Over the weekend, voting will continue on our experiment to identify which famous people in America are actually relevant. We’re halfway through the proceedings, so we asked professional experts in celebrity, Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber of the Who? Weekly podcast, to explain what we’ve seen from your voting so far. It’s intense!
Bobby Finger: So let’s start with the most relevant group as of this moment: Exceedingly Popular Academics Online. Personally? I’m shocked.
Lindsey Weber: Are you? Not to be rude, but it’s The New York Times. People, we get it. You read. But you’re telling me that Neil deGrasse Tyson is more relevant than BRAD PITT?
Bobby: Or even someone from the second place category, Sports-Transcending Athletes: Serena Williams!
But I suppose that comes with the territory. I can understand there being an impulse to call categories like the Popular Academics one relevant simply because doing the opposite will make the voter feel stupid. I can say this because that’s what I thought when clicking “relevant.”
Lindsey: God forbid you feel stupid voting on a website with a cartoon hand pointing at the arrows.
Bobby: Though it’s important to note that Exceedingly Popular Academics Online is ALSO the most divisive. There’s actually more disagreement about that category than any other category
Lindsey: I feel like BECAUSE it’s so divisive, we get to ignore it, even though it’s number one.
Bobby: Totally. So let’s look at sports as number two. That’s not surprising at all. Even though I do not watch any sports, when I see players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Tom Brady and Venus Williams, I point at them with my cartoon hand and shout, “Relevant!”
Lindsey: That’s because it’s not just “sports.” It’s “sports people who are more famous than their sport at this point.” Or something like that. Did the readers really just miss sports that much? Or does this mean that the pandemic allowed athletes enough time off to vote for their own relevancy? I’m mostly kidding. Or am I.
Bobby: What also helps with their relevancy is that the most famous sports stars are covered by celebrity press as breathlessly as actors and musicians and reality stars. Tom Brady married one of the most successful supermodels of all time! Serena married the Reddit guy and now they have a baby! Cristiano is constantly shirtless on a boat with other sexy people! It’s no wonder I know them; they’re in Us Weekly all the time.
Lindsey: If we’re talking niche culture vs broad culture — sports are incredibly broad. Tumblr (see: Tumblr Boyfriends at #92) is not.
I do think there’s a difference between voting because you don’t think something SHOULD be considered relevant and voting because you think it’s ACTUALLY irrelevant.
Bobby: I definitely used both rationales while smashing those arrows with my cartoon hand.
Lindsey: Notice: The two most divisive entries — Former Dance Mom Starlets and Exceedingly Popular Academics Online — are the official top and bottom of the list.
Bobby: “Dance Moms” is the kind of show that elicits a pretty visceral response from a majority of people. It’s a perfect storm of controversial elements.
Lindsey: I agree. And you’ve got to give it up to JoJo Siwa. Ask your tween if she’s relevant. (She is.)
Bobby: I guess tweens just don’t have NYT subscriptions. And the ones who do probably find JoJo’s bows a little ostentatious.
But let’s go back to the top of the list. Protesting Popstars and Pandemic Palliatives? I was fully expecting one of those very current categories to take the top spot.
Lindsey: Well, they are really high up and back-to-back, which probably speaks to our collective mind-set right now.
Bobby: We want to support artists who care, and we want to consume content that makes us feel good. Imagine someone more relevant than Tabitha Brown, a multitalented middle-aged TikTok star who recently adopted a plant-based diet?
Lindsey: Also imagine voting DOWN something like that. Even though the votes aren’t public, it just wouldn’t feel good.
After those things, the list starts to get wacky. You’re telling me you people, who put Academics at the top of your list, think that Twitch streamers (name ONE) are more relevant than Brad Pitt? I know I keep referencing Brad Pitt, and that’s showing my age, but he really is one of the last Name Brand Stars we have.
Bobby: Um, I’m sorry Lindsey, but I CAN name a Twitch streamer: Dr. Disrespect. No clue what games he plays, I just know he was banned recently. And that is where my familiarity with Twitch ends. But those categories were obviously filled with relevant stars.
Which niche categories do you think deserve more respect?
Lindsey: People Who May or May Not be Amy Adams — just kidding.
Bobby: I’m willing to call Amy Adams one of our most relevant celebrities … unlike the people who are often confused for her. She’s obviously the one with the most famous name!
Lindsey: If we’re talking relevance, how about People Most of Us Only Learned About Once They Were Canceled? That feels of the time in a way that nothing else on this list does. It’s also surprising to me that The YouTube Elite clocked lower than a lot of the TikTok and Twitch-based categories. I guess we’re over the forefathers of streaming.
Bobby: Oh we’re on the same page. I love that category. There’s no press like cancellation press.
Lindsey: I imagine a lot of the voters here don’t consume media quite as voraciously as we do. Maybe it’s wishful thinking: People don’t want to acknowledge abhorrent behavior by screaming RELEVANT at it. But relevance isn’t always positive!
Bobby: Right, and I’m sure that the people who spend most of their days consuming content from the YouTube Elite are not necessarily reading … this.
Which is just to say that so much of media AND celebrity has splintered. We can exist in our own little corners of the internet and culture all day and never have to deal with others, huge as they may be. I didn’t even know TikTok Witches EXISTED until yesterday.
Lindsey: That’s what I get from this list, though I think I was already aware. Calling someone completely “famous” is a difficult task these days. You can’t assume everyone knows who Brad Pitt is, even though IT’S GOSH DARN BRAD PITT.
Bobby: Now more than ever, he don’t impress me — along with thousands of others — much.
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