The Fame of Ian Connor
“Yo I’ll be there in five, we’re going to meet Ian Connor.” I’d been waiting all day for the night’s plans, and here they were, but first they need some introduction. The self-proclaimed “King of the Youth,” Ian Connor can easily be seen as what is wrong with this generation. A celebrity whose fame has unknown origins, yet undeniable notoriety. His selfies from airport bathrooms receive tens of thousands of likes on Instagram, and his tweets—grammatical nightmares—circulate the internet like computer viruses.
Next thing I knew, I stood uncomfortably close to a wide array of characters in a small “boutique,” music blasting at an outrageous decibel. Elementary-aged boys ran between legs, always finding their ways back to their mothers. Simultaneously, stoned teens and twenty-somethings bobbed to the music, relaxed enough to never be caught with too much purpose. A middle-aged woman lingered awkwardly, starkly overdressed in a short blue cocktail dress, and there was even an Asian man, a father, sporting cropped leggings. Somehow the mysterious Ian Connor brought together this unlikely crowd of people, all waiting to get a glimpse of him. An hour passed, then another. He was two and a half hours late already, and each fifteen minute warning seemed less and less convincing.
Eventually a black Cadillac coupe, tinted windows and all, pulled up to the storefront, stopping traffic on the busy four-lane road. A small African American man with dyed blonde dreadlocks hopped out the passenger side, avoiding eye contact with the excited crowd he created. He wore mirrored aviators, baggy camo pants, and a maroon bomber jacket with a Playboy bunny staring aimlessly on its backside. Connor beelined for a bench seat he deemed suitable and whipped out two identical iPhones to occupy his time. His minions mingled, hyping up the tired group, but he refused to partake, isolating himself in the corner. Gung-ho kids took selfies with him, invoking no reaction from Connor. Others simply took pictures of him while his face remained buried in his iPhones.
Eventually he mustered the courage—or the decency—to talk to the hundred or so people who took the time out of their Saturday night to make his acquaintance. I, too, found the audacity to spark up a conversation with this enigmatic internet celebrity, bullshitting my way through a discussion about his first collaboration, a line with the up-and-coming designer Wil Fry, which happened to feature repeated images of Ian smiling menacingly, grills sparkling. When the conversation turned to the famed New York City streetwear retailer VFiles, a store whose backing was crucial to Ian’s rise to fame, he strangely remarked, “Fuck VFiles, I’m gonna burn that place down sometime around New Years.”
Who knew what that was supposed to mean? I’d had enough. Fed up and disenchanted, I let the other green youth occupy this man’s time. Why were I and all these people around me choosing to validate this person? What warranted Ian Connor’s fame rather than any other flashy, selfie-posting kid on Instagram? We vote on truth. For whatever reason “We” decided something about this man—his style maybe, his personality—made him superior to us mortals. Whatever “it” is, it certainly isn’t permanent; it’s nothing more than arbitrary.
But what, then, is “factual?” What are the truths that don’t require a vote to be deemed legitimate, that are unanimous and constant?
First, the most famous, the mind. According to Descartes in his Meditations, the only undeniably real thing is the mind. We can’t imagine being without a mind, a world where we cannot think. Whether we like it or not, we constantly think, and our brains can’t simply be turned off.
Beyond that, it gets harder. Without the truism “I think, therefore I am,” I’m left to do a lot more thinking on my own. Following Descartes’ logic in Meditations, no physical “bodies” can be taken as true and real because their state can always be altered. In his famous example, he deduces that wax can’t be taken as “real” because its form can change at any time. It may at some point be spread and melted across a wide area or it may be in perfect cylindrical form.
But thoughts can’t be the only irrefutable truth. Following Descartes’ train of thought, emotions cannot be disproven either. Descartes makes no differentiation between the mind and the soul, using the terms interchangeably. Emotions, whether you believe they originate in the mind or a more spiritual “soul,” are constant. Even a lack of emotion, apathy, is still an emotional state. One could argue that because emotions constantly change, they fit into the category of physical bodies and are not definite; moreover, thoughts too are in constant motion. But to what extent can emotions be irrefutable? Like Descartes’ “cogito” (mind/soul), emotions can only be confirmed in the first-person. I know that I feel emotions; I know that I think. I do not know that the person next to me experiences things the same way I do. A second caveat is the tense of the feeling. I know that in this moment I am feeling, but for all I know the emotions I remember in the past were not real. Maybe these were dreams or false memories. Emotions, like the cogito, are not disproved by “dreaming doubt.” Emotions, dreamed or felt in a “real” state, have the same effect on the self. Sadness is felt the same and has the same effects, and the same goes for happiness, etc. Additionally, emotions cannot be disproven by the same method Descartes uses to refute the definite existence of bodies. Emotions fall into the same category as the cogito, non-physical ideas, or objects.
But if emotions are one of two things we can prove as real, does this validate Ian’s fame? Emotions are the only thing to bring him notoriety, whether it be jealousy, interest, or infatuation. Yes, no intrinsic part of him is deserving of our praise, but it’s what he conjures from others that is noteworthy. For someone to create a following of a half million should not be taken lightly. And this applies to any of the celebrities we Americans love to criticize for being meaningless. Sure, the Kardashians may not be morally superior people, but they inspire emotions–hate, love, or otherwise–making them far from useless.
So as I stand here watching this eclectic group of people ogle a shy, black stranger, I can’t help but realize his power.