make thematic sense, but the overall arc the style entails is messed up, the most egregious instance being the presenting of a young Clark Kent's internal dilemma of how he should use his powers after a scene of adult Clark putting them to use, essentially resolving its questions and themes before the film even properly asks about them.
  • Appeal to Inherent Nature: Discussed as it applies to entire fictional works, typically ones rife with Unfortunate Implications. Dan notes an increasing use of what he calls the "Thermian Argument" to deflect criticism, namely by justifying elements problematic in the real world with an in-universe explanation (summed up, "You cannot criticize the world because that's just the way the world is"). He argues that it's fallacious since the rules of the fiction are ultimately the will of the creator(s), and since fiction is not real, all that really matters is the real-world implications the work and its creators present.
  • Applicability: invoked Played With. He says part of the problem with The Cremaster Cycle is that it has no metaphor to comment on what it's supposed to be about other than extremely vague ones or made-up symbols which you have to buy Matthew Barney's books or go to his website to understand, yet the creator doesn't let people have other interpretations of his work outside of his own.
  • April Fools' Day: On April 1st, 2019, the channel released "Folding Ideas Pivots To Fortnite" (since titled "Manufactured Discontent and Fortnite"), beginning with Dan announcing that he's moving onto the game as a platform and performing his essay in-game. It's a little downplayed, as despite this, the rest of the video is still a legitimate essay discussing Fortnite's existence as a "games as a service" platform.
  • Artifact Title: Foldy hasn't done a whole lot in the last couple of years, with Dan delivering the content in person rather than through the puppet. This is mostly due to sustaining a shoulder injury while working on an updated Foldy puppet, which necessitated presenting as a human for a few videos, one of which being his Suicide Squad video that he gained a surge of popularity and recognition in.
  • Ascended Fanfic: Discussed as it pertains to Fifty Shades of Grey, with the intro of his video on its film version discussing its origins and the resulting feedback loops on platforms like FanFiction.Net and e-readers that escalated it into becoming a cultural phenomenon.
  • Author Avatar:
    • Foldy served as one to Dan before he was phased out. Interestingly, Foldy sometimes appeared in videos with the real Dan and conversing with himself; as Dan explained, this choice allowed him to better illustrate when he has mixed, contradicting opinions on certain topics that he could project onto multiple voices.
    • invokedIn part 3 of his series on Fifty Shades of Grey, he brings up how Fifty Shades's rare "rough draft" Twilight fic Safe Haven is from Edward's POV rather than Bella's, signifying that the self-insert character of Fifty Shades isn't Ana, but Christian. Dan even directly correlates how both he and E.L. James in real life are "controlling, demanding, petty, and easily angered."
  • Bad Bossinvoked: In early videos where Foldy was the main host, he tended to frame him as this to... himself. An example from his episode on Earthsea:
    Foldy: I know it's been a long time coming, but it's all Dan's fault!
    Dan: [slumped and lying in bed] I don't feel so good...
    Foldy: Oh, quit your whinging.
    Dan: [vomits into a bag]
    Foldy: Eugh!
    Dan: My heart hurts... I think I'm dying...
    Foldy: Please don't! Who will edit?
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Dan discusses one of the most infamous cases of this trope, Christian Grey. He points out that simply from a narrative perspective, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with having Christian be one since it creates conflict and drama that can propel a story, so long as it actually directly contributes to something. The first film's director and writer understood this and tried tweaking as much of the story they could to tone down and address Christian's monstrous behavior as part of the conflict, with Dan describing the film's Christian as "a bad, needy boyfriend," but far less volatile and frightening.
  • Bile Fascinationinvoked:
    • Dan has admitted to be a proponent of this, seeking out bad content to dissect its place within art and culture at large. The ending of "An American Tail: Fievel Goes to Video Game Hell" has him detail his philosophy.
      Dan: I believe in the value of failed art, art that is driven by carelessness, unchecked and untalented ego, by spectacularly low-stakes greed. It has a tendency to be novel, to be unpredictable in a way that deliberate art never can. This is why it's so much fun to watch bad movies. No one would ever make this game on purpose[...]It is not simply a lack of time or money that produces something like An American Tail: The Video Game, but the profound lack of caring. The end product of that broken process isn't worth playing for its own merits, but it is worth playing because it's worth remembering.
    • Played for Laughs in "Cooking Food On The Internet For Fun And Profit", where during his summation of mass-produced videos of transparently faked "lifehack" content, he gets distracted twice from the sheer absurdity of some of their suggestions (like using bar soap to fill in a nail hole).
