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[OPINION] Socio-Behavioral Science Behind Reality TV And It’s Effect On Drag Race Fandom

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[OPINION] Socio-Behavioral Science Behind Reality TV And It's Effect On Drag Race Fandom

Ten years and fourteen seasons after, the popularity of Drag Race has grown in exponential levels. With the help of the internet, the show has reached out to the world. It even won an Emmy’s!

But along with its popularity, a dark side of the show has been lurking, and a conversation about its toxic fandom has since been a staple in Drag Race forums and social media groups.

In fact, I have written an opinion piece last week detailing the extent of toxicity of those who follow the show and the drag queens after their time in the show.

I posted the article in one of the most famous fan group on Facebook, and I am very overwhelmed with the comments I got from fans who have read the article. Most of the comments agree on my contention that the fandom is indeed toxic. Some even called for RuPaul and other queens to speak out regarding the bullying that some queens – sometimes superfans – are getting from the toxic fandom.

But the question remains: why is the fandom so toxic?

I reckon that by understanding the motivation behind the toxic attitudes of the fans will lead to a more nuanced and productive conversation about the matter.

DRAG RACE AS A SUBCULTURE IS A REFLECTION OF THE SOCIETY WHERE IT EXISTS

First of all, let us direct social behavior. Allegations have been made that the Drag Race fandom is racist (and I agree with this). A Quora thread gives us a clear overview of how racism has been part of the show’s fandom and why it continues.

Paul Anthony Brown wrote: “There is blatant racism within the fandom, where queens of color are more likely to receive hate, while white or “white passing” queens are more likely to be put on a pedestal.

“A more recent example would be the hatred that Season 10 contestant The Vixen received for being confrontational, even though Aquaria and Eureka started the confrontations in question. It was later revealed that Eureka deliberately provoked Vixen into an argument, which led to Vixen after the show publicly revealing a catalog of problematic behavior from Eureka. This was after Vixen had been treated as “the villain” all season.”

The Villain’s Edit: The Vixen was painted as an ‘angry black woman.’ Photo from @thevixenworld / Instagram

In analyzing a subculture, it is necessary to look at the central culture first. Research has revealed that although a subculture may share one unique deviance, other socio-cultural identifiers are still present in them. A study published in the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy argues that small groups act as a microcosm of a bigger group (society).

This means that the behavior of the society is also reflected in the conduct of its subdivision. If there is racism in a community, the chances are, there’s also racism in its subculture – including drag subculture.

It is important to note that racism in the drag subculture does not only exist among the fans of the show but in real life as well. When you try to see the post-drag-race career path of famous drag queens, you will see that majority of the world-famous alumni are white – Trixie Matell, Katya, Violet Chachki, Detox, Jinx Monsoon – with the exception of a few POC that made it to the world stage (Raja, Bianca Del Rio, Shangella, and RuPaul himself).

PRODUCERS LEVERAGE ON ‘DRAMA’ FOR HIGHER RATINGS

While it is true that ‘drama’ boosts TV ratings, the producers have recklessly created unnecessary conflict because of its edit. The show is especially notorious for making a ‘villain’ and ‘hero’ edits that put queens in the position where they are either loved or hated.

One good example of this is the edit that the Season 10 queen, the Vixen, got. It is true; the Vixen brands herself as someone who ‘came to fight,’ her villain edit did not go well for her.

“Another aspect is fans believing the edit that the show uses, which paints certain queens as “villains” and others as “heroes,” Brown said.

“The Vixen/Eureka debate is the most recent example of this, where Eureka was heralded as potentially the first plus-size queen to win, while The Vixen was painted to fit the “angry black woman” narrative.”

Another example of how the show and its producers manipulate social perception towards the queens is its controversial All Stars rule where the winning queen will have to power to eliminate one bottom queen. This rule exposes queens who eliminate a queen with huge fandom to hate from fans. One incident is when Naomi Smalls receives death threats after sending Manila Luzon home.

Death threats were sent to Naomi Smalls for eliminating fan-favorite, Manila Luzon. Screenshot from VH1

A study from Florida State University reveals that there is a positive correlation between watching a reality TV show and the increase in ruthlessness and lying. It shows that the fan is addicted to the show, the more that he will possess anti-social behavior like sending hate messages and rude comments.

