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Bad Influencer

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The grownup sibling of the Phoneaholic Teenager, the influencer is often the prime example of why Social Media Is Bad and/or New Media Are Evil. Expect them to be image-obsessed, deceitful, manipulative of their audience and those around them, to be shilling bad (if not actually illegal) products, to live under Social Media Before Reason, and to be prejudiced, self-absorbed, and bitchy. Expect them to get a lot of coverage on the Shallow News Site Satire.

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At best, they'll be portrayed as shallow, dim, and spoiled, although it's possible for the much milder examples to come closer to being a Lovable Alpha Bitch or a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who is simply not living up to the values that they preach online. At worst, they'll be a pure Villain with Good Publicity who uses their reputation to commit crimes, up to and including rape and murder. However bad they are, they'll definitely be a Shameless Self-Promoter, an Attention Whore, and a Stepford Smiler. They will usually wield Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube! as a weapon, but it's also common for this to be how they get exposed for what they are.

This is primarily a trope that emerged in The New '10s and The New '20s, at which point the online influencer became so mainstream that they — and legions of wannabes — were impossible to ignore. Specific details of individual behavior depend on whichever platform is the most popular and monetised at the time. Whether on a Character Blog, Friending Network, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or some form of Fictional Social Network that was definitely not created as part of Writing Around Trademarks, these basic features will apply, even if the specific details differ. Regardless of medium, it's not unusual to see a YouTuber Apology Parody when the influencer feels they've been caught out.

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Not to be confused with Anti-Role Model. See also Nice Character, Mean Actor, for an older version of this trope. Although theoretically a different occupation, these tropes have a lot of overlap. Rich Bitch will also frequently go along with this trope if they're particularly successful.

While this is Truth in Television to a degree (some influencers have been caught out or accused of committing crimes), no real-life examples, please!


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Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Screwball is a recurring Spider-Man supervillain who causes petty crimes — primarily robbery and vandalism — so that she can livestream them and collect followers for her blog.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Contagion: Alan Krumwiede is a blogger that claims to be an Intrepid Reporter. In truth, he's a Conspiracy Theorist that disrupts the doctors trying to do their jobs, slows down their progress, and peddles the bunk "cure" of Forsythia to make money, which causes potentially hundreds (if not thousands) of additional deaths.
  • The Duff: The Alpha Bitch Madison (who is not in the book) is a vlogger who forces Beta Bitch Caitlin to film her at times.
  • The Spanish horror film Framed is about a group of sadists led by a PewDiePie lookalike who break into a home, stalk and torture the occupants, and film it on the titular livestreaming app. By the end, crowds of fans have materialized outside the house.
  • Invoked in Hater:
    • Tomasz shows off what he can do at the troll farm by picking on a random influencer and ruining her life, falsely calling her out for having shoddy products and creating such a firestorm around her that she has a breakdown.
    • Tomasz himself may qualify. He is shown using the Internet to convince Alex he has been picked out for a "special mission" and to ultimately commit mass murder.
