THE INTERNET is my favorite intangible place. It's full of interesting facts, interesting lies, and boring facts that become interesting black holes at 3 am when you have to work early. The internet is also shady as hell, which is part of what makes it fun, but also what makes it conflicting. When, in this content-sharing web-based life that we lead, is repurposing content a compliment or an honor, and when is it... not?
The new documentary Presenting Princess Shaw broaches this topic—kind of. Its subject, Princess Shaw (a stage name, sadly) was a caregiver and singer/songwriter who posted regularly to her YouTube channel, playing live shows to barely any people. Her voice was beautiful, but nobody knew who she was. Nobody, that is, except for an Israeli mash-up artist called Kutiman, who finds bits of music online and splices them together into a symphony by unwitting strangers. He found Princess' a capella song "Give It Up" and turned it into an ear-worm that went viral.
A film crew captured Princess's life before, during, and after "Give It Up" went viral, and the "during" is something very special: We watch as she became famous while sitting in a cousin's living room, happy tears streaming down her face, thanks to a stranger on the other side of the world. Princess traveled to Israel to perform live with Kutiman, the elegant stage and adoring crowd literal and metaphorical miles away from the empty rooms she played before. But then she goes back to her life, and the "after" looks just like the "before." Kutiman is still a famous artist/entity/whatever. Princess is still a caregiver with a busted car.
Presenting Princess Shaw is described as "a documentary that will make you feel good about the world, even the internet!" That's a stretch. Princess had a nice 15 minutes, but nothing really changed. Or can we count her experience, however brief and inconsequential, as something good? I'm conflicted. But I still love the internet for giving us a reason to ask the question.