Who’s Stalking Whom: Eli Roth and the Blueberries

Curator's Note

Fan-celebrity interactions always trade in semblances of intimacy, whether through orchestrated encounters, interview tell-it-alls, or paparazzi photographs. Lady Gaga—mistress of controlling and manipulating her star image—thematizes the ambiguities of star and stalker in her song Paparazzi. The chorus pronounces: I’m your biggest fan/ I follow you until you love me/ Paparazzi, and it remains unclear as to whether the singer is the star addressing the stalker or the stalker serenading the star. This ambiguity becomes even more pronounced with the line I won’t stop until that boy is mine, which posits the female singer in the role of the fan and thus inverts the established fan/celebrity dichotomy. The lyrics’ ambiguity as to who is stalking whom anticipates the complicated fan/star interdependency Kuwdora’s vid foregrounds.

The vid recounts the strange events surrounding Inglorious Basterds star and artsy low budget horror film producer Eli Roth’s close encounters with his fans last September. Upon being linked to erotic fan fiction involving his character (as well as him), he began twittering about it; fan girls, in turn, responded excitedly on ONTD, traversing several social networking sites and private and public communication. These encounters continued with night-long, increasingly sexualized MySpace chats between Roth and the fangirls (also know as Blueberries, a term derived from Roth mistaking Blackberry for Blueberry), culminating in Roth posting an image of a used tissue as proof of his enjoyment over receiving ample pictures of fan girl boobs he had requested.

The vid uses the song’s fan/celebrity interdependency to showcase the way Roth and fans effectively constructed each other’s objectifying identities. It’s difficult to look at these increasingly sexual-ized and -izing comments and see either side as exploiting or victimizing the other. In its stead, the immediate intimacy of two groups traditionally mediated by third parties (whether they be handlers or media) creates an almost violent implosion. The vid uses Roth’s earlier films to create an atmosphere of fierce and furious frenzy that frames and haunts the sexual poses and shots that intersect with the textual eroticism. The result is a loss of restraint that seems to accurately depict these events in which neither fans nor Roth—let alone anyone who might have been in charge of his media image or message—remain fully in control of the unfolding exchanges depicted here.

While the vid clearly uses material from one specific event with one particular actor and a small group of women who interacted with him, the larger issue Paparazzi raises is the changing dynamic of star and stalker, fan and celebrity, especially in relation to new social media. On the one hand, the immediacy and intimacy online interaction such as twitter affords us simply foregrounds the fact that both groups require the other to exist. On the other hand, however, the lack of temporal delays and moderating intermediaries accelerates and intensifies these charged encounters, leading to situations where no one, in the end, can be considered in control.

Comments

Lindsay H. Garrison's picture

Wow.

Fascinating vid, Kristina. This is a stirring example with which to think about the dialectic nature of fandom and celebrity as well as the way that social media can intensify that relationship, especially when it allows for the erasure of the agent, publicist, or promotions personnel that often manage and control the interaction. For me, this also brings up questions about pleasure. We (as scholars) so often tend to focus on identifying/understanding the pleasure that various fans find in interacting with celebrities/texts/fan communities, but this example also raises questions about the type of pleasures that celebrities/authors/producers might find in interacting with fans (in this case, quite literally in the form of a used tissue!).

Kristina Busse's picture

pleasures...

 Yes, Lindsay, that’s a really great point. Obviously, the celebrity gained their own (quite visceral) pleasure, just like Sommerhalder et al gained some form of pleasure in watching the Salvatore vlog.

And to me, as someone who loves vidding and actually kinda previewed this one, the pleasure isn’t even in the Blueberries vs Roth event itself but in the way the vidder manages to present/comment/critique everything in a way that’d take me 5000 words to even begin to explain!   

To me the social media component is the most startling and unsettling personally. I tend to enjoy the pretense of the shows quite a bit and don’t really want to know too much about its celebs (except, of course, where I do :), so this desire to engage, to interact, to be known, which has been facilitated to such a degree with twitter and FB etc, is something I’m trying to get my mind around but ultimately…don’t like (even as I realize its importance, of course!)

Louisa Stein's picture

Such a provocative vid &

Such a provocative vid & analysis, Kristina! I’m especially struck by the use of Lady Gaga and the d-ecentering of gender roles in the vid that her voice contributes to. As you point out, she sings as the celebrity and as the fan as stalker, blurring the two roles. And in this vid her voice functions to supply the interiority of both the fans and Eli Roth. Along the same lines, we see the fans’ purposeful spectacle of themselves—or at least, of their breasts—as requested by Roth. But we also of course see images (real and manipulated…) of Roth himself as erotic spectacle for the female fan girls.

Also, thinking about it in relation to the Misha Minions vid, I’m struck by how both instances seem to represent a fangirl celebration of a somewhat non-traditional masculinity (in this case there’s the reference to "the bear Jew") which seems to go hand in hand with the hypermediated spectacle of depicting fangirl and celebrity pleasure/agency on various online social networking sites. Do the community dimensions of these sites allow for this aggressive assertion and reconfiguration of publicly desirable masculinity?

Kristina Busse's picture

Yes, the Lady Gaga

Yes, the Lady Gaga gender&subject/object play is great, isn’t it? I love the masculinity question you pose! There’s an OTT ethos in both that takes their masculinity and plays it to bizarre extremes that then flips, doesn’t it? And both strike me as very willfully playing with their perception and the fans and being willing to make fools out of themselves (and us :)… Is there something to B-movie/subcultural film making that might relate to that??? 

Kristen Warner's picture

connections

Kristina, I think I’ve told you that I remember this event very, very well as I am a member of ONTD. The lack of control on both Roth and ONTD’s parts was what most struck me. The day after, there was so much discourse on the blog site about how what these ladies participated in shaped the overall tone and feel of the blog. Thus, "we" all lost control and it made many folks feel quite, quite dirty. As far as Roth, it was interesting how subtly the shift from appreciative celeb to something more sexual occurred.

Kristina Busse's picture

 I know! Looking at it from

 I know! Looking at it from the outside, it really feels like everyone lost control. At the same time, I think the vid suggests quite correctly that this is simply metonymic for a general shift (and maybe a more general loss of control/oversight/planning?)…

And the sense of embarrassment related to a subgroup’s fascinating in its own right. I see this a lot, and am always wondering how much is geek hierarchy and how much’s a form of envy—both of a more unrestrained exhibit of emotion as well as of the celeb intimacy…

 

Mark Duffett's picture

Mutual exposure

This is interesting, not just because of the implosive loss of control but also because of it’s public nature and the way that it comments on the line between public and private life.

Isn’t the giving in to sexual temptation (in the context of an imbalanced power relation) is similar, in some ways, to what has gone with groupies backstage at rock concerts? I don’t think they’ve escaped their industry handlers so much as been set up by them, set into the power relations that facilitate the implosion.

To me what was interesting is the way that this was publically mediated by each party themselves in that implosion. It looks to me like they are taking it into their own hands to be their own papparazzi? 

Mark Duffett's picture

Mutual exposure

This is interesting, not just because of the implosive loss of control but also because of it’s public nature and the way that it comments on the line between public and private life.

Isn’t the giving in to sexual temptation (in the context of an imbalanced power relation) similar, in some ways, to what has gone with groupies backstage at rock concerts? I don’t think they’ve escaped their industry handlers so much as been set up by them, set into the power relations that facilitate the implosion.

To me what was interesting is the way that this was publically mediated by each party themselves in that implosion. It looks to me like they are taking it into their own hands to be their own papparazzi? 

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