Move Fast, Break Things: The New American Dream
The dark side of our obsession with influence and overnight fame.
I remember watching Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leach and imagining what it would be like to be famous.
Fancy cars, a big house, anything I’ve ever dreamed of at the palm of my hand.
But it was a dream world, one way too far out of reach to grasp.
Today, you only need a phone and internet connection to ride a viral video to overnight fame and fortune.
But have you ever stopped to question the dark side of our obsession with influence?
And how our addiction feeds the people behind the screen, who will stop at nothing to achieve success.
If you watched The Social Network in 2010, you’ll remember the fictionalized version of Facebook’s origin story. Filled with dreary, dull lighting that overshadows the rise of a young tech-evil-genius to overnight fame.
It’s the perfect setup for the recent documentary, Supervillain: The Making of Tekashi 69. Which breaks down the making of the social media monster into three chapters of his story: Identity, Power, and Truth.
Both films are the narratives of two social media influencers. Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, an odd social outcast who builds the world’s largest social media network. And Danny Hernandez aka Tekashi 6ix9ine, a Mexican-born hip-hop artist who catapults to overnight fame and fortune.
Their stories depict the troubles of instant success and the price of fast fame. Played out with the not-so-subtle undertone of social validation and ambition at all costs.
Both are cautionary tales for our rapidly evolving digital culture, built on Zuckerburg’s motto of “move fast, break things.”
Identity of a supervillain
Zuckerburg and Tekashi are outsiders in worlds they don’t belong to. Their arrogant ambition drives them to manipulate the people that surround them.
Charmless and heartless, both show they are willing to do anything to gain the power and attention they desire.
While Zuckerburg is a privileged Harvard undergrad, fueled by revenge on an ex-girlfriend, Tekashi’s story stems from an upbringing in poverty. Born of Mexican-decent in a predominantly black neighborhood, he gains his street credibility through tangled gang affiliations.
Instead of talent Tekashi uses wild antics, attempted threats, and offensive slurs to gain enormous and quick popularity.
“I didn’t like rap; I was always into rock. I grew up on heavy metal,” 6ix9ine said. “I didn’t want to rap. My talent is not rapping, my talent is like a visionary.
I don’t think anyone else is better than me at it. So, when I rap, I try to entertain as best as possible. So, me rapping, it’s not because I have a talent… it’s how good I can entertain.” — Teskahi
This facade doesn’t stop our fascination with his move fast, break things persona, which is tattooed all over his body and littered throughout his social media feeds.
Millions of followers, but ego is their only friend
Zuckerburg and Takeshi share the same power-hungry qualities. Young opportunists, who quickly realize they can use the internet to monetize their trolling and advance their outsider status.
The films attempt to go inside and examine what motivates these social media supervillains, but we learn there isn’t anything complex about either one.
They are empty, void of human emotion, and driven by anger, abuse, and a never-ending quest to gain attention.
The foundations of their instant success are built on bonds of early friendships, abusive relationships, and the people who are lured by the lavish lifestyle filled with money, sex, and drugs.
Worlds where both men have millions of followers, but they are so desperately alone. Plagued by their pride, where their ego is their only trusted ally.
Reminding them constantly, they are the most and only important ones in the room.
Exposing evil at the cost of everyone else
Inevitably, both men are caught up in trouble with the law. But their infinite amounts of pride and money, let them buy their way out.
They protect themselves at all costs, and the highest expense becomes the lives of everyone who stood behind them from the start.
Quickly, they rat out their old pals to save face. Protecting the image they’ve built inside the world they have created. Neither story ends with a happy ending.
Both find themselves back where they started, as outsiders but now in the worlds they created.
Shut out and blacklisted by the cultures and people they preyed upon to succeed.
In the end, though their evil is exposed, neither show any sign of remorse for their sins. Nor for the lives they have left in their wake. And the ones who sacrificed everything to support them are now left answering to their crimes.
The dark truth behind our digital obsession
But this isn’t Hollywood. Where a dark tale ends with the villain caught and forced to face redemption or justice for their sins. Instead in our real digital world, we see how money and power buy these supervillains out from serving for even the darkest crimes.
So what’s the moral of a story when evil triumphs over good?
When there is no real justice for the crimes and lives stolen, the real meaning of the story should not be lost on us.
In an interview Supervillain's director, Karam Gill states,
“The way I saw it was this is the story that people need to see because it’s a cautionary tale and the next supervillain is around the corner.
If we understand how these people create themselves online and how we had a hand in that, maybe we can see the signs coming in the next crazy motherfucker.”
The premise is not about the motivation behind the relentless pursuit of gaining attention. It’s about the role we play as a society in making these monsters.
The dangerous power we give them with each follow, like, and view of their message.
How the attention they thrive on is the only kryptonite to their soul.
When we stop being fascinated by their destructive behavior, their power and ego begin to crumble.
We repeatedly we how our engagement drives the power of these sinister antics into a storming of hate. And these villains aren't fading silently into the background. Instead, they are gaining more traction and more followers with every new tweet, post, and follower.
Our interaction is validation that drives these villains to be more offensive. And the more absurd they become the more it desensitizes us to their potential destruction.
The real takeaway is not about these creators, but our culture’s obsession with their outlandish behavior. How that is the driving force behind the power. We can hopefully learn, in the end, the villains walk away unscathed, and the followers are left with the price to pay.
Move fast and break things may expedite fame and success, but it’s a weary foundation that ultimately brings us all to our knees.