Controversial Documentary That was SXSW Selected.
DIRECTED BY ALEX LEE MOYER/2020
TFW NO GF is about a culture that lives online that should be ignored. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, they also live in our community. One of the clips early in the movie is from Bill Maher (who I get is problematic himself). To paraphrase, he says our attitude towards lonely young men who can’t get a girlfriend is to say if you don’t like it, unfollow. You’re in this alone. If you want a friend, get a gun.
And unfortunately, as we’ve seen in society, sometimes they follow that advice. It’s a movie that doesn’t ask us to sympathize as much as understand. If you understand them, you take their power away.
If you spend a large amount of time on social media, which many of us do, you’ll run into them. Trolls who will say incendiary things to get a response. Their comments are oftentimes sexist, racist, homophobic. They do it to get a reaction because it’s the only reaction they are able to get from a person, especially one of the opposite sex. Incels remind me of Stuntman Mike in Death Proof, where his sexual proclivities lean towards running over and hurting women as it’s his only way to gain stimulation. Now obviously most incels aren’t as charismatic as Kurt Russell, but it is a subculture who is wired differently. Other’s pain is pleasure to them because pain is some sort of emotion.
But they aren’t sociopaths, per se. Most sociopaths can manipulate what they want out of people, including a relationship. They’re hurt, miserable, and in some cases reaching out.
And they also aren’t homogenized. This movie shows several different subjects. Some are trying to fight their way out of the culture. Some are thoughtful and admit they hide under an ironic troll persona. Some wear their pain on their sleeves. And some just come off as villainous.
This documentary is getting some pushback and bad reviews. The idea of a film to put us into that world and ask us to understand is not necessarily where a person wants to go for 80 minutes. But understanding is never a bad thing and you can do what you want afterwards with that knowledge. At the least, when you see them trolling next time on Twitter, you’ll know that they aren’t the cool, detached Pepe the Frog face of indifference that they want you to believe. They are truly the face of misery. And you will know not to engage with that misery to pull yourself down.
Or, if you truly are a good and strong person, you may take this knowledge and try to connect with them. Show them kindness and give them the human connection they want. Personally, I don’t think I can go there, but if you can, and you get that Twitter isn’t always a warzone and we’re all people looking for a friend, you can be that person, and maybe stop them from turning to a gun instead.