An examination of a life lived online, the nature of celebrity, and the impact of social media, all through the story of a smalltown Tennessee gay boy who rocketed to Internet infamy in 2007 when he posted a heartfelt, albeit hysterical, plea on YouTube to “Leave Britney Alone!”
Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch’s first feature documentary focuses on the curious case of Chris Crocker. After Britney, his videos have been seen by millions and he entered into pop culture, largely as an object of ridicule, but he clearly had many fans as well. His story is both unique and becoming all-too-common, as more individuals upload the content of their lives online every day. Named for the first video ever to be uploaded to YouTube, the film uses Crocker’s story to explore how the swift development of social media has radically altered the ways we interact with and reveal ourselves to one another and to the world, and how the world sometimes responds back.
The filmmakers are in post-production, and raised almost $11000 more than their goal in a recently completed Kickstarter campaign. Additional information about the film can be found on its website.
I’m particularly interested in Crocker’s story because it was all too easy to respond to his Britney video dismissively – we’ve become conditioned to laugh at others, trading links to inspire derision. Most people who viewed Crocker’s video felt it was fine to laugh at this weird crying kid, but if you put his blogging in the context of a background of smalltown homophobic bullying, he becomes complexified. His desire to put himself out there, claiming a space online that he wasn’t necessarily able to claim in his immediate surroundings, speaks to an impulse to be acknowledged, as signaled by the film’s title. That first YouTube video was a simple, too-the-point description basically saying “look at me and what I’m doing.” Granted, the fact that Crocker looked gender non-confirming probably exacerbated the mockery, just as his recent change to a more traditionally masculine look inspired surprise and, for some, reassessment. I’m curious about how class, gender, and sexuality played into the backlash, and support, Crocker received – and continues to receive, as he generated more media attention when he recently announced plans to appear in gay porn.