By Valia Nikolaidou,
The influence that social media have on our everyday lives and how we perceive the world has been a recurring topic of conversation as well as the subject of studies trying to understand why we are so enamored by them. The idea of being famous online and becoming an “influencer” is extremely prevalent and sought out, especially by younger people who sometimes go to extremes to achieve a high following and “clout” (i.e. reputation and influence). The movie Not Okay (2022) is a pretty good commentary on this phenomenon. Released in 2022 through the popular streaming service Hulu, it is a satirical black comedy directed by Quinn Shephard and starring Zoey Deutch as Danni Sanders.
Danni is an awkward and lonesome young woman who aspires to be a successful writer but is working as a photo editor for an online magazine. When given the opportunity to impress her famous influencer co-worker, she lies about going on a writers’ retreat to Paris and decides on documenting her entire trip. Whilst faking the “luxurious” trip from the comfort of her own home through the clever use of Photoshop, a setback comes to ruin her perfect plan; there has been a huge bombing attack across the major Parisian historical monuments and the whole world is shocked. Danni decides to keep up the story of her as a traumatized tourist who stumbled upon this terrible event and goes on to become a social media advocate for mental health.
Through a support group for people dealing with traumatic events, she meets Rowan, a teenage anti-gun activist who was involved in a school shooting. She tries to help Danni through her supposed dealing with her trauma and ends up promoting her social media presence. However, trapped in a web of lies, the truth is eventually revealed through the investigations of a suspicious coworker and she faces a huge wave of backlash from people all over the internet. The end of the movie finds her even lonelier than before, fired from her job and “canceled” by the public with a few death threats coming to her door.
From the very first snapshot of the movie there is a humorous warning about “flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist”; thus, ensuring to the audience that Danni’s actions are in no way presented as quirky, funny, or cute. The influencer culture and the many faux activists, who are especially involved with mental health issues, are the primary themes of the plot line. Danni’s behavior was never justified even if the driving force for her lies was presented to be about her fitting in and finding friends; instead, it was clear that she was just pretentious and glorified influencer culture to a dangerous extent, which led to the complete degradation of her life.
Moreover, the delicate subject of mental health was also at the forefront of the story. Lying about an experience that is extremely traumatizing to actual victims of such attacks, for popularity and a strong social media presence is unethical and cannot be excused. Especially the fact that the protagonist took advantage of her friend’s social status to jumpstart her career as an influencer speaks volumes about her character. Rowan’s already fragile mental state was shattered when the realization of a huge lie was revealed; it made the whole purpose of their mental health campaign useless and her own – very much real — experience, seem fake in the eyes of the general public.
All in all, this movie’s cast and smart plot make it both enjoyable as well as thought-provoking, making the viewers wonder how far a person would go just to gain validation from the virtual world. It is also reflective of many well-known influencers that have interested the Internet and the tabloids with various scandals… Definitely a must-watch!
- Not Okay Movie Review. rogerebert.com. Available here
- Not Okay Review: a just okay satire for the influencer age. guardian.com. Available here