By Rena Bryson
I write this blog in the mists of that strange post show blues, relief to have my life back combo that I’m sure most theatre makers can relate to. Bringing Vlogger from script to stage was an unforgettable worldwind of filming, fighting with technology, urika moments, long days, lots of laughs and even more fights with technology, ironic I know.
I was inspired to write Vlogger after an experience at a family friends home, while visiting I noticed the children were watching YouTube videos on repeat. Their mother told me this was their main source of entertainment, which was fascinating mainly because the videos were so unbelievably boring. Once I got home I fell deep down a youtube rabbit hole of mundane videos, morning routines, evening routines, sick day routines, you name any mundane activity and I guarantee there is a video of a beautiful 20 something year old doing it.
It was hard to tell the difference between research and procrastination when I found myself watching youtube all day. I had never before considered the impact Youtube has had on our culture, from Barack Obama’s viral Yes We Can video to Justin Beiber’s speedy leap from Youtuber to star, the platform has the power to change lives.
After watching way too many hours of Vlogs I became fascinated by the line between reality and edited reality. In most other forms of entertainment there is some separation of creator and creation but when your creation is about your life how seperated from it can you really be? Especially in an industry were authenticity is a key element of the entertainment.
This question was explored when my research (youtube rabbit hole) lead me to Vlogger Logan Paul who recorded footage of a dead body and released it to YouTube. When recording this disturbing footage, he presented it in a casual manner which matched his dementer during mundane experiences in his other videos, it appeared that he viewed no difference between his absurd and everyday actions. This detachment from social norms and the blurred line between one’s authentic self to the self constructed version, inspired a great deal of Mia’s rationale throughout the play.
I felt a multimedia theatre production was the best medium to explore these issues, by merging live performance and film both real Mia and online Mia could share the same space. The audience could witness the hidden turmoil in Mia’s life alongside the creation of her vlogs, the content creation process and see an influencer use Facetune in real time.
Mia’s identity is completely linked to her online persona and even if she does not participate in activities such as morning yoga, she gains happiness from others believing that she is, this allows her to experience a short term joy greater than she would achieve through the activities themselves. As her personality begins to merge with her online persona, her own sense of identity is lost and she becomes a shallow representation of herself. This element of mundane vlogs is what I believe makes the content so appealing, especially to young viewers. Stepping into the shoes of someone who never breaks their diet, lives an exciting life style and is effortlessly beautiful is a welcome break from reality.
Many Vloggers share their mental health difficulty’s with their audiences but maintain an overly optimistic outlook on life, which although inspiring is often not an authentic representation of living with a mental illness. Perhaps it is comforting to some viewers, especially those dealing with mental health difficulties to believe for a 20 minute Vlog, that life is simpler than it seems. After all, is it all that different from enjoying a sitcom that will maintain the status quo in 30 minutes?
In the same way previous generations escaped their reality by enjoying sitcoms, thousands of online audience members follow the lives of youtubers. The key difference being perceived authenticity, while previous generations admired celebrities looks and were influenced by their style, say getting ‘the Rachel’ haircut, there was a barrier between real life and entertainment. The public were aware that celebrities could afford personal trainers, beauty treatments and surgery but these practices weren’t attainable by the general public. Unfortunately a great deal of Youtubers and Influencers continue the trend of unattainable beauty standards and as they are not traditional celebrities their looks appear attainable to you or me if we buy their green tea or follow their five tricks for a flat tummy.
The most dangerous aspect of this issue is that through apps like Facetune these influencers are creating beauty standards they can not match themselves. The normalisation of filters and Facetune encourages the user to present themselves as flawless online, which if done consistently can have serious effects on mental health as the user inevitably compares themselves to the edited image. I admit I’ve given myself a fright once or twice when my own face was reflected back at me while snapchat filters changed.
I wished to spark a conversation about sexual consent and technology following the final scene of the play. Following her brother’s death Mia compulsively creates content about the tragedy. Leaning on social media in a crisis similar to the way someone else may turn to drink, cigarettes or drugs in a time of great stress. Her partner Sandra scolds her for recording the funeral which leads to a fight, after which Mia loses a YouTube subscriber and goes over the edge. Focused only on her goal to gain online attention she places a camera by the bed and hits record before making up with Sandra and convincing her to have sex. Sandra consented to have sex with Mia but she couldn’t consent to the recording as she wasn’t even aware it was happening. In a digital age this is a scenario that is unfortunately not that far fetched and is worth discussing.
Vlogger posed a lot of questions, but did not give many answers because honestly the issues explored don’t have clear solutions. The internet is a powerful tool which can change lives for better or worse. Mia’s followers led her to find her missing brother possibly saving his life, but sharing his story online was a contributing factor to his depression and may have been the reason he ended his life. Recognizing the power the internet has is the first step towards being responsible consumers and creators online.
I hope to go back to Vlogger and expand the piece as there is so much to explore. But for now I’m putting the script to sleep for a while and enjoying cat videos without wondering what impact they have on our culture. Till next time, don’t forget to like and subscribe!
My favorite memory was our first full run before show week including all projections, set and costume. It was a tough journey for everyone with challenges along the way but we had an amazing first run and we all just gave each other a big hug after. It was so nice going home after that long day seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces.Hazel Doolan – Director
“Being on the team for vlogger was a very interesting experience. Watching the many levels of the show from the relationship dynamic, to the projections and the constant change of the expectation of a perfect life on social media to the reality of the situation. Its always been a pleasure to come aboard on the Eva’s productions and probably as the last member to be on board ,you see it in a fresher perspective but on capturing Vlogger from a visual perspective, there was something so refreshing bringing out the issues of modern Ireland on stage. To be able to show that on a larger scale and then to focus in on the main characters relationship, its incredible. Everyone on the project was brilliant and there was a great feeling of unity and has a great creative space to thrive in”Catriona Bonner – Photographer