still talking about influencers

I wish that I wasn’t still thinking and talking about Caroline Calloway because I’m loath to give her more attention. Yet, for the past few weeks, ever since Natalie Beach’s The Cut essay came out, I feel like I have talked about Calloway with my friends way more than I wanted to. I can’t help it; she’s like a puzzle that I feel like I’ve solved before I realize the answer is not straightforward. I am intrigued by the opinions people have of her--positive, negative, or critical--because I’m still not sure what to think of her. On one hand, I find her extremely frustrating. After The Cut story came out, I texted a friend: “what irritates me most about caroline is that she represents a type of white privilege in which her mistakes are things that make her charming, a fun story to tell, rather than someone who is disreputable”. On the other hand, I wonder if there’s something to her. A large part of Calloway’s brand is taking on her critics, and her largest criticism of their criticism is that people don’t take her seriously because she is openly and unapologetically ambitious. And she’s not wrong.

There’s plenty of reasons why people are averse to influencers, but their desire for fame is the one that I hear the most. The idea that influencers are primarily motivated by a desire for fame and attention, to some, is the worst thing in the world. Influencers, in the truest form of the word, are not interested in becoming really great photographers or filmmakers or writers. They’re interested in becoming famous and when the do it’s usually for capitalizing on their physical beauty. Though celebrities have been doing that for years, there’s something about influencers in particular that digs people the wrong way. 

In “The Writer as Influencer,” writer Allegra Hobbs suggests that the distinction between the writer-as-influencer (Jia Tolentino and Sarah Nicole Prickett are named) and the influencer-writer (Calloway) is the purposeful pursuit of recognition on a platform. Whereas the writer-as-influencer’s personal brand is sort of an incidental consequence of being great writers online, the influencer-writer has created a distinct brand in which “writer” is one of many elements that make up the glowing, beautiful, and curated image of their brand. In her essay, Hobbs is questioning whether that distinction really matters, especially when the endgame is the same. I would agree that the distinction doesn’t matter. To stress that it does is to reiterate a long held and problematic trope: the Cool Girl. When I first heard that monologue in Gone Girl, I was so excited. Finally someone had said what I’d always wanted to say. Despite all the criticism of that trope, our culture still upholds its tenets. We’re more likely to root for the girl who is effortlessly hot, naturally funny and whip smart than the girl who makes it clear that she wasn’t born that way.

Somehow, without meaning to, Caroline Calloway--along with the reaction toward her--has become a critical study of the acceptable and unacceptable ways that women can be visible. Women in the public sphere have always been subject to these criticisms, and on Instagram, it’s not anything new. Even when we want to pretend that there’s something distinctly different about this particular moment.

I don’t believe that anyone becomes an influencer completely by accident. And even if they do, they don’t stay influencers by accident. To keep people’s attention, you have to keep feeding them.

cut to the feeling

I saw Carly Rae Jepsen this weekend and it was an amazing experience. I love her so much because she really represents unabashed joy and clear positive energy that she just shares with people and that feels really special. One thing I noticed last night was that I never stopped dancing. There was only one song I didn’t know all the words to and I still kept moving, I still felt it. Even better, I wasn’t drunk—I’d had maybe a half a glass of wine—so it was just pure happiness. It was truly the best concert I’ve been to in years. 

I’m always thinking about how good it feels to express joy or excitement about things that you enjoy, even though aloofness is always the order of the day. Last year, eagerness was really important to me, especially when I went to New York for the first time and had the opportunity to meet people that I admired. On one hand I wanted to pretend that i was cool and disinterested but at the end of the day, I’m a fangirl at heart. Eagerness is my factory setting. And a lot of the time, people don’t know what to do with eagerness because it’s not what they’re used to receiving. And it can feel embarrassing at times to feel really excited about anything because it feels naive. You’re excited to be at this event that is a celebration of the thing you love? Yuck. Even I, when faced with other people’s eagerness, can feel uncomfortable. But it’s still something I respect and I think other people do too. There is a lot to be serious about in the world, and it’s really easy to be morose and jaded. Especially if you’re paying attention. In the face of approaching climate apocalypse, institutionalized and mass hatred, and the way every day feels like gripping on to the edge with the tips of your fingers, joy and excitement feel impossible. But we need those moments, we need to cling to those things that make us grin stupidly and uncontrollably. We need Carly Rae Jepsen.

consumption report 

Movies are too long. We should make more miniseries instead.

I’ve been watching Succession. It’s definitely a slow burn, filled with tense, anxious scenes that I always hope, for the sake of the characters, are merely dreams. They’re not. Each character’s worst nightmare is always a potential reality, and it’s that darkness, the failure of happy moments to last even more than a minute that make each episode so good to watch.

I thought Second Act would be teeth-achingly corny and terrible to watch. It was. And I loved it.

The essay everyone is emailing to their friends.