For what I can only assume is the overwhelming majority of you who don’t already know, Rebecca Black released her latest single Nov. 15. Her new single, “Person of Interest,” is everything we’ve come to expect and love about Black: unequivocally and hilariously terrible.
I’ve been following Black’s meteoric career arc very closely. Not meteoric in the normal sense though. More like because humanity is praying it simply burns up in the atmosphere for fear of it becoming the harbinger of a cultural mass extinction.
Before I proceed, I think it’s important to clarify a few points. Firstly, that I am trying really, really hard not to be too self-righteous. I understand that music is subjective. But, on the other hand, have you listened to her songs? They’re as close to an absolute definition of bad as we’re likely to find.
Secondly, I want to say that I am not trying to verbally bully a fourteen-year-old girl. I know my introduction may be symptomatic of exactly that, but what I’m actually trying to do is use her as the latest example in an ongoing trend of our society. I speak of America’s broken meritocracy.
I’m not going to simply point out all the little quirks of her latest music video. That’s partly because I’m not interested in postulating about her semi-creepy metaphors or whether Justin Bieber will file a copyright infringement suit against the boy who stole his haircut. It’s also partly because I don’t think my editors would have approved an article about how Black’s re-creation of the “damsel in distress” situation over skeeball has inadvertently posited her as the flag bearer for a new anti-feminist movement.
What I’m interested in, rather, is what has been dubbed rule sixteen of the Internet. “If you fail in epic proportions, it just may be a winning fail.” People who are less inclined to surf “4chan” may recognize it as “it’s so bad, it’s good.”
There are so many examples of this across so many spheres of pop culture that it is pretty much the antithesis of a phenomenon. Besides for the fact that Friday has received more views than people who voted in the 2008 Presidential election, William Hung has released three albums on the claim to fame of being the “She Bangs” guy from American Idol. In politics, Donald Trump started a political campaign for the White House solely to promote a reality show. There is literally an entire award show, “The Razzies,” dedicated to terrible movies. The “Twilight” series, in just six years of publication, has sold almost as many total copies as the entire “Narnia” series has in over ten times as long. And in less than a month, Jersey Shore will return to our TVs.
The point (other than that I really like receiving angry emails apparently) is that Black represents a status quo, not an exception.
I’m sure some of you are wondering what exactly the big deal is. After all, if a few people want to humiliate themselves for fame, fortune, or just for “the lolz,” then why shouldn’t we let them?
Well, first, we shouldn’t because it’s insulting to us as consumers of pop culture. Don’t we, the people who are expected to support these musicians, actors, writers, or whoever, deserve at least a credible effort at artistic value? Maybe I’m just being naïve, but I sure think so.
Also, there is the very real chance that a few outliers who actively pursue infamy could affect the quality of culture overall. Think of it as a cheapening of competition.
In almost any medium, rivalries are often the root of the greatest success. Magic-Bird, Lennon-McCartney, the SNL crew of the 90s, and many others achieved their highest highs by furiously trying to outdo each other.
When people start fighting over the right to be the worst, fewer rivalries fight over the right to be the best. In that situation, everyone suffers. And if you don’t think that can’t happen, then you haven’t spent hours looking up other terrible Friday-inspired videos from pre-teen girls. Take it from someone who spent too long researching for this article, they exist and they are terrifying.
The only way to fix this imbalance is for us, as consumers, to rise up and demand more from our entertainers. Right now, they’re only giving us what we’re asking for, so it’s hard to blame them directly. But if we stop paying money for William Hung’s Christmas album, they’ll have to respond by stopping the nonsense.
It’s either that, or there will be a chalk line on the dance floor in the shape of our ears.
Zachary Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org