  • Ingrid Goes West: Taylor is an Instagram celebrity who is superficial, shallow, rude to anyone who can't help her, and ditches Ingrid in a heartbeat when she gets a better offer. However, as she correctly points out, Ingrid is no better if not worse, as a dog-napping obsessive stalker. Then again, the ending implies that Ingrid herself now has at least some online fame, following her suicide attempt, where she is much more dangerous and risk-taking than Taylor.
  • Old: Chrystal is an online influencer married to a much older doctor, possibly just for his money, and doesn't seem to have a good word to say about anybody. However, downplayed, in that while she isn't of any use, she is shown to care genuinely for her daughter Kara and she really wasn't just being an annoying Granola Girl about her calcium deficiency.
  • The killers in Scream 4 aspire to be this, staging and filming the Ghostface murders as part of a plot to achieve online Fame Through Infamy by posing as the Sole Survivors who stopped the killing spree. The Motive Rant sees them telling the Final Girl "I don't need friends, I need fans."
    Ghostface: See, with you, the world just heard about what happened, but with us, they're gonna see it. It's gonna be a worldwide sensation. I mean, people gotta see this shit, it's not like anyone reads anymore. We're gonna know fame like you never even dreamed of.
  • Downplayed in Searching: Margot's False Friend Abigail directly tells Margot's frantic father David that they were not friends and she only invited Margot to her study session to help her get into Berkley, including uploading a video of her ignoring Margot who is sad in the corner. When it's revealed that Margot is missing, Abigail makes a video dramatically declaring that Margot is her best friend, earning thousands of views.
  • Parodied in Spree:
    • Kurt wants to be a viral influencer, but he ultimately isn't very good at it. Although people do tune in once they find out he's actually killing people, so he turns out to have a point. He even says that he would rape Jessie, not because he wants to, but if more people would watch it. In the end, The Lesson catches on in extreme far-right circles, suggesting that Kurt becomes this trope personified posthumously.
    • uNo is a Korean influencer who is shown to be extremely rude, ignores everyone to go on her phone, and refuses to talk to Kurt unless she's ordering him around.
    • Bobby is a jerkass who sets fire to money in front of homeless people, eggs Kurt on in private but ignores him in public, and encourages him to continue with the Lesson. Although he doesn't deserve to be murdered and it's implied he didn't think Kurt would go through with it.
  • Teddy and Claire, the travel vloggers who serve as the protagonists of Superhost, are every bad stereotype of YouTubers one could imagine. Their sensationalism and Manipulative Editing come back to bite them multiple times: Teddy's marriage proposal to Claire is ruined because she thinks it's a Ratings Stunt, the owner of a rental they gave a scathing review tracks them down in order to give them a piece of her mind for ruining her business, and more importantly, they see ratings gold in Rebecca, the owner of the rental they're currently staying at and reviewing, not realizing until it's too late that her quirkiness is actually a sign of a seriously disturbed person. When Claire desperately uploads a final vlog warning that Rebecca is trying to kill her, nobody believes it because their channel has such a bad reputation for clickbait.
  • The Villain Protagonists of Tragedy Girls, Sadie and McKayla, are two teenage girls who run the titular True Crime blog that barely anyone reads, so they start killing people to drive traffic to their website by posing as the "authoritative source" about the Serial Killer stalking their town. McKayla's ex-boyfriend Toby, their first victim, is a less villainous example, a douchey and vapid influencer who refers to himself in the third person.