      Dan: [whispering] Whaaaaaaat... are you...? That’s not a hack... you didn’t... [back to normal] I’m sorry, I got sucked in there.
  • Breakout Character: Satirized in "The Matrix Reloaded Revolutions", where Foldy recounts the trilogy as being the story of Link. In his summary, he makes the observation that just on its own, Link's character arc throughout the trilogy is ultimately more compelling and emotionally gratifying than the "boring subplot" with Neo.
  • Breather Episode: In between the first 2/3rds of his series breaking down the Fifty Shades of Grey films — each episode being slightly under or over an hour in length — Dan preceded the final part with "An American Tail: Fievel Goes to Video Game Hell", a shorter and much lighter video essay briefly sharing his thoughts on the titular film before delving into its terrible licensed gameinvoked.
  • The Cameo: His miniseries on Fifty Shades features several excerpts from the original books being read by several of Dan's friends: Ana is voiced by Crystal Rhoney, Christian by Mike Rugnetta, Taylor by Mikey Neumann, Kate by Lindsay Ellis, Dr. Flynn by H.Bomberguy, and E.L. James/Erika Mitchell by Jenny Nicholson.
  • Cathartic Scream: In Part 2 of his series on Fifty Shades, he takes a few brief moments to scream into a pillow after going over Fifty Shades Darker's nightmarishly tangled mess of a plot.
  • Clickbait Gaginvoked: Nearly every major video since late 2016 has had an alternate "Clickbait title" in the description. Just for one example, "An American Tail: Fievel Goes to Video Game Hell" has "THE WORST VIDEO GAME EVER!? [gone wild] [prank][TWIST ENDING] Frozen Elsa Spider-Man"
    • This trend was inverted with his video on Pokémon Detective Pikachu, whose main title is "Is Detective Pikachu Mathematically The Worst?!", while the "clickbait title" in the description is "A Short Review and Discussion of Detective Pikachu and The Broader Subject of Video Game Movies".
  • Clueless Mystery: Discussed a lot as a big problem in The Snowman, which may or may not have been affected by its Troubled Productioninvoked. Dan notes how there are so many impossible feats and leaps of logic that by the end, the only suspects that could be definitively ruled out are those that are dead, and that the only reason the killer is fairly obvious has less to do with clues uncovered by the protagonists and more to do with the fact he's introduced and then otherwise doesn't do anything.
  • Coitus Ensues: Briefly touched upon in his videos on Fifty Shades of Grey, illustrating the pointlessness of its sex scenes in the grand scheme of things, in turn highlighting the overall issues regarding the series' plotting. Dan further discusses the matter in "Tuca And Bertie Can't Make It Alone", exploring what "pointless" actually means and using Tuca & Bertie as an example of how to avoid this and use sex constructively as part of the overall narrative.
  • The Comically Serious: Dan keeps a stoic, professional tone of voice throughout his videos, so whenever he makes jokes, they come across as this, like consistently calling the teacher "Goddammit Janice" in "The Art of Storytelling and The Book of Henry" or casually dropping double entendres throughout the Fifty Shades analyses.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: "In Search Of A Flat Earth" is an extensive discussion of this concept at large, beginning as an examination and retort of flat-Earthers in particular, but then delving into other, more actively hostile conspiracy movements like QAnon, the circular logic that makes them so stubborn to refute, and ultimately the self-serving authoritarian motivations that drive them.
  • Continuity Lock-Out: Invoked during his stream of Kingdom Hearts III, where he purposefully avoided playing the previous games or reading much material about the series in order to view the final installment without any context. For the most part, he actually enjoyed it, and was able to accurately figure out many of the plot points, either through dialogue clues or general knowledge of storytelling tropes.
  • Cooking Show: "Cooking Food On The Internet For Fun And Profit" is largely a discussion about the proliferation of this video genre on YouTube, what gives it its longevity, the various pros and cons of it from grassroots to corporate scale, and overall why he and many others enjoy them.
  • invokedCreator Backlash: Dan argues that End of Evangelion was Hideaki Anno's reaction to the shallow nerd entitlement and sexual perversion of his audience.
  • Critical Backlashinvoked: Discussed at great length in "A Lukewarm Defence of Fifty Shades of Grey (The Movie)", with Dan finding its narrative as being one of the worst movies of the year overblown for what is ultimately a fairly middling movie. Dan presents the movie as having far more creative care and thought than the book it's adapting, with its weaknesses stemming from it being an adaptation of highly flawed source material from which it wasn't allowed to deviate too far.
