Welcome to Hyperfixate! This is a weekly newsletter that publishes every Wednesday, InshaAllah. We gotta keep it halal, Ramadhan is coming up. Hopefully, I’ll remember to keep it halal. If not, hold me accountable by signing up here.
As loyal readers of Hyperfixate would know, I’m often preoccupied with how parasocial relationships from my adolescence affect me today, as a barely-a-person 22-year-old.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have taken up most of my Fridays, and I’ve been spending a lot of time catching up on Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s escapades throughout the show’s press tour. FATWS apparently had the highest premiere ratings Disney+ had ever seen, a testament to the staying power people who were horny for Sebastian Stan in 2014 have on new media.
Mackie and Stan are perfect for the ‘celebrity being iconic (or another adjective) for x minutes straight (or gay)’ compilation videos, a YouTube subgenre I am all too familiar with. They’re funny, they’re silly, and they’re hyper-aware that the internet will do what it wishes with whatever they say throughout their junkets. I think about “Which way is the beach, Sea Bass?” every waking moment of my life since Anthony Mackie asked it in 2016 during the Civil War press tour.
These compilation videos are usually the gateway drug to a deeper parasocial connection to a certain celebrity or group of celebrities. It’s how I got into One Direction. Funny enough, liking their music was an afterthought; I got into 1D because those five seemingly accessible boys used to do Video Diaries from the steps of the X-Factor house. It was this feeling like you had this little secret with the biggest band in the world because, at the end of the day, they were very literally just some guys. And they were kind of fun.
On the other hand, One Direction’s compilation videos have garnered more notoriety among fans and observers alike, with most Larry Stylinson shippers citing the ever-prolific Top 30 Larry Stylinson Moments video (whose original version can no longer be found) to be the one that ‘converted’ them. The culture surrounding Larry Stylinson, unfettered conspiracy and intense loyalty, has replicated and bred to other fandoms even outside of music. Some, like Evantstan within the MCU’s own RPF culture, whilst all in good fun, can be both entertaining and unsettling. Someday, I’ll do a deep-dive, oral history, interpretive phenomenological analysis on Larry Stylinson and why there are still new Larries cropping up everywhere, but now is not the time.
I think the key here is access. A lot of the appeal comes from how much access to these people we have available to us. Being in the know somehow, or an illusion of intimacy builds this involuntary displacement fantasy based on the celebrity’s admired characteristics. In another life, perhaps, you could have been friends or something like that.
Video and its relationship to the internet have become such an integral part of film marketing over the last decade or so. Promotional content to drum up press for the project creates a good build-up, but I think fans now seek out more content once they’ve consumed the project in its entirety. I know I do. I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. Once you’ve seen all the Comic-Con coverage, the natural step is to seek out whatever Late Night appearances or podcast episodes an actor/director/writer has done. All supplementary for more serotonin, as the kids say.
I remember thinking Comic-Con was but a pipe dream. But with YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr covering the convention throughout my teen years to this day, I had much more access to the latest and greatest straight from the source; be it Hall H announcements, or which cast of which TV show Kevin Smith interviewed on a Yacht for IMDb or TVGuide. Fans had a plethora of content to work with, making gifs or compilations and distributing them across their desired platforms creating even more access to other fans in different fandoms. Word of mouth was just as good an ad campaign as anything else, the celebrities involved especially.
You’d get access to what media-trained personalities of your ‘faves’ have, perhaps even catching a glimpse of how they’d carry themselves in their everyday lives. At least in my experience, this also contributes to the need to learn anything and everything about something or someone once my brain has latched on to them as the subject of my latest fixation. I’ve seen Pedro Pascal interviews dating back to that Burn Notice spin-off made-for-TV movie. It’s like studying any subject anthropologically, collecting data to go with your observations, but with the added benefit (or loss) of getting to know someone without the risks of exposing yourself to any vulnerability.
When I was younger, and even during this pandemic, perhaps the consumption of these interviews was more about keeping me company. The number of times I’ve put on Oscar Isaac & Pedro Pascal Answer the Web’s Most Searched Questions this year alone is embarrassing and should raise many a concern. Sometimes I don’t even watch it, I just need it on in the background to reduce but ultimately exacerbate my sensory overload. I’ve bonded with many friends over whether or not we’ve seen new interviews or clips from whoever is our collective flavour of the month.
