Why Social Media is the End of Celebrity as We Know It (R Kelly, Barack Obama Edition)

I’ve got a
new column up
at Time that brushes past the Duck Dynasty flap
and argues that something far more important (and fun) is
happening: Fans and citizens are finally able to talk back to their
idols and leaders in ways that just weren’t possible even a few
years back.

Earlier this month, for instance, the controversial and quite
possibly criminal singer R Kelly released a new album (Black
) and went on Twitter to get real with his immense
audience. Almost immediately he was pelted with questions about his
revealed preference for jailbait:

To celebrate Black Panties, Kelly hosted a chat on
Twitter for his fans and followers. “Getting ready to answer some
of my favorite #AskRKelly questions!!” he
, “Start tweeting!” Almost immediately, the singer was
deluged with snarky comments related to his past indiscretions and
scandals. “My lil cousin jus bout to finish 10th grade … Seems like
she ready?,” wrote
one correspondent
. “What’s your favorite bedtime story to read
a date?” read another. “So @rkelly only answered 16
questions,the perv really cannot do anything over 18,” summarized
one commenter while another asked, “Were you high off something
when you started this hashtag? Where tf is your PR team?”

Being able to
mock singers in open view is one thing but the same dynamic is at
work in political discourse too, such as when President Obama
tweeted out the pic of “pajama boy” sipping some cocoa and girding
his flannel-clad loins to #GetTalking about health insurance over
the holidays:

Almost immediately, the image went
, though not in the way Obama meant. “PajamaBoy” became
its own hashtag and countless parodies and reappropriations
spread across
the Internet
. “Mommy Said I Could Stay Up Late,” read one,
while another attested, “Why Yes I Am a Thought Leader,” and a
third asked, “How did you know I went to Oberlin?”…

Power is shifting from the top of the pyramid down to its lower
reaches, where anyone with an opinion and an Internet connection
can at least speak her mind and circulate that opinion to an
audience that is potentially in the millions.

Read the whole thing here

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/20/why-social-media-is-the-end-of-celebrity

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