Angelina Jo-WHICH? Samuel L. Jack-WHO? Benicio del-YOU'RE-GOING-TO-NEED-TO-BE-MORE-SPECIFIC? That's what America's teens are saying right now about our precious, precious adult human movie stars!!!!!!!
Kids these days, it seems, are hoarding all of their shits and giving them exclusively to an entirely new breed of celebrity: the YouTube star. I've written before about my bewilderment at having to explain to my tweenage step-kids who some of the most famous people in the world are—even people who I think of as squarely "after my time," like Amanda Bynes and Hilary Duff. What do you MEAN "who's Ashlee Simpson"!?!?!?
A new survey commissioned by Variety found that "the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube faves, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen." The top five!!! That is fucking bananas. That sound you hear is one million marketing executives leaving marketing-executive-shaped holes in their office walls.
The survey, conducted for Variety by celebrity brand strategist Jeetendr Sehdev, asked 1,500 respondents a battery of questions assessing how 20 well-known personalities stacked up in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence. Half the 20 were drawn from the English-language personalities with the most subscribers and video views on YouTube, the other half were represented by the celebrities with the highest Q scores among U.S. teens aged 13-17, as of March.
A score was then assigned to each YouTube and mainstream star based on how they fared in respondents' answers to the questions, and the resulting number was translated to a 100-point scale. The top five — and six of the top 10 — were YouTube stars.
The survey also found that the YouTube stars scored significantly higher than the boring old regular celebs on attributes "considered to have the highest correlation to influencing purchases among teens." That sound you hear is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.
Looking at survey comments and feedback, teens enjoy an intimate and authentic experience with YouTube celebrities, who aren't subject to image strategies carefully orchestrated by PR pros. Teens also say they appreciate YouTube stars' more candid sense of humor, lack of filter and risk-taking spirit, behaviors often curbed by Hollywood handlers.
When I wrote this post back in January, my fiancé's daughter told me that same thing over and over. They're more real, more relatable. Plus, "YouTube gives you the opportunity to interact with them directly."
And this, also from that post:
A friend of mine who's worked, peripherally, on trying to bring YouTube stars into the mainstream, said something I thought was perfect: "To kids, YouTube feels honest because it's so unregulated. It's also a reaction to children's media being over-processed. It's what happens when we take all the child murder out of fairy tales."
I don't know what's going to happen to the current crop of YouTube stars—I imagine some of them will fizzle out, some will transition successfully to the mainstream, some will make shitty pilots and then disappear for 20 years until we drag them out for I Love the 2010s. Maybe some will just keep doing the Cinnamon Challenge over and over on YouTube until they're 75 years old.
But as Variety points out, there are potential pitfalls: "If YouTube stars are swallowed by Hollywood, they are in danger of becoming less authentic versions of themselves, and teenagers will be able to pick up on that."