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These YouTube Stars You've Never Heard of Have Millions of Teen Fans
January 3, 2014 1:34 PM   Subscribe

These are just ordinary teenagers, here and there in ordinary towns, with (at least at first) no particular training, no sophisticated equipment, no teams of writers, no management, no professional editors, and, somehow, literally millions of fans—fans rabid enough to form fandoms and rivalries and elaborate webs of platonic shipping. Fans who have never heard of Brad Pitt. It's an entire economy based on almost nothing but the thrill of saying/seeing whatever you want where your parents can't catch you—where you can be flamboyantly gay or ask embarrassing questions or carve out a social space for yourself or even be cruel to other kids because it makes you feel safe for a minute. Lindy West on the modern YouTube celebrity.
posted by Rory Marinich (27 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
To be fair, Brad Pitt is now roughly the age Rock Hudson was in 1980.
posted by acoutu at 1:43 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


But I didn't understand how much I didn't understand until this past summer, when my aforementioned 12-year-old ward asked me this impenetrable question: "Lindy, are you Team Lawlorff or Team Rickian?"

:-|


hahahahahahaha
posted by en forme de poire at 1:47 PM on January 3


Aren't Lawlorff and Rickian the old Muppets in the balcony?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:51 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


This list is terrible without PewDiePie.
posted by zscore at 1:53 PM on January 3


fans rabid enough to form fandoms and rivalries and elaborate webs of platonic shipping.

I have spent enough time on AO3 that...I really do not think the shipping is platonic. I really don't.
posted by capricorn at 1:57 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I liked this:
I wish desperately that I knew how to give her the right kind of advice. It's not that I don't remember the blistering confusion of 6th grade. I do. But my honest advice isn't what she needs. What I want to say is something like, "Just stop. When you're 25 you'll realize that you've wasted a shit-ton of your life worrying about boring gossip and being pretty enough and eating the 'right' number of calories and getting boys to like you and putting up with toxic friends, and then you'll decide not to do any of those things anymore and the world will open up like a fucking precious golden flower. Just do that now. Nobody cares about who Brogger asked to the Spring Dance—least of all you in ten years. STOP."

But that is TERRIBLE ADVICE FOR A CHILD. She doesn't need to hear that. She can't skip ahead. She needs validation and indulgence and the same grueling 20 years the rest of us took to learn all that crap. Parenting is hard because inherently you have to be what your kids aren't. So as much as I shudder at a 12-year-old girl taking "advice" from a 17-year-old boy (sample wisdom: "Connor Franta made a video and was like, 'If any of my fans commits suicide and I hear about it I'm not going to feel sorry for you, I'm going to be mad at you because you wasted all that beauty'"), YouTube celebrities are providing a thing that I can't provide. Silly, misguided, shallow, romantic, dramatic, goofy, fun, sympathetic bullshit.
I hope I can remember that when my grandsons start hitting the Wall of Angst.
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on January 3 [17 favorites]


My oldest grandson turned 10 last year, lh. Half the time, I have no idea what he's talking about, and I'm a young grandfather who is decently tapped into pop culture. All you can do is, as this says, play your role and let them play theirs, cherishing them for exactly who they are, trying to model essential human characteristics in a way that hopefully will translate in the long run. Because the short-run is all WTF?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:06 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


I actually really like that Ryan Higa guy.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:10 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I too have hung out with teenagers recently, and as a relatively tapped-in 32 year old I was also agog at how much I didn't get.

That not getting, and these YouTube stars, though, is I think exactly why the e-angst over teens abandoning Facebook is misplaced. Teens are going to do weird fannish things that help them feel like they belong or like other people (especially older people!) don't belong. But then they grow up. And yeah they're going to be different at 25 then I was at 25 and some of what they dig then is still going to be incomprehensible to me but I think also they'll be kind of stoked to have their friends' baby pictures in their feeds and they're going to be asking themselves why they were ever into some weird racist YouTube star and so glad that they discovered at least the early works of Brad Pitt cuz goddamn he was HOT and not hot like those dumb Twilight stars, like ADULT hot, like he probably would know what the fuck he was doing in the sack and anyway Thelma and Louise is just a great movie, Brad Pitt or no.

