Get Ready With Me

Rachel McCabe

Rachel McCabe is a PhD Candidate in the English department at Indiana University Bloomington. Her work explores the productive capability of affective difficulty and the ways in which texts that defy reader and viewer expectations can produce nuanced rhetorical analysis. Her dissertation on productive discomfort, reading, and writing in First Year Composition works through the ways in which rhetorical analysis of fictional and multimodal test objects can help students navigate a variety of genres in their writing.



Artist's Statement

One of Gregory Ulmer’s key contributions to the field of rhetoric is his idea of heuretics.  Part of the reason this idea of “heretical heuristics” has been so revolutionary is the way it encourages pushing digital reinvention to its breaking point.  In this video project, I worked with film production scholar Ryan Juszkiewicz to create a genre-challenging “Get Ready with Me” YouTube video.  This heuretical experiment uncovers the underlying rhetorical goals and risks of the “GRWM” genre.

Traditionally, “GRWM” pieces are self-depictions of YouTubers waking up, putting on makeup, making coffee, and leaving the house in the morning, and often showcase everyday products from makeup and hair care to clothing and coffee-makers.  The camera, usually operated by the YouTuber themselves, follows the woman throughout her morning routine and walks viewers through the steps she goes through to prepare to start her day and, specifically, to look the way she does.  These women are often between the ages of 15 and 30, and typically involve a multitude of skincare and makeup products in order to achieve the particular YouTuber’s “look.”  These videos, while created with the overt purpose of sharing ways of applying makeup, choosing outfits, and styling hair in the morning, often involve product placements and endorsements.  We can see the spectrum of commodification and difference in quality when looking at a video like Jenn Im’s “GRWM,” which was sponsored by TOMS, ( ) and a lesser-known, non-sponsored YouTuber like Amy Serrano ( ). [1]  Each one is utilizing the “free” and educational content of YouTube to sell both beauty ideals and the products associated with them.

My “GRWM” project channels Ulmer’s idea of heuretics, utilizing visual rhetoric to demonstrate how this piece is occupying YouTube as “a space for not only experiencing these complex realities but also writing ourselves into them” as Byron Hawk suggests we should do of the Web at large (249).  The splicing of commercials into the “GRWM” narrative reveals how these products aren’t simply a part of the landscape of our morning routines, but actually invade our lives with entrenched images of potential self improvement.

Our heuretical process involved remaking a traditional “GRWM” video and overlaying the advertisements of the many products included in our video to expose the contradictory elements within the genre.  The piece utilizes auditory and visual shock to jar the viewer and allow them to feel the ways in which the commercials are forcing their way into a private space.  Ulmer explains that “[h]euretics contributes to what Barthes referred to as ‘the return to the poetition’one who is concerned with how a work is made,” (4) and this video explores this concept by remaking the genre in a way that emphasizes the elements of production.  Whereas the traditional “GRWM” video allows for seamless integration of products, the cuts of product endorsements and advertisements brings to light the overt, capitalistic process. [2] 

In addition, the inclusion of these consumer artifacts complicates this YouTube genre and allows for exploration of Laura Mulvey’s theories of the male gaze.  My “GRWM” piece works to expose the currently unrecognized discomfort of conventional “GRWM” videos that typically follow women, in private spaces, as they pretend to get ready for a camera.  In writing and acting in this project, I was able to affectively experience the camera’s gaze within typically private spaces.  Mulvey states in Visual and Other Pleasures, “Playing on the tension between film as controlling the dimension of time (editing, narrative) and film as controlling the dimension of space (changes in distance, editing), cinematic codes create a gaze, a world and an object, thereby producing an illusion cut with the measure of desire” (26). By creating this video, Juszkiewicz and I were able to feel as well as think through the ways in which the “GRWM” genre manipulates multiple levels of desire: voyeuristic desires, desires of consumption, and what John Berger explains in Ways of Seeing as the desire to become an object of envy and embody a publicity image that “steals her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product” (134).

Thus, the rethinking of this particular YouTube genre works to convey the invasion of consumerism in “free” online content.  In this case, we explored the chorographic process available online and attempted to learn “how to write an intuition,” (Ulmer 37) which, in this case, was an unsettling relationship I sensed between this particular online genre and its audience.  Only by creating this test object for myself was I able to learn through composition how this genre functions and where it can be fractured and repurposed.


[1] Even though Serrano’s “GRWM” video isn’t sponsored, she nonetheless lists the products on her blog attached in the “Comments” bar, and notes that since originally posting the video she has become a sponsored representative of Glossier, one of the makeup brands she uses in her video.

[2] Other critiques of the consumer relationship to social media have appeared in television shows like Netflix’s Black Mirror. In the first episode of their third season, “Nosedive” explores a dystopian future in which commodification of social media presence has moved beyond sponsorship, and rating systems such as Instagram’s “liking” process directly affect people’s job eligibility, living conditions, and even the spaces in which they can travel. The show provides a representation of the potential consequences of commodifying people’s lifestyle choices and social media presences the way the GRWM genre has already begun to do.

Works Cited

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing. Penguin Press, 2008.

Hawk, Byron. A Counter-History of Composition: Toward Methodologies of Complexity. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007.

Mulvey, Laura. Visual and Other Pleasures. Springer Publishing, 1989.

Ulmer, Gregory L. Heuretics: The Logic of Invention. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.