Kevin Bacon used to be really insulted by the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” meme

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 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, 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.”

[From Buzzfeed]

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.

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23 Responses to “Kevin Bacon used to be really insulted by the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” meme”

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  1. Noel says:

    I went to Albright College and that is always one of our “fun facts” that we tell tours.

    Best four years of my life.

  2. Cali says:

    Kevin + Ian = my monday morning is complete. going back to bed now.

    • Tatjana says:

      What’s the other meme that connects six degrees of Kevin Bacon with maths?

      As for Ian, I keep reading he’s a douche, but I find him really nice in interviews.

      • Esther says:

        It’s the Erdös-Bacon number. Paul Erdös wrote hundreds and hundreds of papers on mathematics and so has a lot of collaborators, and was genuinely a fascinating character. I think Natalie Portman has a low E-B number.

  3. blue marie says:

    I love Kevin Bacon, always have, he seems like a decent guy.

  4. Patricia says:

    Um… What is excellent about those vines? Like the rest of her generation, she seems to just he posting self-indulgent clips of her own face. Every occasion is an excuse to put a camera in your face and show yourself to the world.
    Her generation’s constant need for attention and validation on the internet makes me sad.

    • elkiddo says:

      C’mon, give her a break, she is so young still. She’ll figure it out in a few years (hopefully!)

      • Patricia says:

        Hmm I think I came off wrong, I actually really like her acting, she’s very talented, and I get that she’s very young. Just the general trend bothers me, I would say the same thing about my own young cousins.
        They are great young people but the self-indulgence and attention-seeking on the internet is just not good for them. It’s not healthy to be so self obsessed and think that the world simply MUST see your face each and every day. And you just know that these young women base their self-esteem on the amount of feedback they get from these posts.
        It’s been bothering me, this whole trend.

  5. gg says:

    He should be a little more hospitable to the idea since it kept him relevant all these decades and I can’t name anything he’s done except music for the past twenty plus years.

    • msw says:

      No offense, but did you read the article? He has very much embraced it. His charity is named after it and he has met the guys who created it.

    • Sunlily says:

      Umm he’s on The Following on Fox right now and he’s killing it. He was in that awful R.I.P.D. movie last year and X-men:First Class the year before that. He’s still getting gigs and his IDMb has shown that he’s had a solid, quiet career, all these years. Hell, he even directed some episodes on his wifes show, The closer.

    • elo says:

      GG, no offence but seriously!? Mystic River, Sleepers, Murder in the First, The Following….plus numerous indie flicks, I could go on but it would be a long list. Kevin Bacon is one if my favorite actors and my friends and I made a drinking game out of Six Degrees, in my twenties. We have done everyone from Angela Lansbury to Bruce Lee lol.

  6. We Are All Made of Stars says:

    Wow, I had no idea that the game was that old and that it wasn’t his product. Props to The Bacon for his comment on how being internet accessible to absolutely everyone that you ever knew **ever** is the most horrifying nightmare of all.

  7. blablabla says:

    Ren McCormick TLAF!

  8. lunchcoma says:

    I’m surprised it hurt his feelings. I was a teen when the game became popular, and no one I knew ever viewed it as mockery, just as an acknowledgment that Bacon had been in an awful lot of movies with lots of different costars.

    • Jackson says:

      Same here – I thought it was kind of a testament to his career, not a mockery. I’m right there in agreement with him, though, on having people from my past contact me. I’m still friends with the people who mattered to me growing up. The others, no thanks.

    • Isadora says:

      I’m thinking of ScarJo’s comment on actors right now… I guess actors really are all that and therefore prone to be hurt by something funny.

  9. raincoaster says:

    I’ve always been inordinately proud that if you define “worked with” loosely enough, I have a Bacon number of 3 and an Erdös number of 2.