The thing is that now so much of what teens are doing — the teen-y things they do — is in public so it's intensity is increased and it gets this heightened scrutiny from the rest of us. So the handwringing and headscratching too becomes heightened.

The kids are alright, though.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:14 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I too have hung out with teenagers recently, and as a relatively tapped-in 32 year old I was also agog at how much I didn't get.

~leans back in his rocking chair...sips his bourbon...chuckles to himself at the whippersnappers discovering they're no longer young.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:22 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


I don't know if this is just a Millennial thing or if it's always been thus, but I know I started to feel "out of touch" with the younger generation at the tender age of 18 or so. The Internet may or may not catalyze the emergence of new cultural norms, but at the very least it makes it very obvious very quickly how out-of-touch you've become.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:45 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I don't know if this is just a Millennial thing or if it's always been thus, but I know I started to feel "out of touch" with the younger generation at the tender age of 18 or so.

As the speed of a planet's rotation increases, the number of belts its wind patterns separate into increases.
posted by Jpfed at 3:11 PM on January 3


So as much as I shudder at a 12-year-old girl taking "advice" from a 17-year-old boy (sample wisdom: "Connor Franta made a video and was like, 'If any of my fans commits suicide and I hear about it I'm not going to feel sorry for you, I'm going to be mad at you because you wasted all that beauty'"), YouTube celebrities are providing a thing that I can't provide. Silly, misguided, shallow, romantic, dramatic, goofy, fun, sympathetic bullshit.
When I was 12, I also looked up to and took "advice" from the older kids. This doesn't seem all that different, except for the scale.
posted by monospace at 3:29 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


It's a good thing that this isn't relevant!
posted by thelonius at 3:32 PM on January 3


Life is life. I don't think all advice when it comes to growing up is valuable. I think everyone should make mistakes and then enjoy laughing at themselves later, and that helps you develop compassion for other people.

I think listening to "advice" was the biggest waste of time. It didnt shield me from anything. And I'm pretty happy and I have love and compassion and appreciation for other ppl and I have self-compassion (though I need to be more assertive).

Maybe we worry too much about feeling regret. We can control that. Or I think we can. I think I do. But I overfeel things too.

My advice: I don't know. What happens happens and learning to deal and still smile and love works for me. Maybe it will for you, but maybe not. I dunno nothing.
posted by discopolo at 3:36 PM on January 3


And this Lindy West article makes me feel like I should be feeling old because I'm not a baby anymore. It's pretty funny. I mean, it's not crazy that they don't care about Jennifer Aniston.

I think everything will be fine for these kids. It's weird, but they'll be fine.
posted by discopolo at 3:41 PM on January 3


These kids already talk fast enough, and then they edit the videos such that every single sentence is a separate cut, and ram them together so there is no discernible pause between each sentence, and it becomes the verbal equivalent of a wall of text with no punctuation.

I got about 90 seconds into the Ryan Higa video, then I had to go take a nap.
posted by Diag at 3:56 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Their shit is on YouTube. YOUTUBE IS CRAZY, YOU GUYS.

I have two daughters, aged 13 and 10. I've never heard of any of these YouTube 'stars,' and my kids (and their friends) barely watch YouTube.

The 13 year discovered our collection of Friends DVDs a few months ago, and binge watched the first 3 or 4 seasons. Both girls surf Netflix all the time, consuming what ever catches their eye, regardless of when it was created. Our Tivo is full of silly kids sitcoms from Disney, cuz the 10 year old loves them. And at the same time one of her all time favorite movies is a circa 2000 DVD of Cats.

The most incredible thing about kid's media choices today isn't "ZOMG YOUTUBE!!!" It's the amazing array of choices they have.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:24 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


That, and the choices they make.
posted by box at 5:43 PM on January 3


Rory Marinich: I don't know if this is just a Millennial thing or if it's always been thus, but I know I started to feel "out of touch" with the younger generation at the tender age of 18 or so.

No, it's not just a Millennial Thing really. A few years ago I found myself spending more time socially with high school seniors than I expected. One thing I noticed is that they often feel themselves to be incredibly old. They can romantically sympathize with stories of elderly people looking back bittersweetly on the way the whole world they knew has passed into dust and memory. The ones who graduated from high school but hadn't gone on to college yet had it even more strongly.

