This is a Bad, Bad Idea

So recently, Jeremy Renner decided to create an app for his “Loyal, Dedicated” fans so that he can “connect” to them.

Now, when you think of an actor in that vein–say, Jake Gyllenhaal–and you think, “He wants to connect to his fanbase”, do you go: make a paid app that will pit all of his fans against each other in contests?

Of course you don’t.

You think: The best way to connect to your fans is to make a website with an old-fashioned comments board and upload content there. But that’s not what happened here. Instead, we have an app–how very Millennial of him–that requires a phone for use. The selling point on the app is the “exclusivity” of paying $2.99 a month for special content and earning “stars” every time you get on the app (or 7 stars an hour, roughly) unless you opt for the buy-more special package, which you can. You can spend thousands of dollars to be at the top of the leaderboard and give yourself the illusion that you have a special connection to this man by simply buying your way there and being so excited for the average 6 words he posts in reply if you’re in the top three.

Let’s do the math on that.

To have Jeremy reply to your comments, in general you have to be in the top three commenters for a particular post. Then he might comment (and he might not), things like “Will do. Thanks!” For this privilege, you have to have enough stars to boost yourself to the top, which means you probably paid $100 for each time you’re boosted to the top.

That’s $33 a word.

I wouldn’t take those rates.

But that’s not the real problem of the app. No, one real problem is that it has already, a month into going live, created dissension among the fans who perceive that those at “the top” have created an idea of exclusivity into their rarefied air. In other words, the mean girls created a clique. (And let’s focus on the fact that those at the top have created the idea of exclusivity–not the reality of it. That’s the perception–a perception they want people to buy into, incidentally–not unlike Mr. Renner, who wants you to buy into the idea so that he gets more in his bottom line, a portion of this that nobody, and I mean nobody, is talking about.)

Why is anyone surprised that this would happen?

Moreover, I don’t necessarily think even THAT is the real, bottomline problem with the app. The main problem I see is that the app creates an illusion–the illusion of access, of closeness, of the male gaze being lovingly bestowed upon the adoring females who pay for the privilege. Literally, this man is being paid to look at his fans.

And that’s a big problem.

If you’re in the top 20 on the app–I am not, but I will also say that I’m not out of the top 50, either–then odds are high that you have paid more than $2.99 a month. That’s your right. But you are now buying into playing the lottery, essentially. Maybe you’ll stay at the top of a particular posting long enough to get 6 words thrown at you in the hopes that this illusion of connection–because it’s not real–will make you want to continue to buy into this app and want to spend more money on it.

He’s making money off it, and you all are not suddenly his cherished women.

Remember that, please.

I am betting dollars to donuts here that no one else has analyzed fan culture in any other respects. But I have. Fan cultures differ wildly and are fascinating on the whole, in particular music fan cultures. I happen to be acquainted with a Diamond-selling (that’s 10 million units for a single album) band known the world over. Odds are incredibly high that you can sing, right now, the chorus of their best-selling single, regardless of your age. They are older now, though, than their heyday, and they tour a lot. They sell Meet and Greet packages, common with acts of this particular vintage. And there are people who will buy the deluxe meet-and-greet packages for seven or ten shows a tour. That’s $1000 a person, and normally there are two people in the package. So, for seven shows, people are paying $14,000 to see the EXACT SAME SHOW night after night. This is not a band known to jam, okay? They are good at what they do, even if their lead singer needs to take a few years off to get his voice back.

The people who buy these tickets look so smug, so in-the-know, about this band, take pictures constantly with them, know where they stay, hit them up at the bar–and then see them again during the very sterile meet-and-greet environment and think that they are “friends” with the band. But they don’t know, man. They don’t know what the band thinks of them. It’s not that the band members aren’tĀ grateful for the extra cash–there are kids to put through college, ex-wives to appease, gear to buy–but to be honest, they would rather that these people not buy into the illusion that they are buddies and pals because this is a job. It’s a job they love and they love to tour but they are not your friends, and they are not interested in pictures of your boat or your kids. They are interested in doing the job.

Some people are notorious with the band, and the band will avoid them as much as they can, but it becomes impossible to avoid people when they pay for the privilege. This does not change the band’s opinion of the person; it only serves to make things worse. I wonder what will become over time of Mr. Renner’s opinions of those fans he’s lauding now.

The online culture that has grown up around the band is very, very similar to the culture I’m seeing on the Jeremy Renner app. Anybody who really knows the band does not contribute to the online culture, which includes the appearance of knowing more than the other fans, being “in” with someone who knows the webmaster, currying favor, etc. etc. etc.

It’s mind-boggling, how we deceive ourselves.

And I see this enterprise going in a very similar fashion. If Jeremy wanted to really connect to people, he wouldn’t make them pay for the privilege. I understand that the idea is to weed out those who would heckle, but honestly, this is not a way to communicate. Creating a leaderboard that can be seen has exactly one purpose: motivation to spend money to get to the top (and, ostensibly, to stay there).

I had no idea that to “connect” to someone, I had to pay for the privilege. This man has prided himself on his privacy and having “real” connections with the people in his life, and suddenly this? I don’t like what I’m seeing–from the behavior of the “Loyal” on the app to the behavior of a man I thought I had the measure of.

For those of you who are screaming “You’re just jealous”…bitches, I have enough money to put myself at the top of the app any time I want.

I just don’t buy my friends.

And I won’t buy attention, even from this man.