From ‘Spree’ to ‘Zola’: Crafting the Canon of Social Media Cinema

Social media may have been a mistake but at least we're getting some compelling films out of it.
Ingrid Goes West - Social Cinema

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the “Social Cinema”: a growing number of movies explicitly concerned with social media.


While it does have its moments, I think we can all agree that social media was a mistake. I can’t help but admire folks who prefer to keep social platforms at a distance, from mental-health preserving Twitter breaks to simply refusing to play ball at all. But, like it or not, social media has become an unavoidable part of modern life.

As a result, social media has gone from being a cute punchline in teen comedies to a rich, and arguably pressing, thematic subject in films and television. The video essay below does an excellent job of highlighting three examples of this emerging genre of film, underlining how each movie tackles the psychological landscape of what it means to live part of our lives online.

First up, the essay takes a look at Matt Spicer’s 2017 dramedy Ingrid Goes West, which sees its titular antiheroine (Aubrey Plaza) developing an obsession with an influencer named Taylor (Elizabeth Olsen), who constantly posts about her aspirational beachy, boho lifestyle. Convinced that Taylor’s seemingly perfect life is something she can consume and have for herself, Ingrid (wait for it) goes west to befriend her idol.

Up next, we’ve got Eugene Kotlyarenko’s Spree, the equally chaotic but certainly less morally reprehensible live stream horror film to come out in the last two years. The 2020 picture sees us in the passenger seat of the hilariously named Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery), a rideshare driver who would do anything to go viral. In an economy where all attention is good attention, violence is an option some are more than willing to take.

And then, finally, we have Zola, which chronicles the ill-fated experiences of its titular heroine (Taylour Paige) after she agrees to accompany an exotic dancer (Riley Keough) on a road trip to Florida to presumably make bank at a high-end strip club. Despite being based on a viral Twitter threadZola is not as directly focused on social media so much as one of its darker consequences: the presentation of the self, and our desire to make that presentation as palatable as possible.

With a burgeoning canon in the works, here’s a breakdown of the emerging genre of Social Cinema:

Watch “The Social Cinema”:


Who made this?

This video essay on the rise of movies indebted to social media is by Yhara Zayd. They provide insightful deep dives on young adult content from Skins to My Best Friend’s Wedding. You can check out more of their content and subscribe to their channel on YouTube here. If you like their stuff and you want to support them, you can check out their Patreon here.

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    Meg Shields: Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).