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Does It Matter If Alex From Target Is Real?

alex from targetIt’s been busy in the social media and gender politics sector this month. First, the viral video of a woman walking down the street being catcalled all day. Then, Lena Dunham’s Instagram Planned Parenthood T-shirt campaign. Then, the Funny or Die parody of the woman walking down the street. Comedian Elon James White started a mini-hashtag campaign, too, this weekend: #DudesGreetingDudes had some snarky steam through the better part of this week, which Digiday reports on here. And then, there’s Alex from Target.

But nothing is more complicated or mystifying than #AlexFromTarget. Did you miss this? Alex is a teenage Target employee. A girl snapped a picture of him, and because of his apparent cuteness, it went viral and he gained a bazillion followers within 24 hours and an interview with Ellen Degeneres. So what, right?

Except that it’s been speculated that the whole viral sensation mystery was really a ploy from a marketing company, Breakr. The CEO claims that they utilized “fangirls” to do it. From Buzzfeed:

Leonares said Breakr’s three-person team and their social media network then drummed up support for it in a Google Hangout full of small-time content creators and Twitter users who work with the company. He likened their effect on the hashtag to when One Direction’s millions of followers create trending topics. Leonares refused multiple times to name specific members of Breakr’s Twitter user network. Breakr’s Twitter account has only 1,200 followers but he said they’re strategic influencers.

Does it matter if Alex’s Internet fame was authentic? Not really. Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that the same people who hate objectifying women are OK with spreading the meme of a teenage kid trying to bag groceries? If you take it as a quick case study in how to market your brand before the holidays, you need to get Teen Twitter on board. If you take it as passing around the image of a “cute” teenager? I think we should think about that.

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