  • Critical Research Failureinvoked: In his critique of Doug Walker's review/parody of The Wall, Dan points out that Walker's assertion that "Another Brick in the Wall" is shallow and juvenile pandering to lazy teens who just don't want to learn algebra completely ignores the fact that when Roger Waters was in school, it was common for teachers to beat their students. It really was that abusive and dehumanizing. He says that the parody appears to be premised on Walker's assumption that every student has an experience of school vaguely like Walker's own (ie, like it was in 1980s America), but that's very much not true.
  • Crossover: He did a two-part collab with Movies with Mikey for Christmas in 2020. Mikey's video, "The Trial of Christmas Movies", breaks down and analyzes miscellaneous "Christmas movies" to deduce which is the most "Christmassy", while Dan's video, "Let's Argue About Christmas Movies", breaks down the nature of defining movies as "Christmassy" itself, further discussing the various cultural and social implications of the act.
  • Cute Kitten: Dan has a cat named Amy who often features in the credits of his videos, sometimes with a link to an unlisted video solely containing footage of her. She also occasionally pops up in vlogs, where Dan is prone to succumb to Cuteness Proximity around her.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: His vlog on Justice League (2017) includes such glowing praise as "I didn't hate this movie" and "it shouldn't leave you in pain".
  • Depending on the Writer: Discussed in "Everyone Batman Kills in BvS (and why it matters)". The point Dan makes is that the controversial decision to have Batman unambiguously and cavalierly kill isn't de facto a bad or even new decision for his highly flexible character, but that it must be accepted as a truth about the actual text before it can be appropriately evaluated as a good or poor decision, both for the text itself and its place in the larger mythos.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: In his commentary on Postal:
    Foldy: Personally, I don't think [Uwe Boll] is a terrible director. I think he's a mediocre director and a terrible producer.
  • Downer Ending: A couple of his videos end in glum conclusions.
    • "Weird Kids' Videos and Gaming the Algorithm" namedrops the trope:
      Dan: If we're honest, and if we're using the 1980's as an indicator, there's an awful lot of advertisers who are ultimately okay with their ads being bombarded onto toddlers, and plenty of creators willing to churn out low-effort content to facilitate that. (beat), that's a downer ending.
    • At the end of his Fifty Shades multi-part series, he's optimistic that the book from Christian's perspective will show more human elements to the character and have him struggling with his dark side. Then we're treated to an excerpt where Christian is fairly blasé about the fact that he's plying Anastasia with alcohol.
      Dan: (brightly) Nope!
      [throws the book across six wide shots of landscape into a river]
    • "Manufactured Discontent and Fortnite" has Dan conclude that the Marshmello concert means Fortnite is a glimpse of the future: an awful, perpetually monetised, vertically integrated, vaguely hostile future. Then his in-game avatar is gunned down.
    • "Triumph of the Will and the Cinematic Language of Propaganda," being about Nazis and propaganda, was destined to have one:
      Dan: The legacy of Triumph of the Will is muddled because it was intentionally muddled. The party was trying to inject itself into everything—into history, into art, into religion. They made their own movie and had their own critics praise it to make it important…To this day, we continue to use Triumph of the Will as our reference point for the mental construct of the Nazi regime. Which, I want you to think about that. Our idea of the Nazis is deeply informed by a propaganda film produced by the Nazis for the explicit purpose of creating that mental construct. This right here is exactly the image they wanted you to think of when you thought of them.
  • Dub Personality Changeinvoked: Discussed in the follow-up video to his earlier episode on End of Evangelion. The first video was primarily Dan discussing the characterization of Shinji Ikari on a symbolic and metatextual level, specifically based around the original Japanese text, whereas in the follow-up, Dan later realized that there was a much larger breadth of interpretations in part due to cultural translations subtly but significantly affecting how said text was meant to be absorbed. He directly points out how the English dub's Shinji is still depicted as a pathetic loser, but his voicework makes him more pitiable and sympathetic than outright spiteful like in the Japanese version.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Dan expresses this to Foldy during the video on Crank: High Voltage while sharing analogies to describe how unconventional it is for its medium.
    Foldy: It'd be like looking at "Super Bass" and complaining about how poorly it would perform on the adult contemporary charts.
    Dan: No wait, I've got a better one! It's like saying the Mona Lisa is a bad music video.