Another study from the London School of Economics says that watching reality TV show can make fans meaner to the enemy of the protagonist. In the study, researchers have discovered that following the life of the Kardashians makes people meaner to poor people.

It is also true with Drag Race, as queens are being painted as the ‘heroes,’ people can be meaner and ruder to those that oppose them.

The show has a responsibility to contain this, however. Even if the show has directly not told fans to send hate to queens, the narrative that the edit is creating empowers fans to exhibit these undesirable behaviors – to the expense of a queen.

THE CONVERSATION IS CONTAINED IN A BUBBLE

Even if a conversation regarding the issue has long been happening in the drag world, the discussion has been contained inside a huge bubble and has not been elevated.

One of the most common arguments against hate is the idea that it is just a TV show and haters are overreacting. Although this argument is valid, it dismisses the fact that these people who hate queens don’t think that it is.

The cycle of this argument-response combo has never helped anybody. It creates a deadlock as it invalidates one’s feeling instead of acknowledging it.

As a matter of fact, another study has given an explanation for this. According to the behavioral research published by the Journal of Communication, people tend to think that others are more receptive to a reality TV show than they are.

This revelation suggests that mean drag race fans don’t think that they are overreacting but instead believe that those who go against them are. It’s a dangerous concoction of reality-fantasy gap and self-image.

Nonetheless, social media discourse on the topic can definitely help in solving the problem. However, it is essential to understand each other’s realities and motivations. Otherwise, the discussion will remain inside your bubble and will not make any difference at all. /apr

A Consumer Tech and Cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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Celebrities

Millions Of Celebrity And Influencer Personal Info Exposed In A Database

Instagram influencers and celebrities had their data scraped and stored in an unprotected online database. It also contained computed value of each influencer used to determine how much to pay them for sponsored ads. Click To Tweet

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Influencers and Celebrities
Photo: TT Marketing | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

An unsecured database containing the private contact information of millions of Instagram influencer, celebrities and brand accounts have been discovered and is said to have included personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses. The database was supposed to be unprotected, and anyone could have access to the plethora of sensitive information that it contains.

The discovery was first reported by Zack Whittaker from Tech Crunch and said that cybersecurity researcher Anurag Sen discovered the exposed and unprotected database, hosted by Amazon Web Services. According to the initial report, there were already 49 million records in the database and seemed to have been growing by the hour.

In hindsight, each record in the database contained publicly listed data scraped from influencer, celebrity, and brand Instagram accounts including their bio, profile picture, their follower count, verification status, and their location by city and country. However, the database also contained private contact information, including email address and phone number.

Several high profile influencers and celebrities were found in the database, including some prominent beauty and fashion bloggers, food bloggers, celebrities, and other famous social media influencers. According to Whittaker, he contacted several people on the list at random whose information was found in the database, and some of them indeed replied, confirming that some – or most – of the data contained in the database are actual data scraped from their Instagram accounts.

The database was then traced back to an India-based social media marketing company, Chtrbox, a firm that pays Instagram influencers to post sponsored content on their accounts. The report revealed that each record, aside from public and personal information of the account owner, also includes an estimated worth of each account, factored by the number of followers they have, the engagement level they receive, the width of their reach, likes, and shares they had. The calculation was used as a metric to determine how much to pay an influencer to post a sponsored content on their account as an ad.

Those who responded have said that they used the email and the phone number as default to sign up for Instagram and they also denied having been involved in a business with Chtrbox.

The researchers were able to contact Chtrbox and was successfully in having them take the database offline; however, Pranay Swurap, the founder of the social media marketing firm and it’s Chief Executive Officer, refused to comment and answer questions raised by the researchers.

Until now, it is unclear how the company was able to obtain the massive data they have.

One theory made by the researchers is that two years ago, a security bug in the developer API of Instagram has allowed hackers to obtain email addresses and phone numbers of six million Instagram accounts. The hacker later sold the data they were able to scrape by exploiting the bug was sold to highest bidders for bitcoin.

Hackers have launched a website with a searchable database of some Instagram users’ alleged personal info. The data, a sample of which the hackers provided t, appears to include email addresses and phone numbers for a selection of high profile Instagram users, including politicians, sports stars, and media companies. The data also seems to contain information on more ordinary accounts, too.

“Instagram clearly hasn’t yet understood the full impact of this bug,” said one of the people behind the site, dubbed ‘Doxagram.’

