The Rise and Fall of the Jeremy Renner App, Which Was a Real Thing

Online trolls have killed Jeremy Renner Official, a mobile app introduced more than two years ago as a gathering place for fans of — you guessed it — Jeremy Renner.

The app’s existence had become a running joke online in recent weeks after it was hijacked by people who lacked respect for a safe digital space dedicated to the “Avengers” actor. Even its death couldn’t stop the jokes.

It’s a lot to take in. So here’s a brief guide to what happened.

[Need a drink as you read this article? Here’s our Cooking recipe for the Jeremy Renner cocktail.]

Why am I writing this?

Fine. Let’s start at the beginning.

The app — “Jeremy Renner” on Google Play and “Jeremy Renner Official” in the Apple App Store — debuted in March 2017, promising “a deeper look” into the life of Mr. Renner, 48, according to a news release.

“I’m always looking for new ways to connect directly with my fans all over the world in our own shared environment,” Mr. Renner said in the statement, striking a decidedly human tone.

The app promised users access to exclusive photographs, music, contests, livestreams and more. Users could collect and buy stars that determined their place in a global ranking of fans, according to a review of the app by Kate Knibbs of The Ringer. They could also put money in Mr. Renner’s pocket to unlock other features, too.

The app was developed by Escapex, a company that specializes in this sort of thing.

It has developed similar apps for Paris Hilton, the comedian Tommy Chong, the actress and model Amber Rose, and more than 150 other influencers or celebrities around the world, including dozens in Bollywood.

“Each app is like a mini, private Instagram for uberfans, who also use the apps to share their other obsessions, their achievements, and their struggles,” the reporter Katharine Schwab wrote in a Fast Company profile of Escapex this year.

The apps offer people of varying degrees of fame a way to stay connected with, and to profit from, their most obsessive fans, she wrote.

You bet they did.

The app attracted a sizable following within months of its introduction in 2017, though drama followed closely behind, according to The Ringer’s Ms. Knibbs.

“Within the confines of the Jeremy Renner app, it looks like a digital utopia, a cocoon of Renner love and inspirational quotes,” she wrote in October 2017. “But elsewhere on social media, a small but very vocal group of impassioned fans has posted fierce accusations of censorship and contest-rigging.”

Mr. Renner’s business manager, Kristoffer Winters, denied those accusations, telling her that the app’s moderators were simply weeding out “nasty” comments.

“If someone doesn’t like Jeremy, they don’t have to like Jeremy,” Mr. Winters said. “But that doesn’t mean that we have to post their comments in his app.”

The downfall of the app has been widely attributed to Stefan Heck, a comedy writer in Vancouver who took responsibility for having “obliterated” it.

In a piece published by Deadspin on Tuesday, Mr. Heck described his joy in discovering last month that the app’s alerts made it seem as if any user’s replies to a comment had come from Mr. Renner himself.

He joked about it on Twitter and went camping for the weekend. But when he returned, Mr. Heck found an app ruined by his discovery. “Dozens of false Renners had sprouted up, sowing chaos,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, the app was killed, according to an in-app message from Mr. Renner, written in a font that mimics genuine handwriting and shared by several users on Twitter.

“The app has jumped the shark. Literally,” Mr. Renner said figuratively.

After “clever individuals” found ways to manipulate the app, he asked Escapex to shut it down and refund money to anyone who had recently purchased stars, he said.

“What was supposed to be a place for fans to connect with each other has turned into a place that is everything I detest,” he wrote.

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