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What do we lose when influencers replace journalists on the red carpet?

For over 10 years, the internet has asked, “Gay son or thot daughter?” A question previously reserved for your Twitter oomfs, now acclaimed actors are being subjected to it on the red carpet. 

At this year’s People’s Choice Awards TikTokker Harry Daniels imposed the question on Academy Award-nominated actress America Ferrera. In the now viral clip, Ferrara responds, “Oh my god? Both? I don’t know.” At the same event, Billie Eilish allegedly said, “There’s…some, like, TikTokkers here” while subtly brushing them off. The videos led to a heated online conversation about the role of influencers on the red carpet. 

Freelance film and television journalist Rendy Jones posted the Ferrera clip to X / Twitter with the caption, “Yall aren’t funny nor real journalists with any professionalism. Theres only a select few I can think of who earn their keep but most of yall? Ugh, gross.” Their post received over 46,000 likes. 

Then the quote-tweets from fellow journalists rolled in. For example, Tamara Fuentas, the entertainment editor at Cosmopolitan, wrote, “And this is why me and probably some other journos dread red carpets, which already were difficult to begin with. We’re getting even less time because influencers have gotten spots for stuff like this. And we have to chase a soundbite instead of asking actual questions.”

Clearly, the question posed by Daniels is nonsense in pursuit of virality. It serves purely entertainment purposes — in stark contrast to questions from actual reporters that range from illuminating to relevant

On his native platform, TikTok, there’s a compilation of Daniels asking different celebrities, “Gay son or thot daughter.” He captioned the video, “asking the real questions at the pcas 🙏.” It has since garnered over 7.6 million views and nearly 700,000 likes as of print time. Opposed to critical responses to his bit from journalists on X, two of the most popular comments read, “Real journalism is back” and “you got america ferrera oh 😭😭.”

With over 650,000 TikTok followers and counting, Daniels cultivated his social media following from singing at (not even with, or to) celebrities like Matty Healy and Oscar Isaac. His antagonistic persona is an odd one to bring to the award show circuit. Other TikTokkers-turned-media personalities’ niches lend themselves better to the red carpet. For example, Reece Feldman, better known as @guywithamoviecamera, leveraged his social media knowledge when he was working as a production assistant on the fourth season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel to become studios’ “go-to TikTok consultant,” which involves creating content at film premieres and award shows for the platform. Recently, he co-hosted MTV’s Dune: Part Two red carpet.

YouTube’s impact on the red carpet

You could say YouTubers paved the way for TikTokkers on the red carpet. Liza Koshy hosted the Met Gala red carpet in 2018 and 2019, and Emma Chamberlain has been Vogue‘s special correspondent since 2021. During YouTube’s heyday, multi-hyphenate creators like Tyler Oakley and Zoella would make appearances as interviewers in press junkets.

But social media and online habits have changed in the years since. Instagram and TikTok has caused us to prioritize short-form video content, and it’s no secret that young people consume their news online. They’re moving away from traditional media outlets and toward internet personalities. Reuters found that audiences across platforms want to consume the content of personalities over mainstream news outlets, and a study from Pew found that 43 percent of TikTok users regularly get their news on the platform. 

These influencers understand virality and what kind of content best engages with young audiences on social media. Studios see the power of digital trends to drive ticket sales — just look at Barbenheimer — and employ influencers to harness that power. But influencers serve a different purpose than journalists and shouldn’t replace media in these spaces. 

Studios paying social media personalities like Daniels to do TikTok bits on the red carpet legitimizes behavior that would be deemed unprofessional for journalists and puts traditional media in competition with attention-grabbing theatrics for short-form, viral videos. 

TikTok’s influence on entertainment journalism

While memes are a longstanding part of internet culture, and entertainment journalists have been utilizing the existing memes surrounding stars and movies to garner engagement — often to mixed results (see: this awkward junket interview with Madame Web‘s Dakota Johnson) — changes in entertainment news consumption make meme culture all the more powerful. For many casual consumers, entertainment news now exists in bite-sized videos on TikTok or one-line summaries posted by aggregators like Film Updates and Pop Crave on X. However, much of this content, like Daniels’ video, isn’t newsworthy, and aggregators often conflate these viral clips with headlines about upcoming releases and serious issues like abuse allegations

The problem doesn’t just lie with the quality of content or where audiences are receiving it. It’s also about the method by which audiences are consuming it. As influencers, they are paid by studios, while journalists work independently. Red carpets and press junkets might not be sites of hard-hitting news, but reporters losing any access to powerful people should always ring alarm bells about our ability to hold those in power accountable. 

Daniels’ video also struck a nerve at a vulnerable time for media. There’s been an overwhelming number of layoffs impacting newsrooms in recent months, including at publications that cover the entertainment industry like the Los Angeles Times, Buzzfeed, and Vice.

Amelia Dimoldenberg, known for her Chicken Shop Date series on YouTube, is Oscar night’s official social media ambassador, and two FilmTok creators will host TikTok’s red carpet livestream. The influencer-to-media-personality machine is by no means slowing down, highlighting a shift in how entertainment journalism is consumed and the challenges traditional media faces in this new landscape. But surely we can all do better than “gay son or thot daughter?”