Fighting Words

Jill Bearup is a stage combatant with training in the art of fake fighting. Her YouTube channel has evolved over the years from from an assortment of topics to a tighter focus on all things stage/TV/cinematic fighting, whether it’s about weapons and reach, the absurdity of certain stylistic/armor choices in a fight, or how to defend yourself with a hat pin.

But my favorite format of Bearup’s videos are those which appear to be analysis of particular fights from TV shows or movies, but really end up presenting a thoughtful video essay on characters, themes, and story within that media. Take the Avatar example at the top of this post: yes, Bearup speaks to the styles of combat and the shifting nature of the fight. But Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t an animated documentary about martial arts; it’s a dramatic story with dynamic characters! So Bearup details how each combatant’s circumstances and character arcs inform their behavior and choices in this climactic duel. She speaks from a position of deep understanding of the show and the the motivations of each fighter. Watching this video gave me newfound understanding and appreciation for what was already my favorite sequence from the entire series.

It’s worth checking out her channel in general, but if you like media analysis/video essays and want a heavy dose of fight deconstruction along for the ride, you could do a lot worse than her examinations of Inigo and Wesley’s fight in The Princess Bride, or the throne room duel in The Last Jedi.