Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Internet's Revolution of Celebrity

Dear readers! Today's guest post is brought to you by the inimitable Elliot of Futfanatico fame. Hopefully, Elliot should already be known to you from regularly reading his Slavoj Zizek-obsessed footballing web concern. If not, get on it.

I remember a time when you could only find out about a celebrity by sifting through magazines in a grocery store check-out aisle. Once a week, your purchase of eggs, cheese, fruit, and milk would be forever marred by Brad Pitts' infidelity. Over time, you grew to accept Bradgelina, but, on a larger scale, the internet forever changed how society defines, interacts, and creates celebrities. Part information overload, part gatekeeper asleep on duty, the line is unclear and makes me uneasy. Here's why.

Celebrities, like marble statutes of Roman Gods, deserve to be on pedestals, not laptops. In the world of soccer, many fantastic players are tweeting about this and that. On the one hand, this has led to a less-than-shocking but reaffirming revelation - the players, like us, are also fans of the sport. A few months ago, Leo Messi, arguably the world's best player at Barcelona of Spain's La Liga, tweeted that Ashley Young was having a partidazo (helluva game). The shock? Ashley Young plays in England for an upper-midtable side with decent aspirations ("Uhhh" - the editor). Why was Messi watching this game and not one of England's top teams like Manchester United? The short answer: he loves the game. Like you. And me. Feel the warmth.

However, the internet-propelled closeness has a cost. While a non-PR filtered access to the stars can lead to a scoop, we also have to scoop through some crap that humanizes celebrities a bit too much. Rio Ferdinand, star defender for Manchester United, tweets by the name "rioferdy5." In addition to the conspicuous blue "verified account" button, Rioferday5 has a profile pic of Rio with that name written on a sheet of paper. Thus, we can sleep easy at night knowing it is him. However, his mundane remarks, for example, getting up early on a Saturday to hit the gym despite being on medical leave, fail to inspire. Rio was suspended for a failed drug tests several years back, a major scandal in European soccer. Yet, years later, the magic of the internet rendered him a father figure from Leave It to Beaver. Time to change the channel? But to what?

The internet has also added spark to the eternal and indecipherable magic potion known as insta-fame. The term "viral" may not translate easily to outbreak, but certainly brings to mind "contagion." Some individuals seek to closely ride the coattails of celebritydom, aggregating the term "Fake" to a famous person's name so that we know its all fun and games. Others, just like in past epochs, merely get shit lucky. Right now, one of the biggest sporting events in the world is taking place in Australia. This cricket tournament, known as "The Ashes", has not even blipped into the American consciousness. Except for one American. This unsuspecting lady had the nickname of "@theashes" as her twitter name. When a few wry humored Americans, Aussies, and Brits found out, she was deluged by a wave of followers and the next viral internet joke spread like wildfire. An Australian airline eventually offered her free airfare to catch some games! The wheel of fortune rick-rolled in her favor.

Thus, we stand at a crossroads. The internet inspires us all to be quasi-celebrities in our own right, using twitter to artificially create our own adoring paparazzi. Write-click-tweet-re-tweet-instant gratification. We selectively reveal information to approximate the perfect online self. On the other hand, the less filtered lens means that we see the humanity of celebrities, for what ever it's worth. For every ashes' rise to fame, we swallow a Sid Lowe (writer for the Guardian) Spanish tweet saying "I shit on your mother the whore."


1 comment:

Charley said...

good stuff Elliot!

i think we can feel like we know players better through twitter and facebook and all of it. They seem like normal guys which attracts us more. They will become less of a 'giant among men' and more like 'one of the guys' which i personally like.