In the mid 90s, three college students developed a game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” The objective was to connect Kevin Bacon with just about any other actor based on whom he’d worked with, and who that person worked with, and so on. The game turned into one of the Internet’s first memes and as such it never really went away. Kevin Bacon’s name will forever be associated with that “Six Degrees” game and theory. To me it seemed like a nice tribute to a beloved actor with a prodigious body of work. To Kevin Bacon it was kind of an insult though, because it was out to prove that even the most lowly of actors could be connected to the more famous in six steps or less.
Bacon met the game’s creators early on and realized that their intentions were good and that it wasn’t the send-up he thought it was. He then went on to embrace the Six Degrees concept to launch a charitable networking organization called SixDegrees.org. Bacon talked about his initial misgivings about the game to Buzzfeed. He was promoting his appearance at SXSW last weekend to discuss the game’s 20th anniversary and the evolution of social media:
While movie fans have derived countless hours of joy from the game, that initially wasn’t the case for Bacon. “It was so annoying,” he admitted to BuzzFeed. “I thought it was a joke at my expense. I thought somebody was trying to pick the biggest loser they could find and joke about the fact I could be connected to Laurence Olivier in two steps. When you fight so hard and put your sweat and blood into trying to have your work speak for itself, I found it belittling. I mean, do you want to be the guy with a game named after you or be the one with 18 Oscar nominations?”
But after being introduced to the game’s creators — Craig Fass, Brian Turtle, and Mike Ginelli, who came up with the concept at Albright College in 1994 — on The Jon Stewart Show in 1995, Bacon learned that he was not the butt of some global joke.
“I nearly canceled the appearance because I thought it was going to be embarrassing,” the actor said with a laugh. “But when I met them, I realized they weren’t making fun of me; they actually liked my movies.” Soon thereafter, Bacon embraced the game, operating under the assumption it would, in his own words, “go the way of pogo sticks and pet rocks.” “But it never went away, and now it’s been 20 years,” he said.
While Bacon hasn’t bought into the hypothesis that he’s the world’s most popular actor — “It easily could have been Six Degrees of Kevin Spacey” — over the last two decades, he’s come to accept the role Six Degrees plays in his life and his career.
In 2007, Bacon launched SixDegrees.org, an organization that utilizes six degrees of separation to grow charitable social networks. “If you take me out of it, I find six degrees to be a beautiful concept that we should try to live by,” he said. “It’s about compassion and responsibility for everyone on the planet.”
Bacon’s Twitter has some retweets from people who were thrilled to meet him at SXSW. You can’t catch him on Facebook, though. He tells Buzzfeed that he’s deliberately avoiding using Facebook. “I heard someone describe it as a way for people you grew up with to find you. That’s my worst f*ing nightmare. Who would want that?” Bacon is famous though, everyone can find him. I tend to think that famous people are cut from a different cloth and don’t care about things like that, but there must be more exceptions like Bacon.
Here’s a vine of Bacon at SXSW:
Check out who was on the panel with Bacon. It’s Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones! She’s known for her excellent Vines.