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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Spider or the Fly? New Media, Power, and Competing Discourses of Sexual Violence in the YouTube Community

  • Author(s): Ozier, Dalila
  • Advisor(s): Ortner, Sherry
  • et al.

In recent years, the advent of new media has enabled public figures to amass devoted followings outside of the context of the traditional media industry. Much of the success of these “new media celebrities” relies on the perceived lack of artificiality in the celebrity’s public presentation of self. Though the relationship between online content-creators and content-consumers is just as hierarchical as the relationship between traditional celebrities and their fans, the illusion of egalitarianism in digital fandom is maintained by the new media celebrity’s performance of the ordinary, projecting the image that they are “just like” the fans who idolize them and thereby encouraging a heightened sense of intimacy between fan and creator. Unfortunately, the trust fans have in their idols is regularly abused by some new media celebrities, who use their newfound influence to sexually exploit their predominately adolescent female audience. This research specifically focuses on recent reports of sexual abuse committed by content-creators in the YouTube community, examining how the pseudo-transparent construction of a digital celebrity’s online identity obfuscates the imbalanced celebrity-fan power dynamic and creates an environment that facilitates the celebrity’s abuse of authority. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to illuminate negative aspects of the digitized celebrity-fan relationship and destabilize the myth of egalitarianism in the digital space.

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