Tuesday with Mitch: Latest fad: Celebrity ‘promposals’
It’s prom season, and that means one thing: finding a hot celebrity to go with you.
Now it’s Kate Upton. Or Justin Bieber. Or Miss America.
No, really. Miss America. An 18-year-old Pennsylvania senior recently asked her to the prom during a visit to his high school. Such bravado might be the stuff of fairy tales — or at least a movie of the week — were it not so darned clichéd.
So many kids have now asked famous strangers to be their prom dates, you expect a form letter response. (“Thank you for your recent inquiry into Brad Pitt’s availability for your Spring Spectacular. Unfortunately, Mr. Pitt is booked at that time. Also, he is married.”)
Not only did this Pennsylvania kid, Patrick Farves, tell friends he planned to pop the question to Miss America, Nina Davuluri, but his school warned him NOT to do it just minutes before the assembly.
“By that time, my mind was already set,” he told Reuters. “I was already in the zone.”
He then went to a different zone. The school suspended him for three days for breaking the rules.
Oh. And Miss America said sorry, but she couldn’t make it.
In other words, Patrick had just joined the same club he was trying to avoid: a dateless loser.
Or had he?
His prank quickly got national attention. (Shocking!) Next thing you know, he’s sitting in New York, on the “Today” show, where Matt Lauer praised his courage, and Tamron Hall did an interview at least as long as a Pulitzer Prize winner or a civil rights activist would get.
“You’re a living legend at the school now,” Hall concluded.
“Yeah, I am,” Patrick said.
And naturally, he tweeted his new media status the moment he could get his fingers on a device.
“MATT CALLED ME A HERO AND TAMRON CALLED ME A LEGEND #TODAYSHOW #FREEPATTY”
Oh, yeah. It also became a campaign. “Free Patty.” Students around the world rallied to his side, demanding his in-school suspension be lifted.
And they say kids are apathetic. Come on. You just have to give them an important cause.
Sadly, this self-described class clown joins a trend of turning once original behavior into calculated efforts to get as much media attention as possible.
The fact that the “Today” show (and Fox News and “Good Morning America”) raced to include this story ensures others will do the same.
Here in my own backyard, a Fenton, Mich., teenager named Justin Hang recently made a YouTube “promposal” to Disney Channel actress Allie DeBerry. In his video, he alternately brags “I got game!” then admits, “I don’t have game.” He shakes his butt. He sings badly. He says he loves her. He admits he’s never gone to a prom.
The actress, apparently no dummy when it comes to the value of social media, told Hang if he got 1,500 retweets, she’d go with him. (And to think, girls used to ask for a nice corsage and a clean car.)
No problem. Once Hang’s video got enough attention, Ryan Seacrest, another arbiter of great taste in America, invited Hang on his national radio show, which got him even more attention, and which ultimately got him enough retweets.
And ta-da! DeBerry is picking out a dress.
Never mind that these kids probably will have little to talk about and will barely stay in touch after the media circus is over. What matters in America is Web hits, fame, how much people are talking about you. Hang actually said to mlive.com after hearing
from Seacrest, “I was like, ‘Is this real life right now?’ ”
No, Justin, it’s not. And that’s the problem. Living through videos isn’t real life. Publicity-driven dates are not real life. Hashtags in front of words are not real life.
But right now, some other kid is filming himself or composing a tweet in a desperate attempt to be accepted by befriending a famous person. And these famous people are employing publicists to politely refuse without losing fans.
All because we’ve become a world with one driving goal: capture others’ attention.
After he asked Miss America for the date, Patrick Farves turned to his schoolmates and did a solo dance as they whooped and cheered. That’s all that matters, right? Keep us entertained.
In the old days, men did that for the king.
They were called “fools.”
Now they’re high school legends.
Mitch Albom is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.