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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tricks of the Tube

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK
(Special thanks go to Jane Douglas)

Celebrity and the infamous rickroll (Rick Astley image © Doug Peters/allactiondigital.com/EMPICS Entertainment/PA Photos)

You sure can discover a lot of trees when you clear the woods.

Ever since the largest protector of musical rights in Turkey, MÜ-YAP, started to clear away Tarkan's music videos from YouTube at the behest of the superstar (probably in preparation of an official DVD release some time when the artist sees fit which could mean this side of never), some interesting results have started popping up in the search results.

Most noticeable is that when it comes to the search term "Tarkan", there's a certain type of reversed "rickrolling" going on.

Rickrolling?

The Internet phenomenon "rickrolling" has come to have a contemporary meaning with the unexpected resurgence of a 21-year-old pop song "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley. For the uninitiated, rickrolling is an online practical joke, a prank for those with a web-based humour, and probably for those stars used as a lure, an indicator of how much celebrity collateral their name holds.

It began simply as the posting of a link to a video of Astley singing his 1987 pop hit. This link would be disguised as something much more newsworthy, salacious or otherwise enticing to the intended victim: a preview of a highly anticipated video game, for instance, or a clip of a celebrity in a compromising situation.

Ece Filiz, Paris Hilton's Turkish look-a-likeThe web user would click on the misleading link but rather than being taken to, say, Paris Hilton in Turkey at a beauty pageant or even her carbon copy (Ece Filiz, the official Turkish look-a-like Paris pictured here), he or she would instead reach Astley's video. And that, in a nutshell, is a rickroll. In its simplest form, it merely means tricking someone into watching a ridiculously camp music video.

The term rickrolling comes from the name of an earlier web phenomenon: duckrolling. In duckrolling, a trickster would post a supposedly relevant link to a web forum. The link would lead innocent clickers through to a picture of a duck on wheels - that is, a rolling duck.

Rickrolling Reversed: Trickrolling

In a reversal of the method in relation to Tarkan, when one does a search for Tarkan at YouTube instead of many newsworthy tags all falsely leading to one obscure 80s Astley hit, one newsworthy tag ("Tarkan") falsely leads to a variety of obscure videos trying to get exposure off the name.

The crop of results yielded show that there is an high volume of videos that tag "Tarkan", but have nothing to do with the artist or his works. With most of Tarkan's music videos removed - even with users constantly re-uploading them - more of these unrelated trickrolling videos are being noticed.

For this type of "trickroll", some fans may find it a frustrating, bizarre nuisance, rather than funny. They click on the video in the expectation of watching a Tarkan-related video, only to find something completely unrelated.

It is one side-effect of celebrity. But it's also an indication of just how much faith is put into the pulling-power of Tarkan's name, with promotions of anything Turkish (even non-Turkish, but remotely connected) by Turkish users being tagged with "Tarkan" as a sure fire way of getting seen.

Internationally acclaimed film-maker Kutluğ Ataman in an interview with Sabah put his finger right on the pulse: Tarkan is in the Turkish public's consciousness.

Tarkan is Turkish for Celebrity

No matter what the critics may say, or which stations have tried to boycott the artist, Tarkan is a fact of celebrity life in Turkey: more importantly he is perceived by people to personify domestic fame.

As with all symbols of success, like Turkish football team Fenerbahce's beating of teams the calibre of Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven, Sevilla and Chelsea at their home stadium this season, outside interest about Turkey is generated more strongly from the inside.

But Tarkan's longevity isn't limited to a Championship run, which could end in disaster tomorrow: the artist has been constantly generating outside interest in himself and his home nation for over a decade now.

When there are Turkish culture days abroad, hosting dignitaries use Tarkan as a way of connection, by preparing their own rendition of Tarkan's songs as a welcoming gesture (the most recent in Ukraine, where the Ukrainian envoy sang a track from Tarkan); and even though Tarkan has never charted in the UK music lists himself (except via Holly Valance), enough interest has been generated to set up a Tarkan Idol competition, with rumours the winner will meet the artist on stage at Wembley. It's even more incredible when coupled with the fact that Tarkan last played in the UK over seven years ago.

Moreover, with the artist's previously scheduled live appearance at MTV's studios in Turkey clouded by uncertainty, it is almost certain that had Tarkan shown up at Turkish subsidiary of the US music station, it would have been watched across Turkey's borders, too.

Yet, whether through tricks of the 'Tube or not, for a generation of people Tarkan has been the way in to Turkey, and arguably will continue to be for some time to come.

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
Read more Mark Mayhey articles on Tarkan >>

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