The Fate Of 4 Internet 'Celebrities' After Viral Fame
A few months ago, I got curious and decided to find out what happened to some of the Internet celebrities who made a huge dent on pop culture before fading away into the ether like they had never existed. It turned out that most of them got themselves into some pretty depressing shit once the initial furor surrounding them died down. Since then, I've been wondering if this was the case for other viral stars. So I took a dive back into the grimy, piss-filled pool of the post-fame lives of people who rocketed to Internet fame, only to vanish from the public eye as quickly as they came.
As expected, some of them are goddamn horror shows. But most of them, to my surprise this time around, ended up quite nicely. So let's find out what happened to such once-prominent Internet mega-stars as ...
The Techno Viking Sued The Guy Who Made The Video
Over the course of a single wordless 4-minute shot, a massive shirtless Thor-looking man dances down a city street to a pulsing techno beat and makes it look like the most intimidating act of territorial pissing in the entire animal kingdom.
Due to the video's almost toxic levels of incredible, it went viral -- but not immediately. The footage was captured on July 8th, 2000, during the wonderfully-named "Fuck Parade" electronic music festival in Berlin. Artist Matthias Fritsch was the man behind the camera. He kept the video on his website for six years before he put it on YouTube. A year after that, something weird happened: For reasons that are best left unknown, the video found its way onto a Central American porn site. Masturbating Guatemalans made it a viral hit.
Four million views later, YouTube gave Fritsch a cut of the ad revenue. Then the Techno Viking parody videos started rolling in -- the modern-day version of hearing your band's song on the radio. Fritsch seized on the video's success. He gave lectures on the viral nature of the meme and studied the world's reaction to it, and even started a website collecting the various parodies and art works fans created to express their love for the video.
Fritsch turned a video of a guy he didn't even know into a lucrative artistic career. But you probably noticed there's something missing in all this backstory ...
After The Fame
In the story of Techno Viking, there isn't much mention of the actual Techno Viking. No mention of the fame and fortune that fell into the lap of that dancing Norse god after the video blew up. He's an afterthought in the story of his own video. That's because no one knows for sure who the Techno Viking actually is. The only thing anyone knows about him is that he is well aware of the video's popularity -- and that he fucking hates it. Hates it so much that in 2009, Techno Viking (for the lack of his real name) sued for every single bit of cash Fritsch made off his likeness. And he won. He raked in 15,000 euros in damages (around $20,000 US, for comparison), and everything featuring his likeness that Fritsch uploaded needed to be removed from the Internet, including the original video.
In 2013, Fritsch took to Indiegogo in an attempt to raise 10,000 euros for a Techno Viking documentary. He only made it to 6,467 euros. He's also broke right now, because instead of having a job, he's spent nearly a decade trying to piss off a man who has probably given the nickname "Mjolinir" to several of his body parts.
Rebecca Black Was A Laughingstock With "Friday" -- Now She's An Internet Celeb Role Model
Everything about Rebecca Black's music video for "Friday" -- from the extravagantly unimaginative lyrics to the terrible autotuning of her voice to the cheesy, lifeless, painful uncoolness of everyone and everything involved in the entire production -- became a massive joke to everyone everywhere. "Friday" had as big an impact on pop culture as a Star Wars release, but it was more Phantom Menace than A New Hope. And this was all happening when Rebecca Black was only 13.
A classmate introduced Rebecca to Ark Music Factory, a production company in L.A. that, for a fee, will write and produce music for aspiring artists. Think of it like a baseball fantasy camp for musicians: Give them some cash, and you can live your dream of working in a real studio with a real producer, and maybe even get your own music video. The video for her first single, "Friday," hit YouTube on February 10th, 2011 to little fanfare. A month later, it would become the biggest thing in the world.
Monotonous is one of the kinder ways I've heard the song described. For the unkind ways, just go to Urban Dictionary and look for the words that make you gag; those were probably used too. The video hit 10 million views in a week, and the song was soon in the iTunes Top 100. Rebecca Black was on The Tonight Show the month after that. It was number 58 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was the most-viewed video on YouTube in 2011, totaling 167 million views in just four months ... along with 3,190,000 dislikes. It was memed, it was GIFed, it was covered, it was remixed, it was parodied. People hated it, people defended it. But mostly, people hated it.
So what happens to a person once they go from nothing to having an abundance of a bizarre and not particularly friendly brand of success, and all while still in their early teens?
After The Fame
They get death threats. Apparently the eye-for-an-eye equivalent of a bad teen pop song is making the teen singer fear for their life. Oh, and there was plenty of in-person bullying, too. The harassment from fellow classmates got so bad that Rebecca's parents had to homeschool her.
Rebecca released a series of followup songs and videos after "Friday," none of which reached the same heights of pop culture saturation. Though her sequel song, "Saturday," did rank higher on the Billboard Hot 100 than "Friday," but it only stayed on the chart only one week ("Friday" was on it for six weeks).
Lately, Rebecca can be found on her YouTube channel, where she regularly answers viewer questions and often talks about how to deal being bullied. So if you're being bullied right now, you should probably listen to what she has to say. Who would know more about how to handle the fear and torment of bullying than a female teenager who was hated by the world for a year because of a harmless song? The world pointed at her and laughed when she was only 13 -- the peak of teenage self-consciousness -- and yet she comes off as bulletproof in her video blogs; always happy, always with a huge smile.
