When I was 11, I remember seeing a weird commercial on television. During the commercial break of a Slamball rerun (remember Slamball?) on Cartoon Network, I saw an AIDS awareness ad. It was made specifically for kids, and it was accompanied by an annoying rap. I distinctly remember the chorus: “What do you know about AIDS?!” It’s been stuck in my head for years. I guess you’re expecting me to link the commercial I’m describing, right? Well, I can’t, because I’ve never found it. I’ve never even seen it mentioned online. This commercial is what’s known as “lost media.”
Online, there’s a lost media community dedicated to preserving everything from unaired television pilots to unreleased video game prototypes. Currently, the lost media community exists on both YouTube and the Lost Media wiki, an archive of thousands of lost media topics. LSuperSonicQ is a well-known member of the lost media community and has many videos covering lost media topics such as the Johnny Bravo pilot and unreleased My Chemical Romance songs. His fascination with lost media started on YouTube.
“I knew nothing about lost media at all until I watched a video from this other kind of lost media YouTuber,” said LSuperSonicQ. “His name is blameitonjorge. And this is like, back in 2015… It was like, top 40 lost or banned episodes of kids TV shows.” LSuperSonicQ watched the video, and from that point on, he said, he was “hooked.”
Lost media searches can take a long time, depending on what is being sought after and whether there are any complications, such as nondisclosure agreements, people leaving jobs, or creators just not remembering past projects. LSuperSonicQ took months to find the lost pilot for the TV show Kappa Mikey, which aired on Nicktoons Network in the mid-2000s. This lost pilot was made in order to pitch the show to MTV. LSuperSonicQ was able to contact the creator of the show and convince him to upload that original pilot to YouTube. He now considers this his favorite piece of lost media. Plus, the search was a good learning experience for him.
“That was a really, really big deal, when that happened,” said LSuperSonicQ. “It was my longest-lasting media search at the time, and I learned a lot of techniques in that search that I have applied to future searches and how I go about contacting people and trying to find stuff. So it was a really, really big turning point in my own personal lost media journey.”
“It was such a hot-button lost media topic that was surrounded by so much confusion and misinformation.”
Not all searches end in success, but they can still be entertaining, since lost media is all about the search and why the media became lost in the first place. YouTuber Bobdunga recently dove into the world of lost media in her hunt for the Mean Girls video game, chronicling her search in a two-part Youtube documentary. The Mean Girls game was always seen as a mystery by the lost media community, but most didn’t seem too interested in solving it. “I feel that a lot of that had to do with the fact that the game was inherently deemed as shovelware right off the bat,” said Bobdunga. The 2000s featured many licensed games that were created just to cash in on the popularity of an upcoming film release. “This was especially common for ‘girl games,’” said Bobdunga. “I think a lot of people behind the scenes didn’t have that good of a grasp at what girls liked in gaming.”
For her, Mean Girls was more than just another “girl game.” “What really drew me to wanting to dive into Mean Girls was mainly because it was such a hot-button lost media topic that was surrounded by so much confusion and misinformation,” she said. “I think it was my want to dissect all of it, even if I didn’t come out finding the actual game, that really drew me into the project.”
She told me this was her first time creating YouTube content about lost media, but not her first experience with it. “I’ve always been very partial to both true crime and lost media videos,” she said. “They seem to fit together really well, because they both share an ominous, almost storytelling-like atmosphere. And a lot of the time, the narrator will have a really calm or even creepy voice to further immerse the viewer. There’s something inherently spooky about lost media, especially in a digital age where we feel we can find everything.”
After months of searching, she eventually found it. An anonymous source sent her the game’s ROM file after viewing the first part of her documentary. Since then, she has recently uploaded footage of the game to her YouTube channel.
Enthusiasts see lost media as a way to preserve history, even if it’s something as obscure as a canceled video game or lost TV pilot. “Not everything has such a strong digital footprint, and it’s important to preserve all types of media, whether it be physical or digital,” said Bobdunga. “It isn’t only a nostalgic memory for some but the media in question could also act as a small glimpse into what the world was like when it was produced.”
LSuperSonicQ took a similar stance. “It has to do with pop culture. It has to do with, you know, what people were interested in at the time it was made. And there’s lost media that goes all the way back to the 1920s. They’re silent films that are lost for people to look for. And it goes all the way up to the 2010s and 2020s. By being able to preserve and archive and document that kind of thing, I really think, in a way, it really helps the historical aspect of our culture and where we came from.”
Without the work of the lost media community, these parts of our culture and history would be lost to time. In the digital age, it has become harder for media to get lost, since almost everything is online, but it is still a possibility. If companies don’t do their part by making their older media easily available, then it’s up to the fans to do their part and preserve history.