Some unwitting meme celebrities embrace their fame. Earlier this year the Washington Post profiled Kyle Craven, more popularly known as “Bad Luck Brian,” a meme about a boy with hilariously and often very dark bad luck. Craven, who was always a class clown, capitalized on his fame. The Post reports that between licensing deals and T-shirts, he’s made between $15,000 and $20,000 in the last three years.
Others have tried to use their Internet fame as a catapult for an entertainment career. Laina Morris’ picture is easily recognizable — the bulging, crazy-looking eyes and loopy smile made her best known as the Overly Attached Girlfriend who makes ridiculous demands and accusations. Morris has tried to create a comedic career out of her online celebrity. She has a YouTube channel where she posts skits, and a Twitter account.
But for others, it’s a nightmare. Perhaps one of the most notable cases is Ghyslain Raza, “Star Wars Kid,” who in 2003 became one of the first viral memes. This was before YouTube launched, and Raza did not even post the video. He simply taped himself doing Star Wars-style fighting, for a school video club. His classmates secretly posted the video online, and it spread like wildfire. By the end of 2006, it had been clicked on over 900 million times. It has over 27 million views on YouTube, and was parodied on Family Guy, The Colbert Report and South Park.
For Raza, it was a teenage nightmare. He was bullied incessantly, to the point that he became depressed and dropped out of school to go to a children’s psychiatric ward. Raza’s family initiated a lawsuit against the families of the four students who posted the video online. The family eventually dropped one of the cases, and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.