Internet sensations, still the same old story

By Jules Quartly (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-28 09:57
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Internet sensations, still the same old story

"Internet sensations" are more than just famous they are viral. They infect all computers or online devices and the whole world catches a fever. Eventually the world recovers its equilibrium, until a new sensation evolves.

Internet sensations, still the same old story

At the moment distressed or blessed with the ugly stick is in. While mainstream entertainment is all about pretty faces who can't hold a tune, the Internet has turned the concept inside out by making stars out of image-challenged individuals who really can sing.

For example, there is Lin Yu-chun, the 24-year-old who looks like a chubby choirboy and sings like a Whitney Houston angel. His basin-haircut and crystal soprano voice didn't make him a winner on Taiwan's One Million Star show, but the video clips uploaded earlier this month on video sharing sites did.

Last week he was given the equivalent of a ticker tape welcome to the United States with a stroll along the Hall of Fame, spots on the The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Lopez Tonight - and the ultimate accolade, a duet with Star Trek's William Shatner. It was the "American Dream" come true.

He's known back home in Taipei as "Little Fatty", but his Internet moniker is "The Next Susan Boyle". This fascination with the unfashionable being fashionable may not have started with Boyle, the "Hairy Angel", but it certainly coalesced in her. The 49-year-old spinster who claims never to have been kissed came to international recognition a year ago this month with her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream.

She appeared on Britain's Got Talent, coming second, but her YouTube video went viral and few people now remember who was first. What would ordinarily have been a domestic one-hit wonder became an international cause clbre, with the inevitable coronation in Hollywood. Her debut album has sold over 8 million copies.

What resonates there resonates here, as the case of "Sweet Cauliflower Mother" emphasizes. She's now an Internet sensation because she's plain, pigtailed and sells chicken legs in a Shanghai market. And she does an impressive version of Amazing Grace. Like Lin, she too is compared with Boyle and has been given the sobriquet "Auntie Susan".

It's the ancient rags-to-riches story that attracts us and the Internet makes it a global one. Even tramps are caught up in the excitement, as the discovery of Brother Sharp, from Ningbo in Zhejiang province, showed. He became an overnight Internet sensation, from Tokyo to San Francisco, not because he was down and out but because he had model-like looks and there was hope that this could work out for him. Netizens wanted a real rags-to-riches story and were only foiled by the fact that he had a mental problem and couldn't cope with the attention (though this did not stop Boyle).

The Internet is able to create a hero a day because it has a reach that knows no borders. We love fairy tales like Cinderella and Aladdin, rags-to-riches movies like Slumdog Millionaire, shows like Super Girl and One Million Star.

While Internet sensations are a relatively new phenomenon, it's the same old story of hope, recognition and fortune.