    Foldy: Yeah! Or that The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a bad how-to-guide on world domination!
    Dan: ...dude. Not cool.
    (awkward silence between the two)
  • Eaglelandinvoked: Dan examines type 2 of this in "The People Vs. Clark Kent", finding that Man of Steelhowever unintentional— is a perfect encapsulation on 21th century American foreign policy: Supermanthe symbol for truth, justice, and the American way — marches around the globe exercising extrajudicial power in pursuit of a single terrorist cell, eschewing diplomacy or concern for collateral damage, and even if they cross the lines they're attacking their enemies for, it's excusable, because when Superman/America does it, "it's okay. It's worth the cost."
  • Escapisminvoked:
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: Invoked and Discussed in his impromptu second part to his video on Source Code, "The Dark Side of Source Code", exploring why upon further examination, the "happy ending" and what it implies for the protagonist is actually deeply worrying on many existential levels.
  • Le Film Artistique: Dan says that The Cremaster Cycle is probably what most people think of when they hear something's an art(house) film. He sees it as boring and pretentious and specifically chooses it as an example of a bad art film. It also has lots of sexual imagery and a couple of bloody moments.
    • Also discussed with "The Nostalgia Critic and The Wall"; Dan spends several minutes prefacing the video discussing that while Pink Floyd -- The Wall feels at times, dated, difficult to watch, and ambiguous, he finds the metaphorical and symbolic storytelling to be a powerful piece of art, particularly as a reflection of the trauma and overwhelming anger felt by the creators in response to WW2, the political climate of the Thachter era, and structural trauma from schools to the music industry. This comes in strict contrast to The Nostalgia Critic who reacts to the film as if it's just another pretentious arthouse film steeped in generic symbolism to the point where his analysis of it is so shallow, petty, and just plain wrong that Dan dubs it fanfiction instead of critique.
  • Fix It in Post: In his "Art of Editing" series, Dan frequently touches upon Troubled Productioninvoked during filming that resulted in major issues down the line.
    • For Suicide Squad, due to a frenzied writing/initial filming cycle, extensive reshoots and re-edits of the film were constantly demanded, resulting in hours upon hours more of footage than the various editing houses knew what to do with. This hasty and poorly-planned development showed, resulting in a bloated, haphazardly assembled, and tonally inconsistent final product.
    • For The Snowman, they had the exact opposite issue, in that approximately 10-15% of the script was outright never filmed by the time it hit post-production. Dan notes that this absence alone demanded the removal or significant reworks of additional connected scenes now existing without context, and when combined with additional issues like needing to dub Val Kilmer's failing voice, the end product is "a complete forking mess" with a barely-coherent plot.
  • Flanderization: In his character analysis of Homer Simpson, he talks about how Homer inverted the Standard '50s Father archetype. Homer became more unsympathetic, but still likable, which led to later live-action sitcoms featuring BumblingDads in imitation of him. The writers of The Simpsons then satirized the Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists they helped create by making him even more unsympathetic.
  • Flashback: Dan has discussed the use and execution of this trope a few times, mostly regarding works that implement them poorly:
    • In "Man of Steel Redux", the issue has to do with thematic cohesion; in terms of the film's anachronistic structure, the flashbacks are not only placed at seemingly random times and without good narrative reason, they sometimes outright harm the overall arc such a form of storytelling would provide, often presenting the setup to a thematic conflict after its resolution was shown to the audience without significant context.
    • "The Art of Editing and The Snowman" goes into greater detail of what flashbacks are and what they represent, with this film's problem being that it imparts information to the viewer that may or may not represent what the characters are actually learning (and usually in ways that don't make sense for them to learn anyway), making it difficult to assess what characters actually know and whether their actions even make sense.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Discussed with Depression Quest as a case study in how to integrate a game's Central Theme into its mechanics, citing its simple, but effective use of But Thou Must! as helping illustrate the dissonant feelings of inability and detachment found in the depression the story is based around.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Discussed in his video on "Ludonarrative Dissonance", in which he defends the term as a tool for proper descriptive criticism. He also goes into detail as to how video games in particular tend to have its elements compartmentalized rather than being treated as a whole, unlike other media (citing {Errant Signal}'s video of how "cinemanarrative dissonance" between story and cinematography in film isn't really considered a thing), and discusses the implications and potential discussions it brings for all of them.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animalinvoked: Discussed in his vlog on Cats and its inconsistency regarding this principle contributing to its surreal, uncomfortably Squicky atmosphere.