At least for me, it’s provided a small reprieve from pandemic loneliness; I have something to talk to my friends about. But there’s a much more striking connection between parasocial relationships and loneliness, to the point where it’s been studied! A lot of studies have linked parasocial relationships in adolescence to identity exploration. It’s easier to emulate the qualities of someone you admire based on how they communicate; how they answer questions, what they like or dislike, how they do their make-up in a Vogue tutorial, or how they respond under the pressure of a spicy chicken wing. There’s also no chance for actual rejection. But in my experience, the celebrity distraction sometimes intensifies Rejection and the Loneliness Void.
The journalist-talent speed-dating junket seems like a thing of the past with this pandemic. I know lots of media outlets have had to adjust to virtual junkets and rejigging their formats, like Buzzfeed’s Thirst Tweets and FirstWeFeast’s Hot Ones can now be carried out over Zoom. Whilst some can afford to set up talent in hotels with a virtual background and a small tech crew in the next room, many have had to take matters into their own hands. Journalists and celebrities alike have had to conduct interviews from their own homes, sorting out their own audio, lighting, and hair & make-up.
I think this takes the concept of access a step further—viewers are now let into a small part of the celebrity’s home. Their Zoom background, if not a virtual one, could be a corner of their bedroom or home office, something you’d only thought possible through Architectural Digest tours or Vogue Magazine’s 73 Questions. They’ll have connection problems and Wi-Fi hiccups just like anyone else. The mirage is cut short for a moment until you remember that the principles remain the same: this is just part of the job, and they’re selling a product.
Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are very good at this part of the job. Their off-screen chemistry is a huge selling point and a lot of the reason why FATWS came to be—I remember in a previous press tour the two of them pitching a 48 Hours-esque project for Sam and Bucky. Mackie even sings his own version of Ebony and Ivory. There’s a brilliant episode of Hot Ones Anthony Mackie does, I could genuinely listen to him talk about anything for hours. I think most of the MCU press tours up until FATWS have only provided Mackie moments to get a good laugh in, but never to really shine. Sebastian hasn’t changed much since he first gained Hyperfixate status in 2014; he’s a lot more candid about mental health and is more comfortable posting videos of himself on Instagram now. (Also, I’ve recently been made aware of active Tumblr gossip blogs re: Sebastian Stan, but I’ll go into that some other week as there is a lot to unpack there.)
I’ve been writing and tweeting about Men, specifically male celebrities, far too much for my own liking. It’s embarrassing. It really is. I worry I’m becoming a black hole of incoherent thirst statements jumbled together like a game of madlibs. I fear I won’t tweet as much about wanting to be Gillian Anderson’s trophy wife, which I still want to be. I also worry about my own mental health—what will this mean for me if and when the world opens back up? Do people know that I’m not all about this, and I can talk about other things too? Would you like to talk to me about Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber? Because I can!
I think all this analysis (read: unsubstantiated claims made on a two-month-old newsletter) has really made me appreciate the rest of my life more. I really miss being able to talk to my friends in person. I’m glad I have this space to explore however awkward, weird, or uncomfortable the feelings surrounding my life online may be. I think my relationship with celebrity interviews will be somewhat of a recurring segment here on Hyperfixate, so look out for that.
That being said, I don’t think I’ll cut back on the celeb chatter, but I’ll do my best to reflect and analyze more often, and to share that with you when I can.
So True, Swiftie
Both my love for the phrase ‘so true, bestie’ and Taylor Swift’s discography have been well-documented in this newsletter. Taking a page out of Hannah Montana’s book, whose feature film had a brief Taylor Swift cameo, I’ve decided to put the two together for the best of both worlds.
Joined this month on A Drip Town Lemory Mane by my friend Iza, we go through Mother Taylor’s first and latest two albums ahead of the Fearless (Taylor’s Version) release this Friday. I’ve known Iza for as long if not longer than Taylor Swift has been making music and I love her very much.
Listen to the episode here:
Since I skipped out on an ADTLM episode for March, you’ll be getting two this month! Fingers crossed.
On Getting 2 On
I have not been able to think about much aside from how the Madripoor club scenes in last week’s Falcon and the Winter Soldier remind me of Tinashe’s 2 On music video. Since there seems to be a Tinashe renaissance anyway, a thought most pleasing to me, I decided to make this:
That’s all for this week! Until next time!