Must they look so bored?

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Awkward smiles and half-hearted pitches for votes have made Myyoutube yet another avenue for celebs to torture us, says Poorva Rajaram

FOND MEMORIES from YouTube’s past years typically include videos of animals doing stupid things, babies singing Justin Bieber’s Baby, NRI aunties recreating Bollywood songs in their New Jersey drawing rooms and zealous attempts at homemade porn. Well past those diminishing returns, it’s hard to watch YouTube these days without baulking. Now the website is forsaking its “ordinary people” roots and boisterously selling a cult of celebrity with Myyoutube at its strategic centre.

Myyoutube is a forum for famous people to videolog and, ideally, give us intimate peeks into their lives. So far, each celeb channel has staged videos of them awkwardly waving to the camera. You’ll learn nothing from these videos that tabloids haven’t already told you.

To raise its profile and capture fickle netizens, Myyoutube recently held a contest in eight countries — Argentina, Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Taiwan — to assess the most popular celebs in each country. YouTube’s excitable blog says the contest includes “local” artistes — as if Priyanka Chopra weren’t already global. Celebs were judged by subscribers and how much their videos were shared on Twitter and Facebook. India’s winners were Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham, Shakira, Bieber and Selena Gomez. Losing contestants included Malaika Arora Khan and Neil Nitin Mukesh.

Try to fathom how Munni could lose a popularity contest to Disney’s most paediatric star, Selena Gomez. Then watch the soporific videos on Myyoutube, some as short as 16 seconds. Chopra’s snippet is cheerily annotated as “the real Priyanka”. You might beg to differ. These harassed celebrities ‘spontaneously’ read from a script and make half-hearted pitches for votes while hiding their queasiness. We don’t know what the participating celebs ‘won’ for their trouble.

One day YouTube is the loud refuge for the bored viewer, the next it’s the louder refuge for the bored celebrity. Ideologues raised the alarm when Google took over YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006. It did seem then the fun was about to end —some copyrighted material and porn was expelled. Even Swami Nityananda’s sex video with Sun TV’s lyrical commentary was debarred. Recently, Shemaroo said it’ll offer free full-length movies on YouTube. Perhaps free access to Bollywood and the IPL signal the corporate push that will bury the uncoutured home video for good.

A sad reality of web browsing is that every mass web app is also a hollow celebrity mouthpiece. At least on Twitter, an occasional celebrity does slip out of her agent’s manicured grasp to write something suitably deranged. Not so for YouTube, and we can resent it for firmly depositing us in a new era of web usage — TheirTube.

Poorva Rajaram is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
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