Nov 272011

There is a current episode of America’s Next Top Model, Game, where Tyra and Jay ask the models to create and record a short song, then shoot a video with their directors with the intent of creating a viral YouTube video. They open with a challenge from Madison, a current viral video child star with some videos holding over 50,000 views.


The models go through a process of writing a song about their lives and recording with their guest judge, Game. Each model then goes through the process of modeling for a video to accompany their song with the intent of going viral. Each model must incorporate both the line “pot ledom – top model backwards” and random clips of Tyra and Keenan Cahill dressed in some ridiculous getup, left.

Can a video constructed in this manner may ever be considered viral, even if it somehow gained a decent amount of exposure? Rebecca Black’s Friday is a perfect example of a successfully viral video that mirrors this kind of professional video production, but there is still this pesky question of intent. Can these ANTM videos be considered authentic? Does the video’s authenticity affect eligibility of being viral? There are plenty of other teen videos created under the company that produced Rebecca Black’s, but for some reason hers seemed to catch on. If, within a community that cultivates the amateur and accidental stardom, a user creates a video with the intent of going viral as the main motivating factor, can it be considered an original work or should it be brushed off as fake? Farennikova and Prinz discuss this question of authenticity in the first chapter of Fashion, Philosophy for Everyone in asking if intentions matter. If we compare the theory of successful/’cool’ fashion to successful/’popular’ videos on YouTube, than it stands to reason that, like the people who dress to impress, those who create videos with intent of going viral will in fact appear to be what Russell later calls ‘try-hards’ or fashion victims.

The creators of the show seem to feel they have come across a sort of secret formula that they feel will indeed land them viral status. Their decision to include things like ‘pot ledom’ and tyra banks in silly outfits would seem to be their stab at giving the video a more authentic feel. With the backing of a popular TV Show and a very transparent motivation, the low exposure the videos have gotten so far would indicate that even the TV show viewers aren’t watching them. Are ANTM’s videos the fashion victims of YouTube?

It’s somewhat telling that most popular and remixed video of the few created is that of Allison Harvard, the weirdest and most unique model on the current season of ANTM. People seem to be drawn to her uniqueness and inherent authenticity stemming from her look.

  2 Responses to “Can ANTM Go Viral?”

  1. The question of intent (which, as you’ve noted, is really a question of authenticity) is one of the stickiest questions about viral media. In my work, I purposely avoid using intent in my definition of viral structures. I find my ideas about intent aligning with those of Eggo Müller, who suggests that intent is a problematic category because the industry/amateur binary assumes too much about the motives of either of the pair.

    However, I agree with you that by most standards, these videos would not be considered “viral.” I think this episode demonstrates a trend in marketing and entertainment where the word “viral” is used as shorthand for “online videos that we hope become popular.”

  2. I agree with you in part Amy. If there’s intent of making a video viral then it could be seen as “fake”. Especially when you are showing the supposedly “viral” video on TV, reaching millions of people who could potentially go online just because they are curious. That way the thousands of views would be in the video not because it’s viral (video is being sent from one person to another, in sort of a snowball way) but because each individual decided to watch it. To me, the definition of viral is not about the numbers of views in a video but about how many people actually passed that content on by posting on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

    BUT I believe that right now, most people who post videos on YouTube are hoping to become popular. Right when it started, YouTube was more about sharing videos with friends than about sharing videos in the hopes that one would become famous. But recently it seems like becoming popular became more important. So in a way, doesn’t everybody that uploads a video to YouTube have the intent of becoming viral?

    So maybe it’s not about the intent, because everybody has the intent nowadays. Maybe it’s about how unfair it is to advertise a video on TV and then call it viral. It’s the concept that they are getting wrong.

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