We did this. We have no one to blame for this atrocity but us. Shame on us and our whole families.
"Alex from Target", the memed-up, cute yet otherwise unremarkable white boy from Texas who got his start (lol really?) bagging groceries/wares, launched his YouTube channel (audible groan) and in the above insufferable vlog told the world that he's planning on pursuing a film and music career and going on tour (for what though?); punishing us for giving him a few seconds more than 15 minutes of fame.
Forgive me for not high-fiving a million baby angels, but he's up there with Heidi Montag and Tan Mom on the list of "people who were fascinating for like five minutes but should really return from whence they came." Whatever happened to the good old days of hard work/living in a van and struggling/having any talent whatsoever contributing to fame? Target is a cushy ass high school side gig, why can't he just go back behind the register and bag my selections? In fact, I have just the bag for him:
Who is to blame for this? Let me volunteer a few culprits…
There's the 'content culture' that demands we cover all internet murmurs that have gained any traction whatsoever. I mean, this kid was bumbling inarticulately on Ellen within a day of showing up at work and having his pic snapped by a rando. Instead of grabbing for ratings like a thirsty suburban mom on Supermarket Sweep, Ellen could have waited for this shitstorm to blow over.
Technology bears the brunt of responsibility too. While the "old media vs. new media" war wages on, it's clear that old media has a leg up on production value and investment in developing talent. Digitour — an event where young, (mostly) white kids with no expertise or agency travel from city to city selling merchandise to teens who desperately wish to hang out with the high school cool kids (but less hot than you remember) — is the kind of thing that traditional media could never get behind. It's not substantive. It's cotton-candy, teeny-bopper nonsense on steroids. And with YouTube's penchant for boosting forgettable vlogs and bite-size shallow commentary, hundreds of reactions to Alex's meteoric rise to fame mimicked credibility among people who had only just heard about him days before. The internet age reminds us that while cream rises to the top, turds float, too.
And finally, there's the teens. I get it, I was once a teen. I know I run the risk of sounding like an "old," but back in my day, our idols (though vapid they may be) had showmanship. They had stage presence. Britney Spears might not be the best singer in the world, but she could put on a show. Social media didn't exist, so being famous for being famous wasn't really a thing — unless you count Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie who were actually famous for being related to famous people. They were likely the catalyst, but in no way as soul-sucking as the anti-Cinderella story that is Alex from Target.
We can do better. We have to do better. Please do better.
Akilah Hughes is a comedian, YouTuber, and staff writer and producer for Fusion's culture section. You can almost always find her waxing poetic about memes and using too many emojis. 🍕