It doesn’t matter if you are attached at the hip to YouTube or if your extent of the site’s expertise ends with David After Dentist. No matter your internet lot in life, it’s hard to not conjure up an image in your mind when you hear the phrase “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!”
Chris Crocker took the ‘net by storm when in 2007 after her infamous VMA’s performance, the young fan had enough of the media and general public harassing his idol Britney Spears. With a simple curtain backdrop behind him and mascara running around his eyes, he gave a tearful and angry plea to leave the troubled pop star be.
There were many reasons people were so fascinated with the Southern teen, whether positive or negative, and all of the above are explored in the HBO Documentary “Me @ The Zoo”. An interesting piece that not only explores Chris’ life, but that of Britney Spears, the scrutiny that the massive exposure of the internet has created for any public figure, and the phenomenon that is YouTube, the centerpiece is obviously footage compiled by the online personality since he first got his own camcorder in 2006.
An admittedly androgynous male who at one point in the documentary refers to himself as transgender before ultimately deciding to embrace his masculine side, Chris has had many obstacles to overcome. Not only was he the subject of homophobic bullying that forced him into homeschooling, but he has also struggled with taking care of his young mother who suffered from drug issues, homelessness and post traumatic stress disorder after a tour in Iraq. Chris through it all carried himself as a strong and outspoken person, stating in the documentary he used the camera and flamboyant videos as a way of lashing out against those who terrorized him in his hometown.
There could be many things said about this documentary due to the wide variety of subjects covered, but the pulse of the film lies in Chris and his fandom with Britney. With his room covered in magazine cut-outs of the pop princess and once in a while speaking about his love of her, it would be clear to anyone paying attention from the start that he has been a committed fan and this wasn’t just an overnight guise to gain attention.
“He was Britney-crazy,” his grandmother and primary caretaker says in the film as we pan over the Sea of Spears all over his bedroom. “It was Britney, Britney, Britney; I was about sick of Britney myself!”
Things came to a head when Chris showed more of his collection sprawled out on the floor, fandom wise, laying down on top of it, recording himself telling the world that Britney was coming back and her fans never left. This was pre-VMA’s. We all know how it culminated, but now we see the details of what happened afterward.
Chris’ newfound fame, or infamy, brought him attention both in flattering ways all the way up to those of the life-threatening variety. It seemed to get better for him when he was offered a TV show deal and was brought out to Los Angeles, therefore plucked out from the little town that caused him so much pain. Unfortunately, Chris felt if he mirrored some of the behaviors of his idol, such as acting out for the paparazzi including flashing his genitals, it would help his fame. An uproarious boycott erupted, the TV deal was off, and Chris found himself struggling to save up just so he could once again return home to the safety of his grandmother’s house.
Low points soar for the young Chris Crocker, as perhaps the public news that apparently Britney was disturbed by his video defending the star instead of grateful brought him to his breaking point. We see him tearing down his posters of the pop star, hysterical, stating distress that she never even thanked him for the video.
In his mind perhaps, sacrificing so much of his personal life and himself in order to defend her merited some sort of validation, and instead, the woman he admired for so long dismissed him. “She could care less about some little fan,” his disgruntled grandmother states later on in the flick about Chris, looking around his room that still had remaining trinkets adorned on his walls.
Years later with over 200 Million YouTube views, Chris goes through quite the transformation that touches on all areas of his life. In dropping his Britney fandom, whether it was completely or partially since he still had a lot of her photos up (perhaps as a comfort mechanism for not letting go of the past completely), it is clear how much his public exposure from this effected him.
It is clear, throughout the film and through Chris’ own words, that he found his identity in the idea of transforming into or being like Britney. Maybe best equated to a writer who also touched on the subject of self importance in regards to celebrity fandom, Michael Joseph Gross has put it best:
““The…incident was the most dramatic example of my growing need to reach out to the people whose attention, it seemed, would allow me to believe that I mattered,” Michael writes in Starstruck. “If a Somebody paid attention to me, then wouldn’t I be a Somebody, too?”
Me @ The Zoo is available OnDemand on Comcast until September under Premium Channels > HBO > 2012 Documentaries. Otherwise, contact your cable or satellite provider. You can find Chris on Twitter or YouTube.