I’m Staring Into An Endless Abyss And It’s Called “Chasing Cameron”
Who is it that can tell me who I am? — King Lear
Relevancy is famously fleeting, yet the desire never ends. I have a theory that every person on Earth remembers, or at least fully recognizes, the moment that their generation has started to phase out. I believe that moment is when your whole life sort of clicks into focus, the rest of your existence stretches out before you. It’s at that at that moment you are no longer young. Much like the generation before mine looked at smartphones and said “I don’t understand the kids anymore” and the generation before that saw children be seduced by grunge music and rave culture and the generation before that saw New Wave and so-on-and-so-forth. For me, that moment — the moment when I realized I was truly aging and that the forefront of pop culture would soon leave me in the dust instead of appeal to me — was the first time I heard the phrase “Vine Star”.
Cameron Dallas is a Vine Star. He’s also a popular Instragram Model. His preferred term is Social Media Influencer. I learned of Cameron Dallas because he has a new show on Netflix called Chasing Cameron. This show intruded upon my life on a fairly unspectacular day as I was attempting to set up my new Chromecast. It was then that this face popped up at me:
Before I knew it, I had succumbed to his siren song and was pressing play on the first episode, which introduces the story of MAGCON — which seems to be a touring convention/meet-and-greet photoshoot/live stage show. Leading Man Cameron is joined by his fellow “social media influencers”, including self-proclaimed bad-boy Taylor Caniff and still-redeemable human being Andrew Carpenter. Here is a sampling of their vines, respectively:
These vines serve as an effective look into each of their personalities. Dallas sees himself high above the world around him, and is willing to be destructive and annoying if it entertains or satiates him. Caniff is loud, abrasive, and subscribes to a machismo-influenced concept of comedy, of which the peak of comedic artistry is high-pitched voices and swearing. Carpenter is derivative, but well-meaning and innocent. He’s seemingly uninterested in being taken as seriously as his tour mates, and yet is always the first person to go onstage when one of his other co-stars inevitable drops the ball.
The European world tour that forms the narrative backbone of the first half of the series is quickly faced with setbacks, including Caniff’s repeated insistence that he needs a sufficient per diem — or in his own words “How are we supposed to live if we don’t have money to go do stuff?” — and Dallas’ CEO Brad, a thirty-something in a world of teenagers, being unable to wrangle the tour management staff. It all seems like far too much effort to be going through to take some high-and-mighty Vine stars through Europe, but the effect these stars have on their fans is nothing short of a religious experience.
Teenagers will find meaning in almost anything to keep positive in a ceaselessly pessimistic world. In my youth, I had long-winded japanese role playing games, Motion City Soundtrack albums, and the safeties of frequent social isolation to help me get through high school. The fans of MAGCON have Dallas and The Boys. Dallas at one point reflects upon meeting a fan who told him that she hadn’t cut herself for a year and ten months because of him, saying “We kinda have to be, like, Superman for them.” It’s a perilous position for anyone to be in, to have people in the most confusing, emotionally wrought time of their lives looking to you for guidance. Even more so when your only aspiration in youth was to be an Instagram model, as Dallas did, and finding yourself thrust to the top of a medium that people are still determining how to consume. It seems that the only people who are fully able to consume and idolize the content of Dallas an co. are teenagers, with their seemingly infinite well of free-time and energy to dedicate to their fandom.
Watching the documentary, one can’t help but feel like they’re watching the first act of a tragedy. A man who means so much to so many people — and yet the King has very little in common with his subjects. In fact, it seems the only thing that Cameron Dallas has in common with their fans is that they all love Cameron Dallas.
A note about the fans — They’re not called “fans”. Most media entities have unique pet names for their fans, a badge of honor for them to attach to their social media profiles. Star Trek has Trekkies, Justin Bieber has Beliebers, and similarly MAGCON fans have their own unique title. MAGCON fans are called “Girls”.
