The Super-Super Star

From armchair quartebacking to gossiping about celebrities and neighbors alike, the vast majority of people in the world love to talk about other people. It’s a way of connecting to something universally shared, and of expressing opinions that can be well thought through, well reasoned, emotionally conceived or even passionately regarded. In any of these cases, the opinion is ultimately empty, because nothing will stop the celebrity from being a celebrity.

Celebrities are our new royalty, a broad swath of Dukes and Duchesses, Earls and Ladies, Princes and Princesses, and Kings and Queens that hold their ceremonial positions at the pleasure of their popularity, and whose influence is as powerless as the opinions that swirl around them.

Perhaps first in line for the Hollywood throne are the power-couple known as Brangelina. Their love affair(s) have captured the hearts and minds of many on the planet, and when word came of Angelina’s pregnancy, followed shortly by Jack Black’s Twin slip during a junket for Kung-Fu Panda, the world held its breath for the birth of these ‘divine’ children. And when it came time to sell the rights to the photographs of the royal offspring, an as-yet-unnamed U.S. magazine paid US$11 Million for the privilege of first-run publication.

$11 Million. Let me type that again, numerically this time: $11,000,000.

Is this an egregious sum of money to pay for photographs of two people’s newborn twins? Shall we all suck in our breath, aghast at how insane that number is? Not at all.

These magazine publishing guys aren’t stupid… If someone has agreed to pay that much money for some baby pictures, you can be damned sure that they’re going to make that money back, and then some.

But what does this have to do with a blog on technoculture? A LOT. The pioneers of the early internet long held the belief that the democratizing nature of a virtually free global publishing system was going to fracture our media space so much that anyone with talent and gumption could get their stuff seen by anyone else on the planet. Gone would be the days, they thought, of mega-media empires. The studio system might buckle under its own weight as increased competition for the entertainment mindspace of consumers around the world. Music, movies, news, TV, fiction, commerce, whatever – all would face stiff competition from users all over the world.

While internet video has presented us with a few new ‘stars,’ they have by and large either been either associated with Hollywood (LonleyGirl15) or about Hollywoord (“Leave her Alone” fanboy Chris Cocker). Moreover, they have largely been popularized through traditional media channels which are, for the most part, controlled by the same folks that control Hollywood.

But with new media continuing to fragment our content consumption into smaller and smaller niches, as McLuhan suggested, how does someone expect to make back their 11 Mill? This speaks to Dr. McLuhan’s most famous quote: The medium is the massage. In other words, the same content can be reformatted many times and repurposed into the different niches from the hit-driven popular media, all the way down the long tail.

While many will marvel and gawk at the famous-from-birth twins, and talk about what this will do to Brad & Angela’s marriage, some will sneer at the disgusting consumerist nation that gives light to this sort of thing, while still others will create mocking flash videos with the photos.

No matter what point of view each individual takes, they all have one thing in common: They are all essentially still commoners taking interest in their lords, and the aristocracy knows how to play this game.

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