Leave Chris Crocker Alone!

So you may not have heard, but the widely circulated clip of Chris Crocker — he of the “Leave Britney Alone!” fame — is a cleverly done fake. If you have any lingering doubts, check out Richard Roeper’s take on the subject. Here’s the excerpt in full:

This week’s Internet video phenomenon stars the hysterically “sobbing” Britney Spears fan who launches into a tirade against all those who mocked Britney’s deadly comeback performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

“How f—— dare anyone out there make fun of Britney after all she’s been through!” screams androgynous 19-year-old Chris Crocker.

“She lost her hair, she went through a divorce, she had two f—— kids, her husband turned out to be a user, and now she’s going through a custody battle…. Anyone who has a problem with her, you just deal with me because she’s not well right now.”

It seems as if every media outlet in the country has latched on to the video. It’s yet another example of the mainstream media desperately trying to attach itself to what those hipsters on the Internet are doing. (And yes, you could say I’m doing the same thing right here.)

But is there anybody who DOESN’T realize this is pure performance art?

(It’s reminiscent of a recent story about the hot “regular girl” who supposedly lost a digital camera filled with racy shots. Surprise, surprise, turns out she’s an adult-site model.)

According to a profile of Crocker written a few months ago by Eli Sanders of the Stranger, Crocker is an Internet sensation — a “huge YouTube celebrity” — who has been pursued for gigs by mainstream media. The Britney rant is just his latest piece of video performance art.

If this were 10 years ago and Crocker had sent a videotape of his rant to TV stations, he wouldn’t have received a nibble from the local cable access outlet. But because he’s hot on MySpace and YouTube, we fall all over ourselves to give him a showcase, even though the video itself is lame hackwork.

The real genius of Chris Crocker isn’t in his videos. It’s his ability to get us to fuel the hype.

But that’s not all.  Onion AV Club reports that he may be getting his own TV show.  Some sort of reality TV “docusoap.”

Now, this followed with the usual copious handwringing from the AV Club commenters (much of it tongue-in-cheek, admittedly) that this was a sigh of the end of Western Civilization.  But seriously, what’s the big deal?  I actually admire the fact that Chris Crocker managed to fool and entertain several million people with his surprisingly well-done piece of performance art.

We might just be looking into a new paradigm.  New actors and comedians used to get their starts in comedy clubs and UPN sitcoms.  What if YouTube is the next place to get your foot in the door?  You reach a bigger audience, and while you’re not guaranteed fame — if you’re skilled enough at what you do, you will get attention.  It’s probably the most democratic way of creating celebrity.

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