Some of the accounts in the list are seemingly high profile. One entry is allegedly for the official President of the United States’ Instagram account. Another alleged account appears to belong to Cristiano Ronaldo, the world-famous soccer player.

As for why the database contains high profile users, the hackers claimed they set up their scraper to initially target all users with over 1 million followers, and then recursively harvest other users. In all, the hackers claim to have over 6 million accounts in their database.

Meanwhile, in a statement made by Facebook following the disclosure of the database said that the company is investigating the matter.

“We’re looking into the issue to understand if the data described – including email and phone numbers – was from Instagram or from other sources,” said an updated statement. “We’re also inquiring with Chtrbox to understand where this data came from and how it became publicly available,” it added.

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TV Shows

‘Young Sheldon’ Season 2 Finale: What’s Meant To Be Will Always Find Its Way To You

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Young Sheldon Season 2 Final Scenes
Young Sheldon Season 2 Finale

As you get older, sometimes do you also think and reflect if you are moving closer to your goals in life? Did you become a better person than you were a year before? Are you making good use of your talents or potential? What if you’re falling behind or what if you don’t achieve that thing you wanted to have in the future?

Last May 16 in Young Sheldon’s Season 2 finale episode titled A Swedish Science Thing and the Equation for Toast, I somehow learned that “what’s meant to be will always find it’s way to you” and won’t just pass by.

Young Sheldon is about a nine-year-old genius from East Texas who turned out to be a brilliant theoretical physicist in the hit comedy sitcom Big Bang Theory. In the mentioned episode, he invited some of his family and friends to have a Nobel Prize Announcement party, to listen to the radio broadcast of 1990 Nobel Prize dedication. But nobody joined him.

During that time, he was heartbroken, and he thought he was a neutrino fated to be sad and lonely forever. But in the future, he was happy to be wrong. It turns out he’s a quark.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a quark is one of the primary forms of matter that make up an atom. Anyways, he said that one of the remarkable characteristics of quarks is that they are bonded together.  After the voice over, we see Sheldon’s younger Big Bang Theory friends at different sides of the world. Sheldon was not alone after all.

The young Leonard Hofstadter was also listening alone in his room, in his table, we can see his inhaler. Penny (Leonard’s future wife) is sleeping.  Raj (the future Astrophysicist) was doing his homework in his rocket/spaceships themed room. Howard (the future Engineer and astronaut) was playing a video game in his bedroom which was full of magic kit items. Bernadette (Howard’s future wife) was also sleeping, and in her night table, we can see her glasses, a photo of her and a pageant trophy. Lastly, Amy (Sheldon’s future wife) is still awake, but she’s not listening to the Nobel prize broadcast. She is reading a book.

The episode was shown in CBS, a few minutes in CBS after BBT‘s last episode ever. Fans were overjoyed and teary-eyed to have this surprise. It proves that even though Sheldon was alone during that time, in the end, he’ll meet real friends who will love, support and accept him as he is, who will also be there for him when he wins the Nobel Prize.

According to Steve Molaro, they somehow want to honor Big Bang Theory in their momentous night and give a love letter in the form of a cross over. Without BBT, Young Sheldon won’t be possible.

The series is an origin story set in 1989; it centers on how Sheldon Cooper became the guy that he is in Big Bang Theory and how he survived high school at a very young age. In this show,  we’ll get to know more about  Sheldon and his love for trains, his fanboy tendencies to Professor Proton and his childhood friends like Tam. The cast includes  Ian Armitage (young Sheldon), Zoe Perry (Mary, Sheldon’s mom), Lance Barber (George, Sheldon’s dad), Reagan Revord (Missy, Sheldon’s twin sister), Montana Jordan ( George Jr, Sheldon’s big brother) and Annie Potts (Meemaw, Sheldon’s grandma). 

Young Sheldon is somehow different from the Big Bang Theory. It is shot using a single camera while BBT is shot using a three-camera in front of a live studio audience.  Parsons is one of the Executive Producers of the show. At the same time in the series, we can hear him narrate as adult Sheldon in some of the significant parts of the show.  Zoe Perry (who plays Young Sheldon’s mother) is the biological daughter of Laurie Metcalf (who plays the Older Sheldon’s mother in BBT).

