Casey Neistat: A People’s Filmmaker or Internet Reality Star?
If the Kardashians are the millennial generation’s quintessential “basic bitches,” then Casey Neistat is their #liveauthentic, Helvetica-loving, upbeat-indie-soundtracked counterpart, the Manhattan to their Los Angeles, the viral YouTube account to their lucrative E! contract. Both are plated and served up to today’s youngsters like a funhouse mirror.
In mundane snippets of everyday life sprinkled with moments of excitement, we see their realities shrouded by a generous salary and glorified by a cult-like following, enacting a bizarre, self-fulfilling form of popularity with no explicable beginning. But while most reality television aims to sell Frappuccinos and lipstick, Neistat’s vlogs dig deeper, compelling his viewers to “do more” and “make it count,” in big, white Helvetica letters plastered over the New York skyline.
Evaluating even the most creative vloggers by filmmaking standards is futile, because technical and creative skills are beside the point. That’s not what they’re selling. As with reality television, vloggers sell a lifestyle, packaged in three-minute video segments.
Neistat’s is this: he does all of the crazy, ridiculous things you wish you could do without thinking twice.
At the end of the day, if you do something you’re passionate about, the universe will make it right. Ignore the consequences and go for it.”
He flies to South Africa to surprise his girlfriend. He summits the tallest peak in the Western hemisphere with almost no preparation. When Nike asks him to make a commercial for them and gives him a budget, and he blows all of it on a round-the-world trip and films that instead. Skyrocketing past the two million-subscriber mark, Neistat recently posted a video of himself snowboarding through Times Square during the most brutal blizzard in New York City history.
But his appeal to YouTubers goes beyond his reckless stunts. It also lies in the more mundane videos of Neistat checking his mail, avoiding parking tickets, and going to see the new Star Wars movie. Padding the highs with the mediocre lends him an authenticity and relatability that is paramount to amassing a loyal following. If Neistat is just a regular person like me, viewers think to themselves, then maybe I can be more like him.
And that’s what he wants. In his video MAXED OUT MY CREDIT CARD, he urges his subscribers: “There are always really good reasons NOT to do things. But if you really, really believe that it’s something you have to do, the universe has a way of making it okay. … Opportunity and experience always trump material possessions. At the end of the day, if you do something you’re passionate about, the universe will make it right. Ignore the consequences and go for it.”
After all but destroying his favorite snowboard by riding it in the streets of Manhattan, the manufacturer of the board sent Neistat three new ones in the mail. Call it the universe rewarding him for his relentless lust for life.