The Internet has become a great way for wannabe singers, actors and artists to get their name and face out there. Justin Bieber is a recent example of a now huge star who started out doing Youtube videos. Those videos were enough to get him a manager and then a record deal.
But as with any medium that doesn’t have a built in filter, not everything that is posted online is tasteful, politically correct, or pleasant to watch or hear. And yet some of the most ridiculous or offensive videos end up becoming sensations, launching their shameless and often clueless creators into temporary stardom. Why? What makes these videos so fascinating?
Sometimes it’s just good – or very bad – timing. Take Alexandra Wallace. She posted a tasteless and racist rant against Asian students at her school on Youtube. While comments she made, including an insulting imitation of an Asian student speaking on a phone, would be enough to garner a certain amount of negative attention at any time, the recent Japanese triple tragedy of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster threat heightened the offensiveness of the video vastly.
Then there’s Rebecca Black. Her fame isn’t based on an offensive comment or act, but rather on a music video she released. While this seems innocent enough, the main reason the video seems to be gaining attention is for how shockingly bad it is. Ouch. Called a ” previously unknown, marginally talented teen-pop singer” in a Yahoo! Music Blog article, the general consensus is that her song is grabbing attention for all the wrong reasons. And while there’s quite a few bad songs floating around the Internet, the production value and somewhat professional music video that accompanied her particular song is less common.
Of course, not all viral videos are self-released. Antione Dodson was making a heartfelt and emotional statement to a news reporter after an attack on his sister, but his statement struck a chord with just the right people. His indignant and unintentionally funny rant, where he warms neighbors to “hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband because they’re raping everybody out here” was then autotuned by the Gregory Brothers and then, according to Wikipedia, reached 89 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. Unlike Wallace, his comments were not offensive and it is rather the Internet audience indulging in tasteless humor by looking past the attempted assault and finding something to laugh at in Dodson’s flamboyant but sincere expression of anger.
So it seems that these viral stars each have their own recipe for success. It can be timing – hitting just the right button at the right time to offend as many people as possible, as Wallace did. It can be unintentional humor, with audiences banding together to ridicule the new star. Antione Dodson and Rebecca Black are somewhat alike in this, though Black presumably had a chance to screen and edit her video before it went out and still chose to release it. Dodson was more of an innocent, though he was able to translate the fame into some money in the end. Perhaps what the videos have in common is a car crash appeal, where audiences just can’t look away. When something is so bad it either inflames laughter or anger, then it just may become the next viral sensation.