And she has a great sense of humor about it all, and is fully aware "Friday" maybe isn't going to be heralding in a musical revolution.
On top of all that, it turns out she has a great voice when it isn't being autotuned to sound like a chipmunk.
The "My New Haircut" Guy Is Still Trying To Make His Guido Character Popular
Brett Tiejen grew up in Long Island, where he got to see firsthand the now much-mocked Guido stereotype. These are the guys so unnaturally tanned that their skins are used to make bomber jackets. Their hair is styled into Super Saiyan blowouts. Their attitudes and overall demeanor are very much like overconfident garbage clumps. Brett became a film student and an actor, and used those talents to make a web video satirizing the very specific subspecies of annoying asshole he was all too familiar with. He titled it "My New Haircut," slapped it on YouTube, and awaited a response.
I think 31 million views is a pretty good response. "My New Haircut" resonated with people from all over the world. Everyone knew a Jagerbombing, overly-tanned alpha male 'roid monster. It inspired dozens of parodies, wherein fans would swap "Guido" out for the race or subculture they represented so they could get in on the fun.
Those 30-million-plus views caught the attention of Hollywood producer Scott Mednick, who bought the rights to a "My New Haircut" movie which was to be scripted by Tiejen. This was it. The tiny, silly video about a bro named Broski was set to be Brett's launching pad into stardom. He was about to live the dream, until ...
After The Fame
... absolutely nothing happened. Mednick didn't do anything with the rights or the script, and Tiejen was told that nothing could be done with this Guido concept. And then this happened:
As Tiejen was being told he wasn't going to get to make his Broski movie, MTV's Jersey Shore was smashing ratings records. Whether or not "My New Haircut" eventually led to the creation of Jersey Shore by popularizing the stereotype of the modern-day Guido remains to be definitively proven, but I'm going to go ahead and say yes. Yes, it did.
Brett's been trying to bring the character back to his former glory ever since. It hasn't been working out too well. He asked fans for $20,000 on Kickstarter to fund a "My New Haircut" web series. Here's how that turned out:
Then, in a last-ditch effort to do something with the character, Brett turned to Indiegogo to get funding for both a concept trailer for a Broski movie and a documentary about his attempt at making that movie. He asked for $25,000 and, well ...
Tiejen has been sporadically posting Broski videos on his YouTube channel since it all began in 2007. But now it seems that after all these years, Brett might finally retire the character. In February of 2015, he posted an ominous video titled "The Death of Broski" ...
We all pour out a 40 of Muscle Milk in Broski's honor.
Scumbag Steve Hated The Forced Fame At First, But Now He Embraces It
One look at the Scumbag Steve image macro meme and I can fully envision the origin story without reading it: Some poor guy got stuck with the roommate from hell. A moocher. A loser. A, well ... scumbag. The kind of guy who would, I don't know, maybe ...
A guy who exemplifies the kind of inconsiderate, self-centered asshole behavior that's ripe for a proper mocking, and who deserves to be turned into the permanent poster boy for being a selfish dickhead.
Or it could turn out that he's actually a guy named Blake Boston, and that famous picture was taken by his mom, and that picture was arbitrarily ripped off of his MySpace page. And for no reason other than his overall look, he was turned into the face of all the annoying people we all encounter on a daily basis, like it's an old west "wanted" poster, with his offense being Crimes Against Social Norms. In fact, that's exactly what Scumba- Blake Boston has become.
His mom was taking photography classes and created a MySpace page to post her pictures. She included random photos of her then-16-year-old son, Blake. No one, not even Blake, is sure how that one specific picture ended up as a meme, or even who the creator of the first Scumbag Steve image macro was. But one day in 2011, a compilation of the very first Scumbag Steve images was posted to Reddit and a meme was born. And it hasn't faded away.
After The Fame
By now you should know that Internet celebrities, whether they wanted the fame or someone forced it on them against their will, get harassed by faceless, gutless Internet assholes all the time. Blake is no different. But the attacks on him got very personal, and hit frighteningly close to home. In his own words:
"Some asshole put up an ultrasound picture of my unborn kid and wished it would die. How fucked is that? My girl cried all night. She felt molested by that."
An ultrasound. Of his unborn child. Fuck. When his mom found out that the picture she took had spread far and wide, she cried and blamed herself. Blake attributes this kind of behavior to people not being able to separate the meme from the man, probably because no one knows the man and people assume the meme had to be rooted in some kind of fact to be passed around so much. It's not. Well, mostly. Even Blake admits he kind of lived up to the meme when he was in high school. ("Was I a douche bag? Yah, I guess.").
He tried battling it, but his online outbursts did nothing. So Blake embraced it -- impressive, considering that when the meme started to become popular, he didn't even know what a meme was, thinking they were personal attacks and not a part of the Internet's version of random selection.
Today he's an aspiring rapper. Now, before you try making jokes about how he's become a living embodiment of the meme, understand that he's intentionally incorporated aspects of the meme into his rap persona, particularly with his most viewed video, "Scumbag Steve Overture".
Yeesh. Okay, well ... maybe reign in some of the slack cutting.
For more from Luis, check out 5 Absolutely Insane Indie Games You Can Play For Free and 5 Pop Culture References Nobody Got in Movies and TV Shows.
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