Few would consider having perfect highlights, and being able to muster an alarming amount of emotion for a fallen celebrity, talent. But in the blur of infamy that YouTube virality can create, it is talent and a whole lot more. In fact, it’s enough to get you your own television program. For Chris Crocker, recording his daily musings alongside the tedious minutiae of his life is second nature. Existing for YouTube views is part of his identity, as much as listening to Britney Spears and criticizing his crestfallen grandmother. Once Crocker’s lament for the aforementioned Spears blew up on the Internet, it became clear to television trolls who regularly prowl the web looking for new “talent” to exploit, that he was a sellable commodity. Why? Because he was divisive, bizarre and engaging – because his back story of alienation and persecution are part of the fabric of the TV soap opera that glues viewers to their laptops and chairs. Should that be enough to warrant a production deal? Fuck yes.
Talent is a weird word when considered in our current cultural environment. What tangible attributes once made up a talented individual are gone, and in their place lays a conceptual swamp of quantifiers, traits that one sort of excretes, rather than possesses. What captivates us now – the type of programming we are drawn to – is in fact the absence of programming. We don’t seek out classically trained and gifted individuals to represent us in the same way. We don’t want aspiration; we want reflection. The hopeless contestants on America’s Next Top Model are not the kind of twig limbed Amazons we normally consider fashion models to be. They are gangly, awkward, terrible young girls who desperately remind us of ourselves. They clamour on screen for acceptance, blissfully unaware of the parody. They’re not in it for the big prize because by now we know that is a mirage. They are competing for screen time, for a chance to display their abundance of mediocrity for the world to see and embrace. Our favourites in the end are not the truly beautiful and photogenic, but the flagrantly bitchy, the gap-toothed and the trannys. It is fame democratized. The culmination of reality programming.
In the beginning it may have seemed that Survivor, ANTM and American Idol were an opportunity for the layperson to achieve an in, a way for us regular folks to be princess for a day. But take away the middlemen in the studios and what you have left are everyman celebrities that created themselves. They may not be extraordinarily talented, but we don’t want them to be. The videos that go viral on YouTube, the Lonelygirls and the Numa Numas are not slick, expensive productions featuring angular and pouty stars. They are superbly average. They are just like us. And for this alone, I say kudos to the crying Britney Spears guy for getting a TV deal. Hell, I want one too.