The documentary Snervous is about a social-media celebrity named Tyler Oakley. His YouTube channel has nearly eight million subscribers. Nearly five million follow him on Twitter, and 5.5 million watch the stream of images on his Instagram account. Oakley also has a book of personal essays that was on the New York Times best-seller list for several weeks. And his 2014 Slumber Party tour, which forms the background of this documentary, and involved dancing, skits, and interactive sections, filled halls in Europe and the United States. Thousands of young adult females paid hard money to see the flesh and bone of this 21st-century Idoru walk around the stage in a onesie.
But why is Oakley famous? What quality or talent does he have that justifies all of the hits his video blogs generate? The good thing about the documentary is it makes no effort whatsoever to ask (and therefore answer) questions of that nature. They are pointless. Oakley, it is understood, is famous because he is famous in the very same sense that financial assets are valuable because they are financial assets. This is why if you look into Oakley's life (he is in his mid-20s, he is gay, he wears geeky glasses), you will not find anything but just a regular guy with regular problems, such as his father has not yet come to terms with his homosexuality and his mother loves him just a little too much. The fame is not in the person but in fame itself.
Oakley grew up very white and in the suburbs. Judging from the documentary, there are no distinctions in his academic record or ideas about the world. He is plainly handsome and he has a very normal body. He is as funny as the next man, as engaging as the next man, and as smart as the next man. And yet, some fans tremble when they get too close to him. Many even lack the physical ability to handle the brilliance of his presence. Everything in them is shaken to its foundations when he walks on the stage in a onesie or when he takes a selfie with them.
And here is where the documentary makes a big mistake: Its camera does not spend enough time gazing at the amazing effects that Oakley's fame has on the bodies of his young fans. The director wanted to show us more of a story, but all we want is to watch the amazing things that stardom can do to the nostrils (quivering), eyes (tearing up), and lips (trembling) of ordinary people. The documentary wants to get to the core of the sun, but we want to be on the beach with the sunbathers, with their flesh, their sweat, their pleasure.