‘Not Okay’ (2022) Review: An Okay Satire That Pokes Fun at Influencer Culture
Influencer culture consists of social media posts that show people’s lives through pictures. People under the influencer culture participate in posting deceptive photos that don’t look anything like their lives. Depending on branding and promotions, they often rely on creating a whole new personality that fits their targeted audience. Quinn Shephard’s Not Okay begins with a content warning, “flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist.” It’s a satirical comedy that pokes fun at narcissism, social media influencers, white privilege, and the effects of online fame that can turn against you in an instant. At the beginning of Not Okay, Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) receives hateful comments online and is branded as “the worst person in the world,” and we know that she is far from okay. But why is she receiving this much hate online?
Two months earlier, Danni works as a photo editor at an online magazine called “Depravity” and she aspires to be a writer one day. She meets with her boss Susan (Negin Farsad) and shows her an essay that she penned, “Why Am I So Sad,” which is about tragedies she missed, such as missing 9/11 because she was on a cruise. Due to this, she isn’t able to connect with people her age. To make things worse, Danni has no friends in her life or at work. She desperately wants to be cool and hip like her coworkers, but they never invite her to after-work parties. Danni’s desperation leads her to fake a writer’s retreat to Paris to get the attention of her coworker Colin (Dylan O’Brien), a bleached-blonde, marijuana-vaping influencer with the handle “WeedBoiiColin.” She takes pictures and photoshops herself in Parisian backgrounds, and posts them on her social media for her friends and followers to see. But her fake trip only lasts for a short time. Her deception takes an unexpected turn when terrorists attack Parisian landmarks. In a panic, and unable to back down from the lie, she pretends to be a victim and gains popularity and new followers on social media, and her craving for fame leads her to make terrible decisions.
Not Okay pokes fun at influencer culture and white privilege, but the problem lies within the route the movie takes by using real tragedies to make points. While Danni’s obsession to ride high with the fame she received after the Paris terrorist attack, she doesn’t stop there. At a support group, he befriends a young social activist, Rowan Aldren (Mia Isaac, Don’t Make Me Go), who is a victim of a school shooting, with an ulterior motive to use her ideas and to get more famous on social media. Even when Rowan, who has experience with internet trolls, alt-rights and pro-gun people online, advises Danni to be more aware of social media and how it can be a negative space, Danni suggests she is strong enough for a few hateful messages. She doesn’t show any regret and gets lost in the moment with Kendall Jenner sharing her posts online.
Furthermore, an aspect that is not explored in Not Okay is how Danni steals other people’s trauma and pain and uses it to further her agenda to become more famous. Susan allows her to write an essay about Danni’s trauma, and she realises that the support group would be filled with people talking in buzzwords. Danni takes notes of their speeches, especially Rowan’s, who shares the traumatic shooting incident that killed her older sister. This helps Danni to write the essay, using Rowan’s speech which helps her to create #IAmNotOkay. There is no remorse on Danni’s part and her ability to keep lying to a victim of a horrendous tragedy doesn’t make her stop and think about what she is doing, let alone her inability to feel sorry for Rowan.
But what is the lesson in Not Okay? Influencers and the culture itself, are known to make content whether or not they care about anything. Danni gains fame and when she gets welcomed into the world of parties and the attention of Colin, she doesn’t stop. People who seek fame won’t stop and look back at their actions because, in a modern, hashtag-obsessed culture, there is no room for empathy. It’s an arrogant world of influencers desperate to ride up the fame ladder, and that also means faking a trip to Paris and deceiving people by saying that they were in a terrorist attack.
Ultimately, when Danni gets caught in her web of lies, she doesn’t regret hurting Rowan’s feelings, only that she got caught. She doesn’t try to make any amends to undo her mistakes. Social media has dehumanised Danni and she becomes a poster child of white privilege and gets cancelled by the same people who welcomed her into the space. However, Not Okay only scratches the surface of internet culture that desaturates content and sociopolitical activism. The message isn’t as important or trivial as one might think, and the final moments in the movie just don’t quite work. Nobody deserves to get a second chance for stealing or imitating other people’s pain, least of all Danni.