You must be Joaquin & the Socialization of Entertainment
Getting the public involved in the creation or marketing-of entertainment is nothing new from Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds to Blair Witch. Recent speculation around Joaquin Phoenix’s headline making bloopers has pundits Parez Hilton, Huffington Post and even the UK’s mainstream Guardian debating if this is the latest the-jokes-on-you. I think the fact his brother in law Cassey Affleck is currently following him around making an undisclosed documentary about his ‘transition’ suggests all is not as it seems. So I won’t focus on the validity of it all as I think we all know the answer. What does interest me however is the role the public can now play in this kind of process through the use of social media now it’s firmly mainstream.
Previously War of the Worlds duped the public, the passive observer, into believing their world was being invaded. I don’t think the end result was expected, I may be wrong, but rather it was a rather nice and unexpected turn of events due to the pioneering quality of work achieved by Mr. Welles. Once media execs saw the value to this kind of outcome the format was continued and honed in the emerging TV medium where the joke saw the unsuspecting public as the cast / victim. Japan took the format to another level with sometimes quite sick but hilarious Crowd Man pranks. But it was all just for laughs and not really making a cultural impact or statement.
Enter daring Chris Morris who lampooned the UK Media’s changing obsessions that had focused its glare on pedophilia through a tong-in-cheek social commentary and mockumentary Brass Eye. Agree with it or not it got the public and every hack debating what it said about our society today and the media. But what if the general public could play a bigger part and unwittingly construct the story?
Recently a client who represents fighting the stigma of mental illness in the UK wanted a ‘viral’ to help combat and highlight the issue. You only have to look at how the media treats those on the edge Kerry Katona / Britney to see the media don’t exactly help the average Joe perceive mental illness in a particularly sensitive way. My idea, that I don’t think ever got to the client was; lets get a celebrity (of the cult student variety) to go along to a fresher’s event and lose the plot. Have an emotional breakdown right there. Let the students with all their camera / video phones capture and then distribute the content across social media until the newspapers, celeb mags pick up it. Sit back and watch the media / public fill in the blanks and create the story for you. You can just imagine the gossip mags YouTube comments… ‘Celeb losses the plot’ Celeb X is a nutter!
Whilst I don’t think Joaquin has done this subtly or well as he has created too much of the media himself and given too much too soon the concept is there. Rumor has it he is making a mock-u-mentory about Hollywood fame and the media circus that surrounds it.
I think the explosion of social media usage, which now dwarfs all other media for consumption, and the complexity of RPG gaming culture has created a generation that want to get much more involved other than just decide what the character should do next. Brands have tried to get into this space with their own misinformed brand versions of things like Kate Modern EG Nokia and Annasphone but failed. To be honest I’m not sure how much a brand can bring to the table beyond this attempt but would be open to suggestions.
My thinking is it’s the production companies that should be really pushing this area now that the golden reality show format is old-hat and failing them. I think social media allows social entertainment to be more than personal medias, a prank or advertising campaign but rather an opportunity to let society collectively create the story, provide the characters, then look at itself for what it really is.