If you took a drink every time Dallas and his cohorts say the word “girl” in a way that made the entire teenage sector of the gender seem like some kind of hive-mind incapable of sentience or independent thought, your death would be swift and sloppy. The boys of MAGCON are constantly swarmed by “Girls.” They’re always trying to either entertain or evade “Girls.” They’re interested in how many “Girls” they’ve got in the venue. Conflict arises when Cameron allows a “Girl” onto the tour bus. By the time the series ends, you’d be able to forget that each one of these “Girls” is their own, living person as opposed to the nameless worshippers at the alter of Cameron Dallas that they are perceived as.
Despite the show often portraying “Girls” as a unsatisfiable force of consumption and a physical manifestation of Dallas’ anxiety, the boys still have a generic “love for their fans” that all social media celebrities must preach, earnestly or not. This love propels them to do these tours, during which they meet, greet, and to perform their live show.
The live show — you may be curious, like I was, as to what the live show could possibly be. These social media moguls made their name on short six-second comic sketches, Youtube videos of them being silly, and Instagram modeling — What could their live show possibly be? Well, fret not skeptic, because these boys have bars.
Being a Social Media Influencer isn’t just about having a Vine, a Tumblr, a Facebook, a Twitter, a Tumblr, a Youtube. It’s also about having a budding music career. Quick, think of that Youtuber that your younger cousin was talking about at Thanksgiving. That person? They have a low-quality pop single with more likes than your favorite indie band’s best song. And much like their relationship with their fans, the MAGCON boys sing about “Girls” in the most abstract, uncertain way.
Cameron Dallas’ exceptionally bland single “She Bad” has amassed over 35 million views in the past year-and-a-half. Aaron Carpenter has “She Know What She Doin’”, and Taylor Caniff has “On Me” as well as a collection of songs on his Soundcloud. Take special note of Caniff’s video, for in the lower right-hand corner he has a Vevo logo as is traditional with artist’s music videos on Youtube. However, Taylor Caniff is not at all associated with Vevo, meaning he super-imposed their logo onto his video so people would think that he was a more legitimate artist.
Through all the songs, the Vines, the ‘grams, one thing never becomes clear — Who is Cameron Dallas? Is he the next generation of celebrity that the unsympathetic will point to and mock, saying that they’re “famous for no reason” like Paris Hilton and Snooki before him? And furthermore, what is the purpose of this reality series that has been created and produced by Dallas himself?
It’s one of Netflix’s first reality-based acquisitions that can almost certainly not be called a docu-series. The editing, the formation of narrative, it all reeks of a reality series that would be more at home on VH1 than the platform that premiered Making A Murderer around this time a year prior. The narrative of the show seems to be that Cameron Dallas is just a 21-year-old kid who is way out of his depth. He’s rich, he’s famous, and it seems like he can be kind of an asshole. Is he hoping to garner sympathy with his fanbase by letting them peak behind the curtain? Is he hoping to reach a larger audience with his story? It this going to launch Dallas into a life time of strung-together reality appearances?
As the series goes on and Dallas ventures on the Australian wing of the MAGCON tour, his mental state begins to fall apart. Panic attacks and anxiety begin to take their toll on Dallas, causing him to miss multiple MAGCON performances, particularly the grueling meet-and-greet. Newer, younger social media influencers are being brought onto MAGCON as Dallas’ generation begins to grow out of the demographic they appeal to. At one stop of the tour, Dallas stops everything to explain his anxiety to the crowd. His admission of (seemingly self-diagnosed) mental illness is met with thunderous applause.
In Act IV, Scene VI, King Lear tells Gloucester that “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.” King Lear, in the throws of madness, proclaims that everyone who comes into this life does so in fear – and hints that they’re embarrassed that they must share it with other people who were dumb enough to be born. Dallas at one point in the series that bears his name wonders “How long are they gonna like me posting this stuff?” He was born into the world of social media and has helped pioneer a way to make a name for one’s self solely through Instagram, Vine, and Twitter. He became a business, and icon, and a performer all at the same rate, constantly looping in on himself. Cameron Dallas is a walking Ouroboros of emotional stress and expectations, and depending on what his future holds he could end up being one of the most fascinating figures of whatever the post-millennial generation will be. Tthere’s a certain excitement that comes with seeing the rise of a star that will almost certainly fall.
The weight of this sad time we must obey
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.