How to survive a public faming: Understanding "The Spiciest Memelord" via the temporal dynamics of involuntary celebrification
Online public shaming has gained recent popular and academic attention as the tools of networked life are used to enforce societal norms against perceived deviant behavior. However, these acts of non-consensual identity formation do not necessarily need to be negative in nature. Indeed, similar dynamics can occur when an individual’s behavior aligns with societal expectations — a positive incident of involuntary celebrification, which we call “public faming”. These public famings remain understudied within celebrity and microcelebrity studies, despite the fact that more and more ordinary people are being suddenly propelled to short-lived meme fame. This paper seeks to understand the effect on individuals who are non-consensually elevated into the public eye by expanding our understanding of celebrification beyond a simple linear progression from not-famous to microcelebrity to celebrity. As a case study for this new framework, the author performs an autoethnography of her own experience from winning a trivia game show with an Internet-savvy answer, simultaneously giving extremely fleeting mainstream televised fame and viral internet fame. Our new framework of celebrity temporal dynamics allows us to not only understand how a person’s identity can be transformed into a media object subjected to corporations’ and strangers’ manipulations. We also introduce the tool of “radical reciprocity” to help victims of public faming understand potential paths for them to reclaim their narrative.
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