The Age of Mediocrity: Why Rebecca Black Is Everyone’s Fault [OPINION]
By: Peter Shankman
There’s a young woman — perhaps you’ve heard of her — currently climbing the YouTube charts with a song about the days of the week, specifically, “Friday.” There’s also another song on YouTube rocketing to the top with a bullet, this one about a pair of jeans.
When I was a kid, we listened to songs about days of the week and clothing, and it was called Sesame Street, not “mainstream entertainment.”
Welcome to the age of mediocrity, where anyone with a computer, a video camera, and a few thousand dollars for production can be considered the next big thing.
But as sad as that is, what does it say about us as a society?
Analyzing “Friday,” it’s not so much that Rebecca Black can’t sing. She’s about on par with some other pop stars, and — let’s face it — they’re not remaking The Marriage of Figaro here. The problem is the mundane, almost soul crushing lyrics, recounting a day in the life of someone we care nothing about.
Essentially, Ms. Black has become the musical version of a bad Twitter user, offering very little substance and value, but still feeling the need to overshare.
Ms. Black’s story, as it’s been told, involves her parents giving her a produced single as a “gift,” and depending on who you ask, the rapid ascent of her YouTube video is due either to morbid curiosity, or media attention brought on by morbid curiosity. It’s certainly not brought on by talent.
We used to be a society of content eaters fed by a very small kitchen run by music labels, TV stations, and movie stars. With the advent of the Internet, Flip cameras, and yes, even Justin Bieber, the paradigm has shifted. It’s no longer a world where the talent wins. It’s not even a world where the beauty wins. It’s a world where anyone can post, and in many cases, the worse the performance, the better it does. Call it the “William Hung” Effect.
With the power to broadcast comes great responsibility. And when people don’t take responsibility, and create videos about days of the week, we can’t be shocked and scream about the downfall of society. We’ve taken a typical 13-year-old teenager and given her parents an enormous return on their paltry investment. We did this. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
So that begs the question: How does someone get there? How does a talentless nobody wind up with 43 million YouTube views in a few weeks?
Step one: Content. A catchy autotune, a baby laughing, a cat being tickled. It doesn’t matter.
Step two: Send it out as the latest OMG thing in the world. Get a few views a minute. Let it grow, unchecked, like a fungus.
Here’s an example. After fighting with someone for six months while training for an Ironman, I simply took our words and put them into an Extranormal movie. The result? Over 750,000 views in a week. It’s not hard. I did it for fun, and it cost me nothing.
Media? Well, the media plays a part, no doubt. Five thousand views in a minute does a story make. So one media outlet covers it — perhaps for how bad, boring, and just plain ordinary it is — and perpetuates the cycle by including a link to the offending video.
Does that make it our fault? Absolutely. We’re a society that likes destruction. We like Sheen. We like Lohan. We like Jerry Springer. We like Maury. We’ve embraced mediocrity because we need some level of proof that we’re better than that — that we’re not the worst things out there. We’re not, because there’s Rebecca Black, with Friday, Friday, Friday!
She’s not the problem. We are.
The worst part? Perhaps it’s not a problem at all. Perhaps, if we didn’t have the Rebecca Blacks of the world to complain about, we’d be an even unhappier society. Perhaps we need people like Rebecca Black to balance our worldview, to take away the sadness of what’s going on in the news, and to distract us from our own mundane lives.
Perhaps we invented Rebecca Black, and others like her, because we simply had no other choice.