Social Media Be Damned, Your Film Doesn’t Need a Hashtag In Its Title

Mean Girls

Paramount Pictures

On Mondays, we report on news about films that involve social media speak in their titles. (On Wednesdays, we still wear pink.) Deadline reports that Mean Girls director Mark Waters is getting back into the game of high school politics and animal aggression with his, sigh, #Catfight, a feature that is clearly gunning for some major Twitter staying power even if its actual plotline doesn’t appear to call for such an immediately dated title.

The outlet shares that Waters will next direct the Amelie Gillette-penned high school comedy, which centers on protagonist Lucy, “an insecure high school girl with a single mom who earns a scholarship to an elite private high school for her senior year and attempts to reinvent herself by hiding a past she wants to put behind her. On the day of her recruitment interview with her dream college, she finds out the boy she is dating has a psychotic ex-girlfriend. She has just come back from juvie that morning to challenge the college-bound girl to a fight after school. She tries to get her college admissions work behind her and keep up the prep school facade, before this showdown. Maybe she also can take down this maniacal rival and score one for bullied kids everywhere.” Presumably, the entire school will gather to see the fight, as directed by scores of social media messages that all use the term “#CATFIGHT.” But wait, why exactly?

The film already has an excellent pedigree, beyond just Waters, who made a new classic with his raucous and infinitely quotable Mean Girls: Gillette is an entertainment writer who created The A.V. Club’s “The Hater” column and “The Tolerability Index” (the latter of which she still writes) and who eventually joined the writing cast of the American The Office, and will be produced by Easy A’s Will Gluck, which gives us great hope for the final product. But, man, that title.

Since the rise of the hashtag, a smattering of features have tacked the symbol (that used to be the “pound” symbol! the pound!) onto otherwise totally normal titles in an attempt to capitalize on some perceived level of hipness and coolness that’s almost entirely impossible to accurately capture with such obvious machinations.

Here’s one problem: if your title is generic enough, it will be impossible to track online.

Back in 2012, Slate reported on the very first hashtag-titled movie: #HoldYourBreath. Unsurprisingly, the feature tried to use Twitter buzz to make it trend, but as that Slate piece points out, it just didn’t work. Turn out, lots of people were tweeting with the hashtag that had zero awareness of the film, and its title didn’t change that. The Asylum film eventually shed its hashtag, and is currently listed on IMDb as just Hold Your Breath. Its box office returns were not reported.

Two years later, BleedingCool reported on yet another horror film trying to make the hashtag thing happen: #Horror. The film is currently in post-production and is still set to hit theaters in 2015. There is still zero reason for it to have such a generic title, though the hashtag seems to reflect some of its plot, which involves cyberbullying. It will be nearly impossible to properly track online.

The very nature of hashtags is ephemeral, and they come and go from day to day and hour to hour – that’s not the sort of staying power that anyone would want to saddle their feature film with, even if it ties directly into its storyline. #HoldYourBreath shed its original title because it didn’t work, and even though #Horror might be able to sell its hashtag as pertaining to its plot, why bother?

If a film is stuck with a hashtag title specifically to get bigger social media buzz, something as general as “#CATFIGHT” and “#HORROR” just won’t cut it, there’s simply too much online information to sift through before we get there. A random sampling of tweets that include “#CATFIGHT” turns up precious few about Waters’ actual film. They’re there, sure, but they’re tucked in beside actual tweets (and photos, oh, the photos!) of real catfights, real cats, and even a woman who appears to be biting another woman’s thighs in a fit of rage.

Cool marketing, LOL.

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