The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Obscure Online ‘Celebrities’ and the Fragmentation of Popular Culture

Posted on | April 9, 2023 | Comments Off on Obscure Online ‘Celebrities’ and the Fragmentation of Popular Culture

Chris and Katie Tyson, at their 2018 wedding

Once upon a time (he says, as if speaking of a distant and possibly mythical past) there were three major national TV networks, which was where practically all “famous” people were seen. During the 1980s, the proliferation of cable TV channels began to change this equation, and one of the responses to the challenge of cable — which cut into the audience and advertising revenue of the “Big Three” networks — was the rise of “reality TV” series. Survivor made its debut in 2000 on CBS, and The Bachelor premiered on ABC in 2002. The people who appeared on such programs became regarded as “celebrities,” as they were seen by audiences numbered in the millions, but these audiences were mere fractions of the population, much smaller proportionately than the viewership of the Big Three networks in earlier decades.

If you went back to the early 1970s, 20 million people routinely tuned in for Monday Night Football which meant that, in a nation of 200 million, fully a tenth of the population was watching Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and “Dandy Don” Meredith. Thirty years later, although The Bachelor was considered a huge hit, its average audience was less than 10 million, in a nation of more than 300 million, meaning it was watched by only about 3% of the population. And this trend of audience fragmentation has only accelerated with the rise of social media. There are now YouTubers with audiences larger than many cable-TV programs (e.g., most of CNN’s lineup) and yet if you’re not a fan, you’ve probably never heard of these so-called celebrities, like “Mr. Beast.”

Jimmy Donaldson, 24, has more than 140 million YouTube subscribers on his MrBeast channel. He launched his channel while still in middle school in North Carolina and by 2021 reportedly was earning more than $50 million a year. Obviously, this makes him far more popular than, say, CNN’s Don Lemon, but I’d never heard of “Mr. Beast” before, and probably most of my readers hadn’t, either, because we’re grown-ups and don’t have time to watch the sort of silly stunts that constitute most of this YouTuber’s content. The astonishing success of “Mr. Beast,” however, enabled Donaldson to hire a lot of his hometown buddies to help him produce content, and among these buddies was Chris Tyson.

Tyson is now a YouTube “celebrity” in his own right. Three years ago, a few months after his wife Katie gave birth to their son Tucker, Chris “came out” as bisexual. He and Katie subsequently divorced, and now Chris Tyson has apparently decided that he is really a “she”:

Chris Tyson, A popular content creator who frequently appears on YouTuber MrBeast’s channel, revealed on Twitter today that they are taking hormone replacement therapy.
“HRT, and it’s only been 2 months,” Tyson posted on Twitter, quote-tweeting a MrBeast fan who shared a screengrab of them in the YouTuber’s most recent video, commenting on their changed appearance.
In a follow-up tweet on their alt account, Tyson, who says on Twitter they go by any pronouns, clarified their stance on gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy, quote-tweeting a fan who suggested Republicans are trying to “erase the trans community.”
“Informed consent HRT saved my and many others’ lives,” Tyson wrote. “The hurdles gnc [gender non-conforming] people have to jump through to get life-saving gender-affirming healthcare in a 1st world country is wild to me. Just let people make informed decisions about their own bodies.”
A longtime friend of MrBeast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, from childhood, Tyson appeared in many of Donaldson’s earlier videos, including one where they wrap the YouTuber in 100 layers of Saran wrap. Tyson has since become a permanent fixture on Donaldson’s channel, along with a slew of Donaldson’s childhood friends, many of whom have carved out their own careers as popular content creators.

Well, that’s weird. Why is Rolling Stone using “they/them” pronouns for Tyson, even though Tyson himself hasn’t demanded such treatment? Beyond that, however, why would a guy throw away what seemed to be a happy marriage in order to pursue such bizarre adventures in gender confusion? And what does it mean that this person is an influential “celebrity,” despite the fact that most grown-ups had no clue that he even existed? But then again, never mind me, I’m a guy so old that I remember when MTV played music videos. Talk about your ancient history . . .




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