— Chris Crocker isn’t much fazed by his YouTube Awards shutout. The unofficial poster child for the video- sharing Web site never expected his infamous “Leave Britney Alone!” post to win the “Commentary” category for which it was nominated.
“It’s no secret that the majority of people who watch my videos don’t watch because they’re fans,” Chris said in an interview soon after YouTube announced its 2007 winners. True enough.
As the nominees in the award’s 12 categories show, there’s plenty of creativity and humanity floating around in cyberspace. But despite Al Gore’s best intentions, the Internet continues as an anonymous dumping ground for humanity’s most viscous bile. The vitriol Chris endured after his much-viewed post should qualify him for some kind of gold-plated or Lucite statuette.
It’s been six months since a sobbing plea on YouTube rocketed the then-19-year-old from Internet cult status to internationally-recognized icon. Yes kids, I said “icon.” A decade or so from now, we’ll look back at this point in online community’s juvenilia, and it’ll be Chris we’ll look to for context. For proof, look no further than the “Leave Britney Alone!” cameo appearance in the recent pop culture movie spoof, “Meet the Spartans.”
Chris and his regularly-posted YouTube commentaries are the next generation of Andy Warhol’s cult of personality, in which small gestures become monumental. Unlike Warhol, the 20-year-old Chris belongs to a media-saavy generation that instinctively knows how to work a camera. Like other YouTube celebrities, Chris uses this young medium to become his own media outlet of which he’s not the product, but a mirror or a lens.
This is evidenced by Chris’s legion of followers. YouTube allows viewers to subscribe to favorite posters and receive updates whenever a new video is added to that poster's "channel." Chris's channel is ranked in YouTube’s top 10 “Most Subscribed” of all time. But the Chris haters seem to far outnumber his fans. Despite the million-plus views each new video draws, the majority of viewer comments he receives are fairly ugly.
Posters vulgarly address Chris’ androgyny, open homosexuality and Britney Spears obsession, many wishing him various manners of violent death. “They just don’t get me,” Chris says, and it’s fairly believable when the young man claims he doesn’t care. As long as people are looking, that’s all that matters.
Surely that’s the credo of every hardworking YouTube celebrity, especially those who made it as nominees in YouTube’s second annual competition. “Rate it even if you hate it,” appears on the screen before the “LonelyGirl15 is dead!” video from Michael Buckley’s YouTube channel, “What the Buck?!” He’s the guy who won the “Commentary” category over Chris’ “Leave Britney Alone.”
Chris doesn’t bear the winner ill will, but he won’t admit to watching his competitors. “I’m too self-centered for that,” he says. Unlike his notorious frenemy Perez Hilton (who posted one or several Chris Crocker insults on his gossip blog), Chris counts Michael as a friend.
Before his “Britney” video broke, Chris even worked with Michael on a copiously-viewed compilation, “The Top (and Bottom) Gays of YouTube.” (YouTube celebs William Sledd and Matthew Lush are featured as well.)
“Congratulations to him!” Chris says enthusiastically. To be fair, “LonelyGirl15 is dead!” deserved to win the “Commentary” category. While it will never achieve the cultural ubiquity of “Leave Britney Alone,” it serves as both meta and mega commentary on YouTube’s busy little subculture, while hilariously skewering the failed “LonelyGirl15” experiment. Buck’s running joke about the lead character’s overwhelming eyebrows is especially delightful.
As you may or may not recall, "LonelyGirl15" was a professionally-produced YouTube series masquerading as reality. It began as what many media-naïve YouTube enthusiasts believed to be the teenage musings of a sheltered, adorable adolescent. As viewers started to catch on, “LonelyGirl15” expanded into a full-blown mystery before ending in murder on MySpace.com.
Incidentally, “LonelyGirl15” received a nomination in YouTube’s first competition last year. Like “Leave Britney Alone,” it didn’t win either. People didn’t hate “LonelyGirl15” like they hate Chris. It just got boring, unlike Chris, who continues to parlay his exposure into currency, possible production deals and at the very least, some excellent adventures in Los Angeles. As gossip rags reveal, he even passes the L.A. It Boy litmus test, regularly scoring entrance into uber-exclusive nightclub, Hyde.
If Chris failed to garner a YouTube award, it’s perhaps because out of the 12 categories, from “Politics” to “Comedy,” none of them really fit. Possibly “Creative” comes closest. Tay Zonda, the “Chocolate Rain” singer who won the “Music” category, called the YouTube awards “the new Emmys,” in an Associated Press interview. He may’ve hit the nail on the head in that awards shows rarely reflect cultural depth or significance.
Again, not that Chris cares. “Now have you seen my new blinking video?” Chris asks. “I’m making headlines with it. I’m proving to people I don’t have to do anything to lead the pack. All I have to do is blink my eyes twice.” He means literally.
Titled “Best video ever,” Chris’s latest offering lasts just five seconds, during which he blinks twice (displaying his meticulously-applied Sally Hansen eyeliner). Posted just before YouTube announced its winners, this unwitting Andy Warhol homage received over one million views in less than two days.