MAIN POST: week 9 blog question

Week 9:
Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media”

Discuss this argument giving an example of a YouTube video.

Rebecca Black’s Friday music video has recently overtaken Justin Bieber’s Baby as the most disliked video on YouTube. At first glance, this turn of events seems trivial, another viral video, another meme, along the endless production of trending Internet goods that become quickly forgotten. Yet Rebecca Black’s shot to stardom – for all the wrong reasons – has reached a popularity that no other viral video has done so for a long time, and this may warrant closer scrutiny. Burgess and Green argue in the above quote that creative efforts of ordinary people are still trapped within the system of celebrity controlled by the mass media, and with Rebecca Black’s case it seems that it may prove to be a perfect example.

There is no doubt that the music video was created in some sense to showcase Rebecca Black and to attract attention. The video was not filmed as an amateur production, there is clear adherence to conventions of the music video. The song was well recorded and obviously modeled on the structures of current, mainstream popular songs. Even so, the video was made to attract attention as a showcase of talent, but instead became a sitting duck for insults and criticisms, arguing that the ridiculous lyrics and auto-tuned melody had set a new low for pop music. It seems important to note this distinction, in that the video itself was created initially within the parameters of commercial media and its supposed standards (whether it achieved those standards is another thing). Even to begin with, Black’s Friday is already playing within the rigid framework of mass media.

The resultant outcome of her ill-fated Internet notoriety is still to be seen. The Internet backlash was harsh, but its explosive popularity gave it cultural capital. Other forms of mainstream media were quick to capitalize on Black’s popularity, with the song appearing in an episode of Glee and Black starring in Katy Perry’s latest Last Friday Night music video. Black may have gone further than most celebrity YouTubers and made it into mainstream media, yet it was done so under the influence and conditions of already successful artists. It is still to be seen whether her Internet fame becomes something forgotten, like most of the other viral videos and YouTube celebrities who have also fallen under the system of mass media.

However, it can be seen that there are success stories, and Black’s ability to bounce back from the negative comments and star in mainstream productions is already a sign of things to come, perhaps. Justin Bieber and The Lonely Island are perfect examples of ordinary people who have come into the mainstream media and became successful without falling under the limitations of short lived attention that media systems seem to give Internet stars.

(word count: 459)

Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media,” in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp.15-37.

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