The internet culture of our generation means that anyone (or anything) can become famous. Things can go viral almost instantaneously and, whether the reaction is positive or negative, the person responsible gets their fifteen minutes of fame. Some have come further than they could ever have dreamed: did Justin Bieber ever guess, when he uploaded his first video onto YouTube, that in a couple of years he would have millions of teenage girls salivating over his supposedly sumptuous voice, and hyperventilating over a new haircut? Indeed, if you watch one of his early videos, he looks just like any normal boy trying to kill some time.
Bieber is by no means the only person to have found fame through YouTube. How many of you knew that Darren Criss (popular Glee heartthrob) started out his career by starring as Harry Potter in his University theatre group’s hilarious parody production called A Very Potter Musical. When I discovered this in 2009 there was already a fair amount of hype about the musical, put up in parts on YouTube, and now the ‘franchise’ has spread to include A Very Potter Sequel, and a possible ‘Threequel’ on its way.
A band that could be going the same way is a British band called The Midnight Beast. They shot to fame in 2009 with their parody of Ke$ha’s Tik Tok, a song and music video so good that Ke$ha herself tweeted, “this is better than my version”. Since then, they have compiled an impressive repertoire, branching out into original songs, and have even written a “semi-autobiography”, Book at Us Now. Their lyrics could be seen as a commentary on the state of society today, but more often than not, they’re simply hilarious. Maybe it’s due to this mix that they have become so popular, but their persistent presence on the iTunes charts, and their appearances at many festivals last summer suggest that their ride has only just started.
This form of YouTube fame, although fantastic for the people involved, makes you wonder what it says about our generation. The fact that anyone can upload a video cheapens the talent that’s actually out there, and with the use of auto-tune, anyone can sound good even if they’re far from it. When Rebecca Black uploaded her infamous video to YouTube, she may have been expecting a Bieber-like reception, however the tumult of abuse that was thrown at her (some people demanded she kill herself) certainly cannot have been what she’d hoped for.
The anonymity of our online presence enables people to dehumanise both themselves and the people they’re abusing: however annoying Rebecca Black may be, she is still a thirteen-year-old girl, and for any other girl that age, being told to kill herself would have been taken a lot more seriously. YouTube gives a voice to anyone, a place to publicise their talent, and yet, just like ‘real’ stardom, they have to be prepared for the inevitable scorn from the harshest of critics: the anonymous viewer.