According to the producers Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro, they have been interested in and discussing plans on having Sheldon’s childhood story for almost ten years. But, The prequel series started with Jim Parsons’ idea when he was bonding with his intellectually gifted nephew. He plays the older Sheldon in Big Bang Theory. He then emailed Chuck Lorre, BBT’s co-creator. Young Sheldon’s first ever episode premiered last September 25, 2017.

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Podcast

Spotify Goes Big On Podcasts

The popular music streaming app, Spotify, is all-in with podcasts as it launches a redesigned user interface (UI) that refocuses Spotify into two different audio categories

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Spotify redesigned UI to direct users to their favorite podcast shows.
Spotify spends $500 million this year in an effort to lead the podcast market. Photo: Michael Fötsch | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0
Spotify redesigns UI to put focus on podcasts as the company goes big by spending $500 million on acquisitions to improve their standing in the podcast market. They also encourage users to create new podcasts using new tools. Click To Tweet

The popular music streaming app, Spotify, is all-in with podcasts as it launches a redesigned user interface (UI) that refocuses Spotify into two different audio categories: Music and Podcasts. While it is not new that podcasts and audio shows are already thriving in the app, Spotify makes it easier for listeners to navigate the app to search for their favorite podcast shows.

The new redesigned UI is only available for a limited number of users as of now, though, and was first reported last week. The new design emphasizes bolded headings for both “music” and “podcasts” on the app’s library page. Currently, Spotify users have to sift through six categories at the top of their library pages to find a dedicated podcast section. While Spotify confirmed that they were testing “new products,” they declined to comment on when the new redesigned UI would roll out to all users.

Screenshot from The Verge

According to Spotify, last year, “seven million people in the US produced podcasts—and even more, people consumed them.” And it makes sense why the app company is putting money on podcasts on its platform. Spotify has spent up to $500 million on podcasts alone. The spending included their acquisition of major companies like Gimlet Media. The equivocal emphasis of Spotify to spend on promoting podcasts on its platform says so much about its goal to compete with Apple and Luminary to try to become the go-to place for podcast listeners, and improving “discoverability” and ease of use is necessary to achieve their goal.

A few days ago, Spotify also released a tool called Soundtrap for Storytellers to encourage podcast producers to produce more shows on Spotify. Soundtrap for Storytellers is a comprehensive podcast creation tool that offers recording, remote multi-track interviewing with video chat, smart editing of audio as a text document, full audio production, direct-to-Spotify publishing of the podcast, and transcript publishing to optimize SEO all in one service.

In an event hosted by Spotify for the launch of Soundtap for Storytellers, they invited popular podcast producers to talk about their craft and how they can use the new tool in their podcasts. Hannah Berner, the host of the popular podcast show Berning in Hell, said that she “think(s) a lot of podcasters don’t have any knowledge about the importance of SEO, or getting found in unique ways, besides just promoting on our social media. So having a transcript of what you’re saying that also helps with SEO is incredible.”

Soundtrap demo at the Spotify Office. Photo: Spotify

Lindsay Metselaar, host of We Met At Acme, said that the prospect of being able to record with people who are not physically with her is what excites her the most about the new podcast creation tool.

“The fact that you can record with someone when they’re not physically with you is huge. I’m not able to do that right now because the sound quality is just not the same with other programs or over the phone. But Soundtrap allows two computers to have the same recording situation set up. That’s huge for podcasting,” she said.

The new podcast tool is available starting May 14 online and on iOS and Android, with pricing starting at $14.99/month and an annual plan starting at $11.99/month.

In addition to Soundtrap for Storytellers, Spotify is also encouraging new artists to create more podcasts on its newly acquired tool called Anchor. Anchor is a free-to-use podcast creation, distribution and monetization platform that says its mission is to “democratize audio.” It was one of two New York-based podcast companies (alongside Gimlet Media) acquired by Spotify in February for $343 million combined.

“There’s no doubt that podcasting is expanding like crazy, and if you have a story to tell, someone out there is dying to hear it,” writes Spotify in the news post.

“For those who are ready to experiment, have fun, and try out a new way to connect with fans, here’s why it’s time for you to start using Anchor.”

Spotify is making a concerted effort to encourage more of its platform’s 3.9 million artists and dedicated-podcast creators to use its marketplace tools – like Anchor and Soundtrap for Storytellers. If successful, Spotify will make itself a one-stop-shop for podcast producers, hosts, and artists, and might be able to top competitors like Apple and Luminary in the podcast wars online.

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