The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Celebrities and NFTs Are a Match Made in Hell

By Amanda Mull

04 Feb 2022 · 6 min read

In football, when a quarterback “breaks contain,” he evades the oncoming pass rush, escaping into the open field. To break contain is to generate chaos; it can extend the life of an otherwise dead play, forcing the defense to scramble. It’s a concept I also find useful in thinking about trends: Almost all big trends are conceived in a subculture—gamers, rap fans, teen TikTokers, whoever—but most of the things that get popular within those groups never make it through the barrier to the outside world. But when a trend does manage to break contain, it becomes everyone’s problem.

As I watched the now-viral Tonight Show clip of Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon uninterestedly cooing about their newly acquired Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, it occurred to me that I had probably just watched NFTs break contain. “It reminded me of me a little bit, because I wear striped shirts,” Fallon said, meekly justifying the computer-generated doodle of an anthropomorphized monkey for which he paid about $216,000. “They look like they could be friends,” Hilton replied, as Fallon held their two monkey cartoons next to each other. Of course this is how it happens, I thought to myself. NFTs have been an obsession in some of the more tiresome corners of the internet for the past year, and an extended conversation between two massively famous people on national television is exactly how that kind of thing leaps into the larger culture. It’s the reason a retired relative texts you to ask if they need to know about NFTs.

Sign in to informed

  • Curated articles from premium publishers, ad-free
  • Concise Daily Briefs with quick-read summaries
  • Read, listen, save for later, or enjoy offline
  • Enjoy personalized content