In rage or outrage

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How celebrities continue to bait the public on social media

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Feb 24, 2016

When you are a celebrity trying to promote yourself, no news is not good news. It’s better to receive hate from some than go completely unnoticed. That has been the philosophy of many celebrities who have taken to Twitter to make a big splash before sinking back into the depths of their wealth and sorrow.

But the barrage of outrage has become too much for British comedian Stephen Fry, who rage-quit Twitter after the criticism he received for a joke he made at the BAFTA Awards show. Or was it just another publicity ploy? While hosting, Fry zinged costume design winner Jenny Beavan for dressing like “a bag lady.” The Internet rose to Beavan’s defence, calling out Fry’s “offensive” comment on Twitter. Comedians defending their jokes on Twitter is not anything new, what’s surprising is that they continue to respond to those faceless voices even though they know they cannot fight the trolls.

I don’t believe Fry was harmed by the comments, I believe Fry was doing what celebrities do best, which is making the PR move that will garner them the most press. Quitting Twitter was the apt solution. It silenced the critics and made his fans appreciate him more. It also got him trending, which is rare for the BAFTA host.

Ricky Gervais, another fellow British comedian, is also no stranger to online outrage. As the host of the Golden Globes this year, Gervais made it his sole purpose to poke Hollywood celebrities and the Internet bear that defends them. Why? He openly admitted it. The more people bitching and moaning about how offensive he was on the show, the more publicity he gets. The more you get people talking about you, the higher you rise up on the Internet’s relevancy meter.

Celebrities have a powerful voice. When they speak, people listen, even when what they are saying is complete garbage. How has Donald Trump gone as far as he has on the presidential campaign? Shock factor. You cannot ignore it or pretend it wasn’t said because everyone will be talking about it days later. Simple yet ridiculous ideas that go against the grain are bound to evoke more attention than playing by the rules, nodding to what everyone else is saying, and conforming with the crowd.

Lastly, there is Kanye West. Does he have a new album coming out? Of course he does. But he didn’t market his new work as the latest Kanye West album, he marketed himself as a brand—a brand that’s so good it doesn’t give a fuck what you think. He sided with Bill Cosby, called out Taylor Swift, asked Mark Zuckerberg for money, and compared himself to Michael Jordan and Stephen Curry. Think about all the demographics he hit with those comments. Think of all the people he offended and honoured. He’s tapped into the Internet’s pathos and has manipulated it to do his album’s marketing for him.

So the next time you hear about celebrities saying something outrageous on a public platform, ask yourself: Do they want me to retaliate, or repeat what they said like some sort of megaphone?

In-app purchase games are out of line

Photo via Thinkstock

What’s to blame: tech-company trickery or poor parenting?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 21, 2015

On October 9, Kanye West took to Twitter to give mobile game developers a little piece of his mind: “That makes no sense!!! We give the iPad to our child and every five minutes there’s a new purchase!!!” He added: “If a game is made for a two-year-old, just allow them to have fun and give the parents a break for Christ sake.” Empathic and on point as West was, he also neglected to mention that the mother of his child has one of the most lucrative mobile games on the market. I’m speaking of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, a game where you get to prepare the reality TV star for the red carpet.

It’s hard to sympathize with West, because… well, who gives a shit what he does financially. However, many parents out there are facing the same problem as the multi-millionaire rapper. They give their kids an iPad, as a replacement for a doll, a toy car, or a deck of Yu-gi-oh! cards, and expect them to have fun and be responsible. Now, I don’t know too many two-year-olds that are able to conceptualize virtual money, because many adults still aren’t able to. Check around to see how many of your grown-up friends have credit card debt. It’s unfair to put the onus on children to be responsible while playing, so who should take the blame?

We blame cigarette companies for giving us cancer, we blame fast food companies for making us fat, and of course we should blame mobile game companies for leaking money out of our virtual wallets. Some consider the freemium-style of business brilliant, while others consider it trickery. In terms of games, it begins as a sample, usually free, to get the user hooked, and then they up the price once the player is addicted. While I believe the game companies have done a brilliant job in harnessing this, I don’t believe their intentions were malicious. And, as a businessman, West should know that it’s just supply and demand. If the player wants to skip a level, earn more stock, or gain leverage over an opponent—but they don’t want to put in the time—they can upgrade with a monetary solution.

Surprise, your kids are going to cost you money! Freemium games aren’t the culprit, they are just another avenue for your money to be lost. The same way you don’t give your children your credit card and PIN at the toy store, you shouldn’t give them an iPad with full access until they understand that the reality of their purchases. Educate your children about frivolousness and how each $0.99 click adds up.

You cannot stop businesses from creating products for profit, even if they do target children. Don’t believe me? Look at McDonald’s. You can’t win that way. What you can do is pull the iPad away from your child if he or she abuses it. Be a good parent and teach your children from an early age the value of money, and how it relates to the technology they are using. Organizations aren’t going to educate your children for you… or maybe there is an app for that.

Paul is dead

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Relax, Kanye West fans will find out who Paul McCartney is sooner or later

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published by The Other Press. January 13, 2015

On New Year’s Day Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney released a new song, “Only One,” in anticipation of West’s seventh album. Although this should have been an occasion of excitement, it turned into an Internet uproar of ignorance. West fans—perhaps in jest—asked, “Who is Paul McCartney?” and other questions suggesting that West is “shining a light on unknown artists.”

At my age, the notion of anybody not knowing who McCartney is or about the Beatles is insulting, perhaps more insulting than the cheap auto-tune song itself. If the statements are meant to be sarcastic then I’ll laugh along (because I get jokes), but a part of me is withering inside.

Those who are clueless to the Beatles are like people who have never seen an episode of The Simpsons. How?

For me, I went through the Beatles phase around high school. Before that, I thought it was music for old people. And if that was the case in the early 2000s, then “Let It Bet” must seem really ancient now. But there is a timelessness to the Beatles’ music, and that is why I feel it’s in a genre of its own. Like punk, blues, or electronic music, the indulgence in that art represents a phase in our lives we can revisit; the same goes with the Beatles.

I remember the first time I heard “Yesterday”—albeit it was during the Mr. Bean movie. I remember how I felt when I heard “Here Comes the Sun” and tried to replicate it on every instrument I had. Then I remember hearing “Revolution 9” and thought, now this is getting weird (drugs?). Unlike a lot of other artists, the Beatles were the soundtrack to early mornings, long nights, road trips, homework sessions, and many other scenarios. Then I grew up and I watched as the next generation discovered it; I realized that I was a part of a chain.

Not everybody listens to the music I like these days, and oftentimes I have to defend my taste. But people are drawn to the Beatles; everybody knows how their tunes go—even if they hate them. Whether it’s your cup of tea (British slang) or not, the Beatles are like Stephen King. They have influenced everybody in one way or another, but nobody should say, “Stephen King is my favourite author.” That’ll just make you look uncultured.

Like learning about history, the Beatles may be shoved down some young people’s throat. That will cause resistance for sure. But if they allow it to digest and savour what it really is, perhaps there is hope that the future will continue listening to the Beatles and McCartney without the help of a modern day artist or being sampled in a rap song.