[MAIN BLOG POST- Week 9] Youtube Celebrities

13 Jun

A) Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts “remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media” (Reader, page 269).

The division Burgess and Green places between Youtube and the mainstream media indicates that in order for ‘ordinary people’ to gain greater recognition for their own creative efforts the only way up is through passing through the ‘gatekeeping mechanisms of old media’. Despite the ability to monetise your popular videos through advertising, (a sign of making it in the internal system of fame within Youtube), The transition from internet star to mainstream celebrity like Couldry explains involves moving from one world to another (cited in Burgess & Green 2009: 23). This assumes that the journey to ‘celebrity’ involves the broadening of ones audience to appeal to a larger, more diverse group. Burgess & Green also highlight that Youtube’s internal system of celebrity are based on values that don’t necessarily ‘match up’ with the mass media’s. Thus, when the transition takes place it has to involve some kind of change or transformation by the Youtube user.

It could also be argued that a majority of the video’s Youtube users become known for, serve no real purpose in the mainstream media. The ‘one-hit wonder’ is recognised a  lot more negatively in the mainstream media because it indicates that their talent is limited. For Youtube stars, their challenge is to showcase the talent, skill, or ability outside of the ‘bedroom culture’ and amateur aesthetic of their videos. Something Justin Bieber has been able to do with enormous success. His transition to ‘celebrity’ in the mainstream media has seen a noticeable departure from his humble christian upbringing. In one of his first Youtube videos his mother uploaded, he can seen busking on the street singing christian melodies.

His transition to ‘celebrity’ has meant that his presence in the mainstream media world is profoundly different to his character in Youtube videos. This is an important example in support of Burgess and Green’s insights. Rebecca Black on the other hand is perhaps an example of what happens when Youtube ‘star’ fails to make the transition to mainstream celebrity. Justin Bieber was discovered by the world for his talent and his instantly recognisable ability to sing. On the other hand, Rebecca Black’s Friday song, which surpasses Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ in popularity, doesn’t seem to showcase her talent as such, but rather the awkwardness of her film clip, the poorly written lyrical content and her unnatural ‘disney’ singing voice. It remains to be seen as to whether she will ‘make it’ in the mainstream media world.

However, the system of celebrity native to mainstream media world relies heavily people being able to consistantly bring out material as ‘artist’ or master of your own craft. Thus, although Rebecca Black may be a Youtube ‘star’ and achieve momentary mainstream media attention, the two worlds for her will remain divided. This argument is ultimately based on two differing perspectives on what ‘talent’ is and who deserves to have a presence in the mainstream media world, where there is a larger and more diverse audience to appeal to. Though Youtube has it’s own it’s own internal system of celebrity status, hopefully the mainstream media can continue to act as a benchmark for real talent.


Burgess, J. and J. Green. (2009) ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’ pp. 15-37 in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.


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