Why Do We Hate Rebecca Black?

Slate's Culture Blog
March 18 2011 7:39 PM

Why Do We Hate Rebecca Black?

It's Fri-ee-day! Here in NewYork, where the long-awaited sunshine is making everyone slightly loopy,"Friday" Rebecca Black's so-awful-it's- kind-of-genius viral sensation makes for a highly appropriate soundtrack. Like her lyricists,I, too, can barely form coherent sentences, because we-we-we so excited aboutall the fun ahead of us tonight.

A quick recap, for anyone who'smissed the frenzy: Rebecca Black, an eighth-grader from Orange County, recordeda song and produced a video with vanity label Ark Music Factory, which specializesin tweenybopper "artists ." Last week, Black's video starting ricochetingaround the Web, to the delight and horror of millions of viewers. No one, itseems, can believe that anything this terrible could possibly exist:

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Why is this video generating somuch Haterade, as theDaily Beast put it yesterday, and so much fascination? One reason, ofcourse, is the profound awfulness of the whole package. The lyrics are beyondinane. Black's singing is strangled and nasal. The video looks like a Robin Sparkles outtake. 

But another reason is the sensethat Rebecca Black, and the entire apparatus surrounding her not just Ark MusicFactory, but also her parents, who paid for the thing are a glaring example ofWhat's Wrong With America Today. These people must be fame-grubbing,artistically bankrupt, déclassé narcissists. It's all so tacky. It's so sad.It's so shamefully desperate . InSalon, Mary Elizabeth Williams writes ,"the only thing more horrifying than Rebecca Black's terrible"Friday" is the sad, easily exploited longing for fame sherepresents."

But what exactly is so wrongabout what Black did? When I watch her video or her unplugged, livingroom performance that was excerpted on today's Good Morning America I don't see ayearning for fame or attention any more noxious than what I see in ordinary musicaltheater kids (or anything worse than what I felt back in the day, when I wasone of those kids). In fact, I find both clips kind of touching. Her friendsand family made the "official" video with her. Those brace-faced kids inthe living room look like they're having fun.

So herparents paid $2,000 for her to pretend to be a star. They also paid for herto get experience recording in a studio and performing in front of acamera and, we might add, for a heavy, unexpected dose of media training. (Onthat front, Black's hitting it out of the park: She was classy in her DailyBeast interview and charming on GoodMorning America. ) Two-thousand dollarsisn't exactly chump change, but it doesn't seem that excessive when you consider what middle- and upper-middle classparents are willing to pay for other kinds of extracurricular activities. Competitivesoccer can cost a family severalhundred dollars per tournament. Attending summer school at Philips ExeterAcademy can set you back more than threetimes what Black's parents paid for their daughter's experience which, whenyou think about it, will make much better college essay fodder than a monthspent taking "enrichment" classes. Parents today have paid a lot more for a lotless.

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