And then when I thought about it I realized I was the same way too -- during that last year or two of high school, before I went off to college, I especially loved poetry that conveyed those sentiments (often in an overblown, mythologized way). I had H. P. Lovecraft's Nemesis pinned to my wall with a nail.

It makes perfect sense, you know -- when the whole world you've lived in all your life is Kid World, you've hit the outer edges of it and there's no older kids left to look up/ahead to. You see children all around and it seems like eons since you were a child. So many things you do are recognized as "The Last ____ Our Class Will Have".

And then you get off to college and BAM: Everything important is done by impossibly sophisticated 21-year-olds and there's a whole new world to inhabit and nobody talks about SAT scores ever. So you forget. But the line from Bob Dylan "I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now" still resonates.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:05 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Also, this is a totally fascinating subject which I wish had been written about by someone other than Lindy ME ME LOOK AT ME YOU ALL THINK I'M COOL RIGHT West.

After checking out the FPP we had 2 years ago about the Kids React program, I fell down a YouTube hole of interconnected teenager videos. There's a world of creative, strangely compelling vloggers and music video authors and storytellers out there, and they all have fanbases with their own drama.

But West is just obsessed about whether she's still cool and plugged-in to Pop Culture, not understanding that at every time in recent history, there's always been a lot of age-stratified Pop Cultures. When people talk about "still keeping up with pop culture" despite being in their 30s or whatever, what they mean is that they've been keeping up with what's hip in a certain age-stratum of Pop Culture: the current Early 20something version (which is, in our society, recognized as Peak Hipness).
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:22 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Woman's Hour just did a chapter on teenagers and YouTube on Monday. I was 22.997 years old at the broadcast date and am now apparently, in Jane Garvey’s words, “playing the part of the old prat”.
posted by wachhundfisch at 2:11 AM on January 4


Does anyone else think its odd that in an article about a dozen or so famous Youtube personalities, only one of them is female and is referred to as a slut? On Jezebel.
posted by euphorb at 7:23 AM on January 4


"It's like playing the Knockout game...with your future."
posted by onwords at 7:29 AM on January 4


> But West is just obsessed about whether she's still cool and plugged-in to Pop Culture

Why is it not OK for her to think about that?

> not understanding that at every time in recent history, there's always been a lot of age-stratified Pop Cultures

How do you know she doesn't understand that?
posted by languagehat at 8:49 AM on January 4 [5 favorites]


One thing I noticed is that they often feel themselves to be incredibly old. They can romantically sympathize with stories of elderly people looking back bittersweetly on the way the whole world they knew has passed into dust and memory. The ones who graduated from high school but hadn't gone on to college yet had it even more strongly.

[...]
It makes perfect sense, you know -- when the whole world you've lived in all your life is Kid World, you've hit the outer edges of it and there's no older kids left to look up/ahead to. You see children all around and it seems like eons since you were a child. So many things you do are recognized as "The Last ____ Our Class Will Have".


Yep, I remember this. I took a victory lap in high school (An extra year after you finish high school, to improve your marks, take a couple more classes or add an extra year before uni so that you are more mature; More classes in my case, so that I didn't have to take 5 classes in my last year.) Me and several friends set out to do this together, most of which wound up sharing few or no classes or lunch breaks, and some got fed up and left to go work or go off to collage. Luckily for me I had a lot of younger friends due to someones younger brother, some shared interests and taking some younger classes out of interest to fill up a schedule. Downside: Do you have any IDEA how much people change during high school? The difference between a grade 9 and a grade 12 is far, far more then the 4 years it is on paper.

Now I just feel old because people around me are getting married. MARRIED. Married is what old people do! One of my lab mates who is only a couple of years older then me is divorced! That is what REALLY old people do!
posted by Canageek at 4:57 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


The disturbing side of this is what happens to people who get on the wrong side of things. This is briefly mentioned when they talk about "acacia" but someday when I get more time I'll dive into the darker side of this, where because of girls' unhealthy obsession with a particular character in this drama all sorts of information comes out.
posted by calwatch at 9:19 PM on January 4


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