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What HBO’s Fake Famous Doesn’t Understand About Young People and Influencer Culture

“Do you want to be famous?” This is the question, posed in an open casting call, that drew thousands of young people to audition for a role in HBO’s Fake Famous. (Never mind that it is also the implied question of virtually every open casting call.) Framed, like many of the most exploitative reality-TV shows, as a social experiment, this disappointingly superficial documentary sends three strivers culled from the mass of wannabes on a quest to become successful Instagram influencers. Not only does its director, tech journalist Nick Bilton, fail to deliver fresh insight into the mechanisms of social-media celebrity, but he also ignores salient, generationally specific issues—of identity and especially of economics—that arise in interviews.

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