How The Film “Not Okay” Captures The Dark Side of Influencer Culture and Viral Fame – A Review
by Lauren Sanchez
This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Lauren Sanchez. Find her on Instagram at @lauren.sanchezz. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re like me and have been following the Not Okay movie account on TikTok to watch glimpses of Zoey Deutch be hilarious and Dylan O’Brien look incredibly cute, you’ll know that audiences couldn’t be more excited to finally be able to stream their new movie.
In an age where social media rules over everything and things like follower count and the number of likes we get on a picture creates a certain social status, a movie like Not Okay perfectly captures this obsession over being “Insta-Famous” and dives deep into the toxic culture of influencers.
The movie aims to make fun of tone-deaf and privileged influencers by addressing the harmful effects of performative activism, social media and how people will go to the extremes for any kind of recognition. While you may get a little second-hand embarrassment and cringe from the slang and character traits of some of the stars, it is definitely worth the watch and here’s why.
Quinn Shepherd’s Not Okay opens by giving audiences trigger warnings of flashing lights and themes of trauma, yet one warning, in particular, stands out, “an unlikeable female protagonist.” My first thought was immediate confusion and an “Oh no!” type of reaction, but Shepherd was not kidding when she made that warning. And while you may watch the movie because you like the leading actress Zoey Deutch, you will definitely NOT like the character she plays.
The audience is introduced to Deutch’s character Danni Sanders, a Gen-Z aspiring magazine writer whose obsession with social media and being noticed sends her down an uncrawlable hole of lies and deception.
Desperate for social media clout and the attention of Colin (Dylan O’Brien), Sanders fakes going on a writer’s retreat to Paris by photoshopping and posting pictures of herself in front of some of Paris’s most famous landmarks. However, this seemingly harmless lie takes a turn for the worse when terrorist bombing attacks occur across Paris right at the time that Danni is supposedly there. “Returning” from the trip as a survivor, Danni uses this tragic event to her advantage to get published in her work’s magazine, befriend other influencers and social media activists and get invited to do exclusive interviews to tell her survivor’s story.
Now, when I tell you that Danni may have taken the “main character energy” mentality a bit too far…she really did take it too far. It was disgusting to watch someone not feel any remorse for their actions and choose the spotlight over honesty and integrity. Not only was her character extremely insufferable to watch, but it was also so painfully accurate to those influencers of today. Filters, photoshop, controversies and insincere written apologies? I bet you have a couple of influencers in mind who already might fit that description.
As the movie progresses and Danni struggles to come up with the details of her survivor story, she meets and befriends Rowan Aldren (Mia Isaac), a social media gun-reform activist and school-shooting survivor who help aids her in advising how to deal with the traumatic aftermath and her feelings toward the situation. While the two become closer friends and even speak together at a rally against gun violence, Danni can’t cope with the guilt of deceiving her only friend.
As she continues to dig herself deeper into the lie and be blindsided by the luxury of fame and influencer status, Danni does not see anything wrong with the performative activism and deception she has made, making her impossible to stand. Yet as Danni’s fabricated lies are discovered and she is given the option of coming clean on her terms or through a coworker’s exposé, she chooses to publish a short apology explaining the real truth and makes promises to be a better person.
The consequences of her actions are then getting fired from her job, having her only friend despise her, receiving death threats, having her address leaked and going from social media star to the most hated woman on the internet… shall I go on? The damage is done and there is absolutely no redemption arc for Danni Sanders (and rightfully so!) The only thing that was tolerable about the character was her adorable guinea pig, Guinea Weasley.
As for other characters like Rowan and Colin, they each show the audience different types of social media influencers. Rowan is an actual activist hoping to progress society’s gun reform policies and uses her pain to inspire others to join the cause. On the other hand, Colin reminds me of the well-known TikToker Lil Huddy if Lil Huddy was a huge stoner. That goes without saying that even though Collin is not nearly as bad as Danni, he definitely embraces the stereotypical thirst trap influencer. All in all, Mia Isaac and Dylan O’Brien do their characters justice, and that’s final.
There’s no denying that this film effectively explores the toxicity of clout chasing and villainizes those who partake in it. With influencers rising on different social platforms every day and 15-second videos that can make anyone go viral in a split second, the power of social media is incredibly impactful.
Social media is a game that anyone can play and when played wrong, there can be serious consequences. Like Danni experienced in the film, cancel culture does incredible harm to those who push themselves into the spotlight with horrible intentions. But did she deserve the backlash? Absolutely.
Capitalizing and exploiting the trauma of others is never a means to become famous, and it’s worrisome that there are actual influencers in real life on social media platforms who will do anything to remain relevant in the public eye. It’s great that a film like this helps shed some light on how narcissistic and destructive this lifestyle can be for some and it’s about time we start reevaluating influencer culture.
Despite its cringe-worthy references to Gen-Z lingo and loathsome characters, this film is a satirical masterpiece of the lengths people will go to for notoriety and fame on the internet. Zoey Deutch plays an awful character so incredibly well and makes sure that a villain like Danni Sanders stays a villain through it all.
Not Okay serves as a reminder for us to carefully watch our digital footprint and to never compromise yourself and your integrity for followers and likes. So, if you’re feeling #NotOkay after watching, the movie definitely did its job!
What did you think about this Not Okay Review? Do you agree with what’s been said? Let us know in the comments below!