    Literature 
  • The Circle: Mae becomes the spokesperson for the Circle through perpetually live-streaming herself. Although she theoretically doesn't do anything illegal, she alienates herself from her parents, who run away to escape her, and uses her celebrity to petty revenge on Mercer that leads to him getting killed, allows Completion to occur by betraying Ty, causes her "best friend" Annie to have a breakdown and presumably attempt suicide, and plays a central role in normalizing the Circle's privacy-free misery.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Hotel: Subverted. Sally is a Serial Killer who keeps sewing people into her mattress so that they can never leave her. At the end of the season, she manages to overcome her desperation for love and validation by becoming an online makeup guru.
  • Black Mirror: In "Nosedive", "high 4" Naomi is an Alpha Bitch all grown up. She bullied Lacie and slept with Lacie's boyfriend Greg despite claiming to be her friend. In the present, she smiles as she watches Lacie mentally and emotionally collapse in front of her at her wedding, clearly enjoying the sympathy and notoriety she's about to get.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Gina is an online celebrity who leaves the Nine Nine in order to be a professional influencer. By her own admission, she's also a compulsive liar and prankster who was name-checked in her teacher's suicide note. Her online fame does have good results, though, like saving the Nine Nine in Season 4.
  • Girls5eva:
    • In the first episode, the women (former members of a invokedOne-Hit Wonder Girl Group) consider fellow member Wickie to be well above their league, since she's become something of a "girlboss" influencer with thousands of Instagram followers, various celebrity interactions, and an up-and-coming handbag business. However, it is shortly revealed that she's a Mock Millionaire with a Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job who was faking her online success. After the group reunites she's the most success-focused since she wants to return to the life of luxury she used to lead in the past and was pretending to lead in the present.
    • Wickie herself enters into a relationship with a devoted younger man... who promptly reveals himself to be two different guys with followings on TikTok. They continuously switched out as part of an online prank, and Wickie didn't notice because of her narcissism.
    • Ditzy, rich, and shallow Summer, while a celebrity endorser in her own right, has a daughter whose attitudes towards social media are intended to creep the audience out. She is introduced filming an 'unboxing' video and reacts negatively and woodenly when Dawn gives her a gift, since any endorsement must be done through the proper channels. Oh, and she's a preteen.
  • High Fidelity: The Setting Update of the Hulu series makes Rob's third ex, the mercurial, glamorous Charlie, a professional influencer. Rob goes as Charlie's plus-one to an event and is struck by how fake it all feels. Even the glamorous apartment turns out to have been rented by the company for the event.
  • Nine Perfect Strangers: Subverted by Jessica. She's an Instagram model and people are generally dismissive of her because of this, imagining that she is an unlikeable person. However, she's actually pretty sweet and just very insecure — but she quits social media almost immediately (and continues to quit it after leaving Tranquillium because she and her husband Ben buy Traquilium) which may reinforce its incompatibility.
  • Evil (2019): Malindaz in the episode "7 Swans a Singin" makes a deal with Leland to increase her follower count and includes a Brown Note in one of her videos that causes self-harm among people who watch it.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • Played with in "Star Struck Victims". Vlogger Kristi is portrayed as self-obsessed, not too bright, and deceitful. However, despite her lies and dramatics, the Unit figures out that she was telling the truth about being raped by a celebrity and his friend.
    • Played straight in "Fast Times at the Wheel House". Two brother influencers bribed a girl by claiming they would let her join their TikTok house, then raped her. Then they cornered her and forced her, under extreme doxxing and harassment by their fans, to say on a livestream that she'd made it up. (She hadn't.)
  • Modern Family: Subverted. At one point, Haley becomes a social media influencer and is hired to promote nightclubs. Phil disapproves of this and tries to steer her towards a more practical career. However, she demonstrates her skill as an influencer to her dad by using social media to sell a house he was having trouble getting people to buy.
  • S.W.A.T. (2017): In one episode, Jessica took her niece to a party hosted by an influencer who established herself as this trope when she made her party guests wait for her by pretending to have just left the airport, she was actually in L.A. the whole time. She showed very little concern for the girl that died at her party. It's then deconstructed when the influencer reveals that she has been playing her online persona since she was a teenager, and her audience won't let her grow up.
  • In The Twilight Zone episode "The Wunderkind", Oliver Foley, the titular character, is an eleven-year-old YouTube star and influencer. A desperate campaign manager decides to back Oliver for President and successfully gets him elected through Loophole Abuse. Unfortunately, Oliver quickly reveals himself to be an impossibly spoiled brat who creates dangerous new laws that destroy both the country and individual lives, including the campaign manager's, who gets sliced to bits on the operating table after Oliver outlaws "old" doctors and replaces them with apathetic kids who don't know what they're doing.
  • We Are Lady Parts: The beautiful and well-regarded Zarina is mentioned to be a former influencer and present writer for a Shallow News Site Satire, and allegorically skewers both professions. She twists Lady Parts' interview for maximum dramatic impact and online engagement, to their dismay.
  • You:
    • Played with by Annika. She's a plus-size influencer and a genuinely sweet person, but she made some drunken comments about how only black men are attracted to her curvy figure, which Peach leaks in a deliberate attempt to make her look like this trope and causes her to get a lot of online hate.
    • Sherry in Season 3 is a much clearer example. She runs a mommy blog, passive-aggressively shames Love's weight and parenting style to her face, slut-shames Natalie then pretends to be Natalie's best friend, and mocks Forty's death within earshot of Love (his twin sister).

