I figured out what to do with all the TikTok heartthrobs
Here's how we keep the golden retriever boys of the internet booked and busy without forcing them into the music industry.
Noah Beck (the 20-year-old former Sway House boy, current Dixie D’Amelio himbo boyfriend, and former college athlete) has 32.8 million followers on TikTok and exactly one magazine cover. That puts him ahead of most professional hot people his age in terms of clout, but not money.
He’s really, really good at what he does, which is dancing in accordance with trends and being charming for 10-to-60-second intervals. Unlike many of his peers (like Dave-Portnoy-collaborator-slash-teen-entrepreneur Josh Richards and once-boxer-now-YouTuber Bryce Hall), he doesn’t really have a clear career trajectory. I mean, he has a podcast with Larray and a webseries with AwesomenessTV (in which he “tries things”), but that’s not really diversifying your portfolio while you still have the attention of millions of fans. c̵̩̄r̵̛͚e̸̞͠ā̷̻ṫ̸̖o̷͕̅r̸̺̍ ̶͚̈é̵̱c̶̡̚ö̷̡́n̶̬̂o̵̡͌m̸̙̀y̸̭͌ problems!
Beck is not trying to become a cultural commentator or a brand mogul or a singer (though here’s my story on why so many TikTokers pivot to music). He’s not an aspiring microphone holder like Addison Rae, a truly talented vocalist like Bella Poarch, or a literal teenager like Charli D’Amelio.
So what to do with TikTok’s golden retriever boys, with their swaths of adoring fans, organically famous through charm? I think we may have a solution.
Credit: Wattpad Books
Beck just signed on to star in AND produce a “football romance movie” from Wattpad Webtoon Studios (!!!) called The QB Bad Boy and Me (!!!). That’s right, the noted non-actor is all-in on the lead role in what is essentially a fanfiction movie. Get a load of the official movie description, per Deadline:
It centers on Dallas Bryan, a high school cheerleader impassioned by the art of dance who hopes to use it as a means of escaping her sleepy small town. Bryan has her sights on a coveted dance scholarship at CalArts, and nothing—or no one—is going to stand in her way. That is… until the star high school quarterback, Drayton Lahey (Beck), crashes into her life.
Drayton Lahey. Drayton Lahey. Drayton Lahey! !!!! That’s his name!! I keep saying it into my head an otherwordly force seizes control of my fingers and I fall back into oblivion. When I emerge, a fully-written newsletter has appeared on my computer.
Let’s unpack. First of all, Wattpad is brilliant to use its mostly-free platform as a way to discover new writers and let its readers self-assess what ideas are actually appealing to wider audiences. Those “wider audiences” are probably mostly young people who won’t be buying movie tickets, but I would bet all the money I make from my free newsletter that this bad boy is going straight to streaming.
I’m also happy to see passionate writers getting paid for their work! Not long ago, I wrote a very PG piece on how satisfying it is for young people to be able to let their creative minds run wild on platforms like Wattpad and AO3. It’s good for representation and for developing agency, and it could be good for THEIR end of the c̵̩̄r̵̛͚e̸̞͠ā̷̻ṫ̸̖o̷͕̅r̸̺̍ ̶͚̈é̵̱c̶̡̚ö̷̡́n̶̬̂o̵̡͌m̸̙̀y̸̭͌, too.
It’s not, like, a couple of people writing and reading stuff, either. Obviously, TikTok is a huge platform. But this story Beck is making a movie about? It has 30 million reads. READS! Reading is a lot more involved than watching a little dancey video. Apparently, there’s a printed version of The QB Bad Boy and Me, too, that’s one of its top-selling books.
You probably know about After, the Harry Styles-based fanfiction-turned-movie-series that’s cringe-inducing at every turn. But did you know there are three movies in the series out now, with three more in the works???? That movie didn’t even have Harry Styles in it. Imagine if the hunky TikTok bro that teens see all day signed on to lend his literal face to the protagonist AND to work behind the scenes to make it happen.
What I’m not saying is that it’s OK to churn out garbage and let teen girls feast upon it because they don’t have taste. First of all, it is their right to enjoy garbage if they want. But these teen girls are not just consuming. They are going to be enjoying, hating, eviscerating, sharing, analyzing, and so on. Even if it’s bad (and it will be), if it doesn’t take itself too seriously (which was the downfall of Addison Rae’s starring role in He’s All That), I think it’ll work.
Credit: YouTube/TikTok Lobby
Also, don’t think this particular work of Wattpad fiction was written about Noah Beck himself, but young people certainly have him (and — oh my gosh — those POV TikTokers) in mind as handsome guy archetypes in their minds as they’re reading, just like how you might cast the movie stars of your time in your head when reading the newest literary fiction. That’s what they’re exposed to on a regular basis. They’re already making art about him — from fan cams to collages that can be printed on bedspreads via Redbubble.
If you’re worried about the parasocial relationships between young people and their TikTok idols getting out of hand if they cross platforms to longform entertainment, I have some bad news for you about what comment section interactions on social media do to their brains. I think they will be just fine, so long as this movie gets produced before Noah Beck and playing a high school quarterback in his late twenties. Please. This isn’t Riverdale. That’s a show for camp-loving adults.
Credit: The CW
If your concern is that studios are investing in bad art instead of things that are genuinely good and interesting, I ask you to take that out on Morbius, not sweet Noah Beck and his army of fanfiction writers. Wattpad Studios is probably not ever going to create the next Worst Person in the World any time soon. We need the equivalent of Lifetime/Hallmark movies for young people and those of us with middling taste, for which half the fun is laughing at its absurdities and the other half is quietly thinking it’s pretty cute. We need to keep these creators who are charming but relatively untalented employed and out of the music industry. You can choose not to watch a movie, but you can never escape a bad TikTok sound trend.
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