    Dan: Cats has an odd relationship with clothes; some cats wear them, others don't. It's maybe a little weird, but a fairly innocuous theatrical convention that is far from the hardest thing in this film to adjust to... at least, until those cats take their clothes off. Idris Elba's Macavity spends the majority of the film wearing a giant fur coat, and it is impossible to describe just how uncomfortable it is when he suddenly apparates wearing nothing at all. Despite the plethora of cats onscreen who aren't wearing clothes, the act of disrobing shattered the convention. It becomes nudity, and a nudity that feels so bizarrely unintentional that despite it being deliberately recorded, [...] the instinct is to politely look away in embarrassment and respect for Mr. Elba's modesty as though director Tom Hooper had somehow managed to sneak up behind him and steal his clothes.
  • The Hero's Journey: In his video on Annihilation (2018), he briefly mentions not being a fan of The Hero with a Thousand Faces due to it insisting this structure as being a flat, universal truth, though he does find some of its theories on narrative patterns valid, at least as a jumping-off point to play with, as is the case with Annihilation.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
  • I Want to Be a Real Man: Discussed at great length in the on Fight Club. Dan explains Jack's motives for starting a fight club and rebelling against society as a means of proving himself as a "real man", then analyzing the film's deconstruction of this notion by showing how it manifests as abrasive, toxic behavior, from implicit misogyny to outright sociopathic misanthropy.
  • Identical Stranger: In "What is Vsauce?", Dan briefly acknowledges that he looks similar to Michael Stevens, although he's unable to replicate his signature Fascinating Eyebrow.
  • In the Style of...: "What is Vsauce?" imitates several characteristics and formatting of the subject channel, from Dan speaking and acting in Michael Stevens' signature mannerisms, to the identifiable but somewhat free-form video structure and editing style.
  • Inferred Holocaustinvoked: His minisode on "The Endings of Bloodborne" discusses this, it being the reason why he argues the game's "happy" ending is also simultaneously its most depressing. Sure, leaving the literal realm of nightmares appears as a much more sensible option than remaining and being enslaved by it, but the game also points out by doing so, you will forget everything you learned in it, including the fact that humanity is at the whim of a destructive Cosmic Horror Story, one that's very likely not going to end well for humanity, even in the "best" ending where you become a Great One yourself. That said, Tropes Are Tools, and this sense of ambiguous futility is what makes the game, as well as other Cosmic Horror Stories so effectively haunting.
  • Isn't It Ironic?invoked: "10 Love Songs (That Aren't Really Love Songs)" lists a bunch of "love songs" that people tend to assume are Silly Love Songs that Dan's been requested to use in the wedding videos he used to edit, but really aren't, at least in a happy way. Among the most baffling is Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game", whose chorus repeatedly contains the words "I don't want to fall in love", which his clients believed to be ironic.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: In "In Search of a Flat Earth", he describes how a lot of people leave QAnon for worse groups he describes as "hardcore accelerationists," i.e. doomsday cults who believe it's not their job to wait for doomsday but to cause it.
  • Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: Parodied in his vlog review of Pokémon Detective Pikachu, where he forms a rubric to "objectively" score a movie from 0-100 based on four factors rated from 0-5 and weighting them each for a total sum. "Laughs" is scaled by x0.6, "adventure" is scaled by x0.6, "feels" is scaled by x0.8, while "Haunter" (a Pokémon who isn't even in the movie) is scaled by x18.
  • Looping Linesinvoked:
  • Lost Aesopinvoked: "Man of Steel Redux" is devoted primarily to discussing how the film greatly jumbles up its many potentially compelling and occasionally well-established themes, mishandling how they're meant to be presented and failing to give them proper development and closure.
  • Male Gaze:
    • He discusses the academic definition (that works are made through the lens of a predominantly male audience) with an interesting twist. Although he thinks Male Gaze's relationship with women and queer culture is important, he instead discusses how straight men are portrayed through the male gaze in "She's Out of Control" and "Sam Witwicky".
    • In part 2 of his miniseries on Fifty Shades of Grey, Dan notes how despite the similar aesthetics and tone, Shades of Grey and Darker make it clear through how they film Christian's body in sexual contexts which was made by women and which by men. Shades of Grey maintains focus on Christian's dynamic body to say "this man is coming to f### you," while Darker is visibly uncomfortable with showing male nudity, focusing more on what he's doing (in the example scene, him working out) than his body.


How well does it match the trope?

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