Jack Black on YouTube and Why Authenticity is a Commodity on Social Media
Here’s something that’s guaranteed to make you feel old. Back in 2014, the noted American film trade publication Variety published a report on the most influential figures among American teenagers, specifically those inside the 13-18 age group. Now, tell me if any of these names sound familiar to you; Smosh, The Fine Bros., PewDiePie, KSI and Ryan Higa. Those are apparently the top five most influential figures and I’ve never even heard any of those names except from PewDiePie, and that’s only because I sometimes read video games news.
Obviously, this report only strictly deals with American teenagers but I expect that results from Australia would reflect the same thing. The people that those above the age of 25 consider celebrities – the Margot Robbies, the Chris Hemsworths and the Tame Impalas of the world – are different from what teenagers consider celebrities. YouTube and social media stars have a bigger influence on teenagers and this discussion will focus on why that’s the case by focusing on the case of Jack Black’s YouTube channel.
Jack Black and celebrities on YouTube
In a weird way, that Variety report actually foretells the general landscape of the world today. Donald Trump’s use of Twitter might be a little too rote but there’s no denying how the social media platform has become practically a mouthpiece for the controversial president. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the Congresswoman from New York who is also, at the age of 29, the youngest woman to ever serve on Congress is notable for being particularly skilled with her use of social media.
One of the most prevalent themes that came out of the 2016’s United States Presidential Election was in the way Hillary came across as cold, distant and slightly out of touch and it doesn’t take a genius to see why Ocasio-Cortez might seem like a breath of fresh air. You can directly see the impact Ocasio-Cortez have on other politicians when Elizabeth Warren, the first official candidate for the 2020 election aside from Trump livestreamed a video of her awkwardly drinking beer on Instagram.
It’s not just elder politicians that are taking the page out of their younger colleagues; you can see this trend being reflected on the entertainment business as well. Jack Black isn’t the first to do this, Will Smith’s bungee jump is a notable example and Reese Witherspoon has her own channel as well but Black is notable for doing away with the typical Hollywood glitz and you can see from his videos that they are decidedly unprofessional and refreshingly authentic.
The issue of authenticity
Let’s circle back to the Variety report I mentioned at the beginning. In the survey, it is mentioned that YouTube stars are considered to be more relatable than your typical Hollywood celebrities. From the comments and feedback, it’s also noted that teenagers prefer the intimate and authentic, there’s that word again, atmosphere of YouTube stars as they’re not as beholden to the PR restrictions Hollywood celebrities are operating on. Other positives include YouTube stars’ candid sense of humor and lack of filter.
You know that usual cliche of stars and how they’re just like us? Well, with YouTube stars, those cliches are mostly perceived to be true. This is why it can be jarring when people who aren’t accustomed to social media tries to make the jump, as proven by the somewhat lukewarm response to Warren’s beer video, which came across as inauthentic. There’s also the fact that YouTube stars are still considered as lesser celebrities than your typical Hollywood royalty, which is a discussion for another time.
Now, just because Elizabeth Warren didn’t exactly made the jump unscathed, other examples I’ve mentioned above fared much better. Go watch any of Will Smith’s or Reese Witherspoon’s videos and they are still as immensely likable as they are on talk shows or whatever. As screen actors, they are obviously much more comfortable being in front of the camera than Warren but you can also feel that Smith and Witherspoon isn’t doing or saying anything they won’t normally do.
What all of those add up to is making both Smith and Witherspoon feel natural on YouTube, if not exactly relatable. This is because there’s still a scripted feeling to those videos and the fact that they all look so professional. Jack Black’s videos on the other hand, does away with all of that by looking, sounding and feeling as refreshingly as DIY as it could. The editing is somewhat amateurish, the sound is far from perfect and Jack Black looks exactly like what you’d imagine a dad with nothing to do on the weekends would look like.
As an actor, Jack Black is terrific in that he somehow manage to always find that line between obnoxiously loud and awkwardly endearing without ever crossing them. I first saw him in School of Rock, as the majority of my generations do, and he is immediately recognizable in almost all of his films for being Jack Black. His videos on YouTube reaffirm all of that and it’s his authenticity that propels his channel to its current level of popularity, with 3 million subscribers while still being under a month old.
Why this is important for businesses
You might think that as the Variety report was targeted as teenagers, this whole issue of authenticity won’t matter to you but that is quite short-sighted. Remember that the report came out in 2014, which means that some of the kids surveyed at that report will be around college age at this point and some might have entered the workforce, which means that they now earn money, money that you might want to be directed to your business.
Now, consider the possibility that the Variety report was a bit late, that the same trend has actually been going on since the idea of vlogging existed. It is actually quite probable that there are twenty-somethings out there that fits with the personality of the teenagers profiled in the variety report which means that if those are the people you’re trying to court on social media, the issue of authenticity should be something you care about.