Raging Boy

Making A Micro-celebrity

When thinking of the YouTube star system, the first step should be a consideration of micro-celebrity and the work of Alice Marwick. Studying tastemakers in Silicon Valley, Marwick defines micro-celebrity as both an identity and a behavior (Marwick, Status Update, 114). While creating a persona and content are important, a consistent brand "authenticity" is most important. A few pages later, Marwick brings attention to how micro-celebrities create authenticity on textual platforms not just through sharing personal information, but through creating a consistent brand across platforms, "a reliable uniformity of self-presentation" (120). The case of YouTube creators becomes especially interesting when we consider Marwick's consideration of Instagram as an "always-on" visual platform whose very nature "lends an air of authenticity and truthfulness that mere tweets or blog posts may not" (Marwick, Instafame, 2015). Logan Paul's daily vlog style represents a similar style of always-on documentation mediated through what Marwick called "the edited self" (Marwick, Status Update, 195). Though the viewer sees Paul's life and travails play out day to day in what appears to be lightly edited vlogs, there has unquestionably been an immense amount of immaterial labor in producing Logan Paul as a brand.

Paul has always reveled in his own controversial image, and continues to take advantage of his outcast status to this day. During his his return vlog, Paul visibly signs a petition to get himself removed from YouTube. Because Paul has always reveled in his controversial image, it is interesting to consider the video in Aokigahara not as a personal error in judgement but a miscalculation of magnitude. While it is more difficult to find an unedited version of the original video, the rhetoric of Paul's vlog was that he was going to be the first to showcase a body on YouTube. If ambition drove Paul to upload what he considered a revolutionary video, than the video can be considered as encoded on brand. However, it is in the issue of "decoding the message in a globally contrary way" that gave Paul's reputation its swift decline (Hall, 49). Breaking ground on new dimensions for YouTube is the consistent authentic representation of Paul's microcelebrity; it is in dealing with the Orientalized body that Paul overstepped.

Immediately after taking the Aokigahara video down, Paul uploaded a controversial apology video. Shot head-on and in a single take, the composition of frame is decidedly like the "unsponsored" videos Alexander and Losh explore that engage with the audience more directly due to their perceived veracity (Alexander & Losh, 30). There is much merit in problematizing the language of Paul's paired video and note, as they such non-justifications as: "In the world I live in, I share almost everything I do. The intent is never to be heartless, cruel, or malicious" (Logan Paul Vlogs, So Sorry., 2018) and "I didn't do it for views. I get views." (@LoganPaul, 2018). The quickly manufactured posts prompted a month-long break followed by a video of Paul personally sitting down with suicide survivors and advocates. By practicing his authenticity in a formal documentary style instead of vlogging, Paul is indicating his brand taking a step away from his personal vlogs.
Shortly hereafter, Paul thrust himself into training through boxing. Because another section of this project theorizes Paul's reconstruction from a post-colonial perspective, I want to now focus on how Logan Paul has rebranded from a YouTube vlogger to a multi-media star. On April 29th, Paul took the first step by ceasing daily vlogging. Though the style of vlogging has not changed, by slowing down the velocity of posting Paul is making himself less vulnerable to criticism and allowing his personal brand more critical distance from the micro-celebrity of YouTube. The desire to do so is made clear in his Face2Face with KSI before the match.

To begin, the tone of this event is lightyears more structured than the previous press conferences in Los Angeles and the United Kingdom. Whereas these events quickly degenerated into shouting matches and crowd work, the Face2Face has a corporate intimacy that projects the higher production values that would come with a fight aired on HBO. The interview consists of former professional fighter Johnny Nelson continually asking questions of the two. As covered in "Punching the Other", Paul constructs a narrative where KSI is "caught in YouTube land" where "no one in America really knew who [KSI was]" before he challenged Paul (KSIvsLogan, Face 2 Face, 2:20). The space of Americanized production is shown to be Paul's home environment, whereas KSI is confined to the liminal space of YouTube.

Paul's association with professional media continues through the fight, and up to the present day. As of this writing, Paul is in training for a second fight that is contractually obligated to take place by February 2019 at the latest. With a feature dropping on YouTube Premium the day of this writing (10/17/18), it is easy to see a future for Paul's trial by combat to act as a springboard to mainstream success. And yet, it is also possible to see Paul trapped within the platform, doing nothing more than reinforcing his authority as a master of the algorithm. While the events surrounding these fights are steps toward his reinvention as a multi-media star, he may never be able to escape his history with YouTube and the Japanese forest.

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