Achieving stardom by revealing your goofiest private moment isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Gary Brolsma, a stocky resident of Saddle Brook, New Jersey, videoed himself lip-synching and dancing to a Romanian pop song in his bathroom, then posted the performance online.
Brolsma's arm-flapping gambol (dubbed the Numa Numa) quickly gained a following on a video upload website. CNN played the clip, Brolsma made an appearance on Good Morning America, and more than 2 million people have downloaded the video.
But instead of revelling in the moment, Brolsma became depressed. He cancelled a Today Show appearance and refused to talk to the New York Times. Reports describe him as housebound and morose.
Comparisons between Brolsma and the bulky Quebec teen known as the Star Wars Kid are inevitable. The Star Wars Kid was surreptitiously videotaped by his classmates as he engaged in a solo light-sabre war. They immediately posted this video on the Web, and suddenly every in-box contained the short movie. Various copycat tributes followed, and before you knew it the Star Wars Kid, after initially embracing his notoriety, fell into depression.
We feel bad for the teen who was catapulted to fame by others, but Brolsma brought this upon himself. He decided to upload his own silly, exuberant moment.
Still, it's harder and harder to separate the innocent victims of our surveillance society from those deliberately violating their own space. The oddly familiar and poignantly weird story of a 19-year-old's rise to Internet fame on the strength of a Romanian bathroom singalong clip suggests that the age of ubiquitous filming is radically redefining our concept of privacy.
So how did we get from the Star Wars Kid to the Numa Numa dancer? Think of it as the Sex, Lies, And Videotape syndrome. Steven Soderbergh's breakout hit featured James Spader as a drifting videographer with the project of taping women talking about their sex lives.
Considered scandalous in 1989, the idea of "normal" women revealing their innermost mental tidbits is now kinda... normal. Encouraged by a barrage of entertainments designed to reveal everything - look at almost any reality TV - everybody is now secretly yearning for their own hidden parts to emerge for all to see.
In the movies, on TV, in salacious grainy videos, it all looks so very exciting. To reveal yourself is to become the centre of attention. And if your revelation is sufficiently provocative or ridiculous, fame might come your way.
From Leave It To Beaver to sex and lies on videotape, there's something about the never-ending sequence of narratives purporting to show us the inner laundry rooms of other people's lives that entices and attracts us. Entices us enough, it would seem, to try it ourselves.
Two years before the release of Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, And Videotape, Arnold and Jesse Friedman were arrested for child molestation. The Friedman family trove of amateur home videos formed the bulk of Andrew Jarecki's stunning Capturing The Friedmans, a 2003 documentary that is as much about the forced weirdness and oddly compelling nature of private video made public as it is about the guilt or innocence of Friedman father and son.
Why did the Friedmans participate in a film that brings millions of people to the all-but-forgotten story of a suburban family ripped apart by pedophilia? In the age before Sex, Lies, the family's cooperation would have been inconceivable.
But privacy has become a pop culture commodity to be exchanged for cash or opportunity or the hope that a past can be reinvented to make a new future. Suddenly, parading your most private moments is as natural as playing the stock market.
Are the Friedmans happier now that their story is widely known? Seems doubtful. We do know that the Star Wars Kid suffered such extensive mockery and unhappiness that his parents sued the perpetrators for ruining their son's adolescence. Meanwhile, dancer Brolsma is clearly rueing the day he traded an esoteric personal moment for public attention.
Encouraged by an endless series of behind-the-scenes dramas and documentaries, we're turning privacy into a commodity. And paying the price.