    Music 
  • The video for Nightwish's song "Noise" takes aim at influencers among other negative aspects of social media. Then-bassist Marko Hietala plays a man pushing male enhancement pills, who on the bridge of the song is shown raging at something, and then slumped miserably on a pile of empty pill bottles.

    Video Games 
  • Tyreen and Troy Calypso, the Big Bad Duumvirate of Borderlands 3, are the leaders of an evil Cult that "livescreams" their activities and refers to their followers as "Super Fans". Tyreen in particular combines the mouthy streamer attitude with a goddess complex that makes Handsome Jack's corporate propaganda seem humble.
    Tyreen: Don't forget to like, follow, and obey.
  • Kuro from Girls' Frontline: Project Neural Cloud constantly argues with her own chat, talks shit about pretty much everyone, and openly admits to sockpuppeting. It's actually subverted and invoked in her case: Kuro only became successful after accidentally breaking her Contractual Purity because her fans are tired of seeing clean-cut streamers, and she willingly provides a space where they can express frustrations about the world and their lives.
    • As MDR, she still retains this persona by the time of Girls' Frontline, regularly stirring up fights in Griffin's anonymous message board just because she thought it would be funny.
  • In Lily's Garden, Lily's college roommate Tina has gone on to become a social media influencer. The "Under the Influence" event sees her enlisting Lily and her friends to help fix up her old cabin, with the promise of making them social media personalities. In reality, she just wants the free labor, and is secretly ridiculing them all on social media.
  • Persona 5: Akechi is a celebrity detective with a devoted fan base who also runs a food blog and is well-known at a lot of restaurants as he goes to write about the food. On the surface, he appears to be sociable, kind, and moral, but this is just a meticulously crafted mask he made so someone would finally want him. Underneath, he's a deeply disturbed and violent teenager who's been carrying out hits for Shido, and his real personality is antisocial and rude. Even his food reviews are a lie since he doesn't care about taste and is fine with just eating frozen meals.
  • SIMULACRA 2 revolves around a group of four of these and the deal they made with the Ripple Man to erase all negative comments and increase their fame, which led to one of them dying. On the surface, they seem alright, but as you venture through the game, you see that their online personas are utter lies:
    • Maya, the victim whose death you are investigating, is a vegan vlogger who preaches honesty to her fans but eats meat and cheese while being the one who encouraged her friends to fabricate personas for attention.
    • Arya preaches friendship while being willing to throw her friends under the bus at the slightest opportunity if things go wrong.
    • Mina, the aspiring musician, makes up stories about hardship and loss to milk sympathy from her fans. One example we see is her claiming to have lost her friend in a hit-and-run, which motivated her to pursue her music career, when really she was just a witness who had no personal connection to the victim at all.
    • Rex, the "entrepreneur", is perhaps the worst of the four. He claims to be running a legitimate business that can make people successful and let them play by their own rules. His business is an MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) company — i.e. a pyramid scheme created to scam "employees" out of their money. He's even willing to doxx victims of his fraud for attempting to expose him.
  • Spider-Man (PS4): Screwball is even worse than her comic book incarnation. Instead of relatively harmless pranks, she eggs her followers to commit crimes in order to film them, and in the Silver Lining DLC she escalates to committing domestic terrorism by setting up bombs that she threatens to detonate if Spider-Man refuses to play along with her insane games.

    Webcomics 

    Web Videos 
  • In Smosh video "ADDICTED TO PRANKING (GONE SEXUAL)", Ian becomes addicted to pulling practical jokes and posting them on his YouTube channel. He was inspired by another pranking YouTuber — JoeyPranktubeComedy — who is framed as a narcissistic dick that harasses people (physically and sexually) for views. It's revealed that Anthony is JoeyPranktubeComedy, having pretended to be someone else for a long con on Ian, revealing himself and then abandoning him after Ian's attempts at being a prank YouTuber leaves him homeless.

    Western Animation 
  • Big City Greens: The episode "Bad Influencer" has Itchaboi, an obnoxious online celebrity who talks about "spreading positivity" when all he's doing is flaunting his wealth and asking viewers to buy his merchandise. The usually Spoiled Sweet Remy is swayed by Itchaboi's videos and starts acting just like him, which concerns Cricket. In the end, Remy realizes what a phony Itchaboi is when he's the only one able to afford his very expensive "crewse", which he's not even attending in person. Itchaboi appears again in "Ding Dongers", having lost viewers and is now reduced to begging for attention on the streets.
  • Family Guy: In "HTTPete", the millennial Hammer, hired to improve the brewery's online presence, reacts to an employee accidentally pushing one of his Triggers (being asked a question) by using his social media influence to destroy him online, and get him fired in the real world.
  • The Ghost And Molly Mcgee: Andrea Davenport is a self-described tween "social influencer" who goes to Molly's middle school. She's also a bully and Alpha Bitch who tries to make Molly an outcast on her first day just because she pronounced her name as "ANN-dree-ah" instead of "AHN-dree-ah".
  • Jacob Hopkins from The Owl House episode "Yesterday's Lie" is the Head of the Gravesfield Historical Society and a Conspiracy Theorist who believes that Demons and Witches are real (which is true) and that they are from Mars and have teeth-powered time machines (which is not true). While he claims that he does what he does to save humanity from an incoming invasion, one of the things he wants from revealing this information is to have his "account verified", implying that he mostly just does this for attention.
  • Ronaldo Fryman from Steven Universe is the creator of "Keep Beach City Weird", a blog that he uses to investigate many of the unusual things that happen in Beach City and making (wildly inaccurate) conspiracy theories about them. While at first portrayed as harmless, the show goes on to show that he lives in his own little world and only does the things that he does for attention.
  • Nom Nom the koala from We Bare Bears plays up his cuteness viral videos, making him a multi-billionaire Internet star. He's vain, spoiled, prone to anger, and very possessive of his role as the cutest animal on the Internet.

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