From the early days of YouTube to the waning days of Vine, online platforms have created chances for anyone to go viral and make a name for themselves. For years, online content creators could gain millions of followers, but no matter how popular they became, they still belonged to a world separate from mainstream cinema and Hollywood’s A-listers. However, as the influence of social media surges, the distance between the two is slowly narrowing.
Whether streaming video games on Twitch or posting glamorous photos on Instagram, the newest online “influencers” have risen from routine life to thousands and millions of fans on social media. Some of today’s most popular influencers emerged from YouTube and its vast collection of videos. Like stars in the universe, a select few shot across the sky. Ryan Higa (nigahiga) and Felix Kjellberg (PewDiePie) are recognizable names to people who’ve never even watched their channels. Despite their popularity, for years, TV and film industries have always existed on another level.
We should celebrate when online celebrities transition to TV and film. It’s exciting for the creators to venture into something new and equally thrilling for the fans to see how far they’ve come. Liza Koshy, who started on Vine and YouTube, acted in films from 2016’s Boo! A Madea Halloween to this year’s Work It. Likewise, Andrew B. Bachelor(King Bach) was the most followed user on Vine and appeared in Netflix favorites such as The Babysitter and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. YouTuber Flula Borg made a name for himself with roles in Pitch Perfect 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and more mainstream titles. Other memorable influencer cameos include Anna Akana in Ant-Man, Justine Ezarik (iJustine) in The Wedding Ringer, and Jimmy Tatro (LifeAccordingToJimmy) in 22 Jump Street. And the list keeps growing.
While these cameos seem small in the grand picture of cinema, there are reasons people love them and hope they continue happening. For one, it’s refreshing to see a familiar face under a different light and somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Their appearances are pleasant surprises, like finding a $20 bill in your old jean pocket. Cameos can also feel like insider secrets if you know the online celebrity before they become mainstream.
Though most of the intrigue comes from recognizing smaller celebrities on the big screen, cameos also draw in new audiences, giving content creators space to grow their fame and broaden their skills.
With the highly anticipated release of Free Guy, audiences will soon have a prime feeding ground of new talent. Not only will the film star big-name actors such as Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, and Taika Waititi, but, given the movie takes place in an open world video game, it’ll include appearances from popular gaming YouTubers and Twitch streamers like Seán McLoughlin (Jacksepticeye), Tyler Blevins (Ninja), Imane Anys (Pokimane), and Lannan Eacott (LazarBeam). Since the announcement, both streamers and fans are salivating for the film’s release, which is set for December 2020.
As social media continues to grow in presence and reach, its gap between cinema continues to fade. By uniting these entertainment forms, fans become happy, content creators rise, and film studios bring in bigger audiences. People follow other people because they enjoy the content, and over time, a connection forms between creator and viewer. As more and more industries adapt to the online world, our definitions of celebrity are changing.