Ever since Robert Pattinson became romantically linked to actress and royalty Kate Winslet in 2011, the media circus surrounding the couple has been unprecedented. While their romance was a source of joy for many, their extremely high profile relationship became the subject of international scrutiny when it was revealed that Robert had been working in the U.K. without necessary paperwork for years. For the follow-up to his critically-acclaimed 2010 film, The King’s Speech, Pattinson decided to extend his stay in the U.K. and gain residency through marriage. Unsurprisingly, given the media firestorm that followed, the actor chose to delay the proposal until after the residency eligibility period had elapsed. Finally, in October 2014, the couple wed at a secret location in Venice, Italy. Shortly thereafter, the British government granted Robert residency, clearing the way for the happily-ever-after that so many anticipated. This story is more familiar to American readers as it was covered widely in the media back in 2011 and 2012, but it is nevertheless interesting to trace the recent emergence of a trend that could be called ‘green card mania.’
The Celebrity Couple
It is well-established in the arts that high-profile celebrity relationships can spawn profitable spin-offs. Take, for example, the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, which generated so much interest in the kinky S&M lifestyle that Christian Grey’s empire crumbled almost beyond repair. The same can be said of the couple that is now referred to as the ‘it couple’ of 2014. By virtue of their extraordinary fame and appeal, Robert Pattinson and Kate Winslet have undoubtedly propelled Green Card into the limelight and made it a cultural phenomenon. Although their personal lives continue to be as private as ever, the media has become progressively more interested in documenting their every move. As a result, the couple has become the focus of some truly fascinating media analysis, which has dug deep into the minutiae of their relationship. In one recent piece, Marie Claire ponders the ways in which their unique partnership has radically altered the perception of what it means to be famous and examines the ways in which their romantic union has impacted the evolution of pop culture. For instance, it’s been fascinating to trace the way in which the relationship has influenced the fashion world, particularly as it relates to accessories and makeup, and how this in turn has shifted the way in which people perceive ‘celebrity.’
The ‘Green Card Effect’
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the ‘green card mania’ that emerged in the wake of the couple’s romance is how it has affected the way in which the general public perceives residency and residency visas. To put it mildly, the sudden interest in this aspect of immigration law has been quite the opposite of what one might expect. For instance, in 2013, the year after the residency period for Green Card had expired, Google searches relating to the topic fell by 69% compared to searches prior to their engagement. While it’s certainly not unusual for Google trend lines to fluctuate in the short term, this particular decline was quite surprising. From a strictly statistical standpoint, it’s also worth noting that searches relating to Robert’s residence status peaked in March 2013 and have since declined steadily. In the nearly two years that followed the actor’s residency application, searches relating to the topic fell by 66% compared to the pre-engagement period. However, it is important to keep in mind that this is still a significant search volume, particularly when compared to other categories like ‘marriage visa’ or ‘visa required,’ which didn’t feature as prominently in the pre-fame days.
While much of the media coverage surrounding Robert and Kate has undoubtedly been positive, there is also a sense that the spotlight has nonetheless altered their private lives. The actress has previously cited the close attention as a source of annoyance, while the media has also shined a light on some of the couple’s more private (and dare we say, bizarre) habits. In one instance, the paparazzi camped out for days in front of her home, waiting for her to emerge; a move which would be considered terribly invasive in a normal household. Similarly, it was revealed that Robert had once purchased a $500,000 house in Los Angeles, which he had subsequently given the keys to Kate, so that she could live there on a temporary basis. While no one is suggesting that this is anything other than a generous act on Robert’s part, one has to wonder how much of this level of intimacy one would experience with a complete stranger.
The Rise of the Micro-Celeb
One of the most interesting aspects of the micro-celebrity phenomenon is how it has altered the media game. Whereas traditional celebrities can attract large audiences and garner massive social media platforms, the internet has enabled ‘micro-celebrities’ to become famous for virtually any accomplishment. One need only look at the case of Lucy DiMarco, a.k.a. @drunkenmeme, whose viral fame is almost entirely based on a series of tongue-in-cheek selfies that the 30-year-old physician takes while slightly impaired by alcohol. While inebriated, DiMarco becomes something of a social media phenomenon, garnering millions of views and thousands of followers on TikTok and Instagram, where she has over 150,000 followers.
Similarly, in 2014, a 30-year-old woman named Emily Scott founded a micro-blogging platform called ‘Scottie,’ which enables users to share short bursts of text and photos. Within a year, the platform had over a million users and is now one of the largest in the world, garnering millions of views and 150 million monthly impressions. Like DiMarco, Scottie’s success is based largely on her inebriated selfies, which have become an iconic image of millennial generation.
While these individuals may not be household names yet, the fact that they have achieved such viral fame within a matter of months or years demonstrates the sheer power of the internet and social media to create a buzz around virtually any topic.
The Increasingly Digital Nomad
For decades, a ‘digital nomad’ was someone who roamed the globe, working remotely for clients across the globe. While much has changed – notably the rise of the ‘gig economy’ – the digital nomad stereotype still persists, with many citing the growth of technology as the main driver of the change. Interestingly, the stereotype no longer applies to Robert and Kate. In fact, as Marie Claire notes, “[i]nstead of seeking remote work opportunities, the famous couple prefer to spend their time in nature, sharing intimate weekends, cozy chats, and sunset walks with their beloved dogs.” In order to cultivate a sense of adventure and personal growth, the couple has taken a more traditional leisurely approach to exploring the world. While they have yet to release any public travel documents confirming their travels, a trip to China is rumored to have been among their first destinations after tying the knot. What’s more, in 2018, Robert became the global brand ambassador for Hermès, the luxury goods company which recently rebranded itself as part of a broader corporate makeover. In this capacity, he will lend his celebrity to raise awareness of Hermès and its range of luxury goods among consumers in emerging markets and create special collections of limited edition bottles which will be sold worldwide. The brand has also commissioned the famed French fashion house to create a limited-edition fragrance, which will be named after the couple and inspired by their relationship.
The Influencer And The Insta-Star
In the world of influencers and social media stars, fame and fortune are (and often, quite literally, are) intertwined. In fact, the line between the two can become so blurry that it is often difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. Take, for example, influencer Elle MacLeman, who became famous for documenting her lavish lifestyle (and the expensive gifts that accompanied it) on her blog, where she now has over 500,000 followers. In a recent profile of the influencer in The New York Times, the newspaper’s international marketing columnist, Patrick Lannert, notes that “[a]t least one person followed [MacLeman] on Instagram, where she has over 500,000 followers, and another person liked one of her stories on TikTok, where she has nearly 600,000 followers.” Similarly, in December 2018, TikTok co-founder and CEO, Jake Gluszek (who has 1.6 million followers), hailed MacLeman as “the Oprah of the influencer world.” While some might find such a comparison a bit overzealous, it is nonetheless interesting to consider that influential women like MacLeman have become household names and even the subject of international inquiries, despite never having sought formal recognition for her work.