If you love to hate on influencers, then there is no better show to watch than Celebrity on Netflix. If you like to believe that influencers are just a bunch of airheads who take photographs and fight among themselves with no real eye for quality, then you are going to love Celebrity. If you don’t mind these stereotypes, which have honestly been taken to an extreme, Celebrity is a silly, fun, and fast-paced show that is strangely binge-watchable. Be warned that there is also an inherent classism and sexism to the show that has been very cleverly masked, but which becomes a little intolerable as the episodes go by. But again, if you can stand that, Celebrity remains a no-brainer watch.
We admit that we feel bad for the influencers, who are certainly a hardworking lot and have revolutionized marketing in the last decade or so, so much so that A-list actors and actresses have been forced to step into their shoes as well. We can call them whatever we want, but the way they have brought the importance of social currency to the forefront of marketing is something no one else has been able to do. The aforementioned term, “social currency”, is something we have all been aware of, and most of us craft our identities and lives according to that. But it was always the thing that was not to be mentioned, even though it remained at the forefront of our consciousness. Influencers broke that rule and redefined what access to the aspirational meant for entire generations. Maybe that’s why we hate them so much.
In Celebrity, all the influencers are chasing followers and likes, but we see them do very little work. Each and every one of their fashion senses are simply flashy and inundated with brands with no actual structure or coherence. Their marriages are a lie, and something they show off only on social media, and finally, none of them are particularly intelligent. We believe we’ve got all the stereotypes in one place. There is no other side to the coin, and it is important to remember that Celebrity is a one-dimensional show.
Then comes the classism and sexism we were talking about. Did anyone notice that there was not a single male influencer here? That is because you would not be able to show them screaming and kicking and getting into literal catfights in public places over the pettiest things. That is a stereotype reserved for women; hence, there were no male influencers in this space. Also, please note that the men in the series were cool, calm, and collected strategists, while the women were impulsive hellraisers. Shows like this (and Queenmaker) are proof that having a largely female cast does not make a show feminist or even properly tell women’s stories.
Additionally, the only “good” people were So A Ri and Si Hyeong, the people who came from actual wealth instead of the others who had to work hard to get to where they were. Seo A Ri’s former wealth was the explanation given for her taste in fashion and people, and Si Hyeong was the real crowd-puller due to her old-money elegance. Even Chae Hee, one of the nasty influencers, was the supposed Queen Bee among her clique while being nothing different from them. The distinction was that people who have known real money do not chase wealth and fame in the way influencers do, and that is the vilest, most dehumanizing classist trope that this show could have used. It cannot be ignored that they maintained Seo A Ri as the protagonist by showing her aversion to fame. There was a complete lack of nuance in the discussion of the responsibility that comes with fame and influence. Yes, money and some connections in society bring some privileges, but they don’t make you an evil person. It is this absolute one-dimensional attitude that makes Celebrity look like a show for influencer-hating kindergarteners. Yet, it is fun because we are not influencers, though someone from that profession might find this series extremely annoying.
Coming to the actors, they hit the nail on the head with their performances, and Park Gyu Young, who plays Seo A Ri, was effortless when she switched between her usually stoic manner to rage or embarrassment. Contrary to her, Kang Min Hyuk’s eyes were less brooding and more forcefully expressionless. We remember him from “The Heirs,” and the comparison makes us think that he is probably better suited to lighthearted roles rather than as the guy who takes a vow not to smile.
Our point is that Celebrity is a fun show, not an intelligent one. Making it the latter would have meant acknowledging the hustle that influencers put in, what happens when they work as a community, and the orchestration of the benefits and pitfalls of the times when they get into public fights. It is true that influencers have been known to fake their lifestyles, but we could have an exploration of why that is so and the difference between the audiences that are attracted to relatability versus those that seek aspiration on social media. It was ridiculous that Seo A Ri gained her fame overnight simply by stirring up a few scandals. We just can’t believe that her fashion sense had anything to offer. It was literally what everyone else wears. The stylist for the show was so uninspired, even though there are a multitude of references around them.
Despite the many pitfalls of this show, it was strangely binge-able. Yet, we find ourselves hesitating to recommend this to anyone simply because of the problematic nature of its content. Whatever we think of influencers, it would be wrong to hate on them in such a blatantly incorrect way. However, we would have been on board if their messy world had a more accurate depiction, with all its wins, insecurities, and many layers to their job, especially the blurred differentiation between the real and the online world. We might also have liked a commentary on how everyone wants to be an influencer, despite the ridicule they face due to the delusions about the job. There is so much to explore in terms of their stories and their world, yet we stubbornly continue to paint them as shallow beings who exist for their phone screens. Watch Celebrity only if you can differentiate between the superficial world of this series and the much more complex reality of the outside world. Otherwise, we don’t want this to become another example of pseudo-knowledge that can lead to unnecessary hatred towards them.