Now, viral videos are common, not least of all the ones that are propelled by mass mockery.
But they weren’t nearly as common 10 years ago this month, when Chris Crocker posted his “Leave Britney Alone” video on the relatively new YouTube and became the object of countrywide ridicule and disdain.
In the video, Crocker, then 19, was broken up over the way entertainment critics and columnists were criticizing Britney Spears’ sloppy performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. “All you people care about is readers and making money off of her,” he cried. “She’s a human.” The number of views exploded overnight. Soon, parody videos emerged, and “South Park” had a go of it in a 2008 episode.
Some wondered if Crocker, who was over-the-top with emotion, was satirizing fandom. If the video emerged at this moment, now that going viral is a way for a random individual to create a career out of nothing, I might wonder, too. I’d suspect him of trying to force a meme. But in 2007, he wasn’t manufacturing anything except big drama.
This week the wiser 29-year-old revisited the experience on Instagram. “The Number 1 thing would be to not let the things people say online get to you,” he said about what he learned from the experience. “Number 2, don’t let the words other people say about you define you. Number 3, I think that we forget that the things we post online can last a long time. Here we are 10 years later still talking about this. So definitely be cautious when you post things.”
“And Number 4: let the haters kick [expletive] rocks, man.”
Crocker also addressed the LGBT phobia that came his way in 2007: “The internet and YouTube was a very different, less LGBT friendly place at the time,” he wrote. “Nothing I said in the video was listened to. I was mocked for my femininity. I was called every gay slur in the book. Talk show hosts questioned if I was a man or woman, after playing the clip.”
Most importantly of all, Crocker has remained steadfast about one thing: “Even if I got a public beating for standing up for what’s right, Im happy I did. And I’ll always love @britneyspears.”Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.