Film & TV

Writer Alex Kazemi On How His Controversial Snapchat Film is a ‘Social Experiment’

Film & TV

Writer Alex Kazemi On How His Controversial Snapchat Film is a ‘Social Experiment’

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Writer Alex Kazemi directed the entire Snapchat film via FaceTime

Earlier this month, Marilyn Manson tweeted his appreciation of a creepy short film that had been released on Snapchat by user, “Mudditchgirl91″—an increasingly dazed, lovesick teenager doing weird shit at home including, potentially, *SPOILER ALERT* cutting out her tongue.

Mudditchgirl91 is a bundle of Tumblr/Instagram clichés, a mush of ’90s and ’00s references, and most importantly, 100% fake. She’s played by Bella McFadden AKA InternetGirl, an Insta-celebrity of sorts, and the film is the brainchild of Alex Kazemi, author of Yours Truly, Brad Sela, who directed the entire thing via FaceTime. Kazemi’s work frequently questions Tumblr’s obsession with the ’90s and ’00s, in addition to the dangers of being desperate for Internet fame just for the sake of being Internet famous.

We spoke to the writer about the now indistinguishable boundary between online and reality, what he really wants people to see when watching “Mudditchgirl91,” and why Alice Glass might just save all our souls.

 

 

You’ve called “Mudditchgirl91″ a social experiment. You must have thought about the potential outcomes of doing something like this; what did you hope would happen?

“I hoped that this could hold up a mirror to what has been going on online; I don’t really know of anyone else who has been motivated to talk or show this kind of stuff because being online, there is kind of a narcissistic numbness. We get very accepting. It’s like, when has anyone ever questioned meme language ‘that feel when’ or ‘af?’ I wanted to open up a discussion from all different audiences. Playboy posting it is something out of my wildest dreams; they were the main audience I wanted to reach. I don’t think bros who want to look at some titty gifs know who Lauren Avery is; I wanted to televise a girl influenced by ‘that world’ to as many people as possible. Now it’s just normal to see these ‘shocking’ things, and to be a copy of a copy.

If you go to the Mudditchgirl91 Twitter page, some of her captions are direct rips from Lauren’s Twitter. Do you know how many people actually do that? It’s the awkward elephant in the room that no one opens up about. I mean, a girl like InternetGirl grew up mimicking the online subcultures she has seen starting in her early preteens, like Scene Queens. This might just be a 2015 version of that with the obvious Queen Bees of the Internet, who do weird stuff like Lily Rose Depp, Joanna Kutcha and Lauren Avery.”

What’s your greatest fear when writing something like “Mudditchgirl91?”

“If people actually think I am trying to be shocking and disturb people, that disturbs and shocks me; they aren’t looking close enough. I am trying to disturb and disrupt people, but it doesn’t have much to do with the lyrical content or imagery in the video. Maybe consider how a narcissistic video like this could exist; everyone wants a gold star for telling ‘their story;’ there’s thousands of communities on Tumblr with support for the strangest things. I mean ‘trans ableism,’ when people believe they should have a broken arm or a mental illness? The OtherKins community, where you literally think you are a mythical creature trapped in the body of a human.

I think the Alex that made this video is someone very frustrated and fascinated by what is going on. What drives a teen girl to squeeze detergent pods on herself on the Internet? For the purpose of ‘aesthetic?’ Why are you clicking on videos of teen girls rubbing cheese whiz on their knees to Hoobastank? You genuinely find this entertaining? What is that doing for your life? People need to be more careful with what they put into their subconscious mind; think before you click. In my world, this video seems very normal to me. You are weird if you find this weird. Think about the kind of world this character is living in; the same world as you and I, where you have the luxury to upload anything or have any type of opinion that is a click away [from] a mob of people who feel the same way as you to make you feel like some type of god. If you put it in that context, it’s fucked up. Maybe these kids just need a hug. Maybe I need a hug.”

Who are they, and what concerns you the most, about the real life “Mudditchgirls?”

“I think anyone who has the, ‘this is so fake, it’s real,’ stomach drop reaction immediately understands it. If you have ever seen these Vine or Tumblr famous kids, when they get on camera to do their little scenes, they put on this kind of fake voice to let us know they are not being themselves and are in character; it is not natural; it is calculated and creepy, but if they do that all the time, then who the hell are they? If someone out there was completely not self-aware, and was genuinely as weird as Mudditchgirl91 and just expressing herself through Instagram and Vine in a naive way without intentionally seeking the negative attention of people, then she’s ‘creepy.’ People would immediately call her out to be a fraud, like the people who fake being like her. You have no idea who is being genuine online; that’s the scariest thing to me.

I just don’t understand when this stops. When do they grow out of this? When do they log off, and leave it all behind? There is a total infantilization growing up online, and this is the generation of youth who grew up seeing their lives through the gazing eyes of what Sofia Coppola or Harmony Korine would want to make it look like. I think the most ‘aesthetic’ moments I had as a teenager were happening when I had no idea they were happening, and I think that if we are constantly calculating [and] seeing life through you know, a photograph in a ’90s photo album, you become suffocated by your own curation of perception. Do people not remember, teens are in high school? There is nothing romantic about high school and if you think that, seek help.”

Do you think you are in a good position to comment on this situation?

“I’m not making fun of girls like this; this isn’t satire. I think this is video-empathy to the situation. This is neutral exploration. I wanted to get inside the head of a girl who is probably 19/20 and looking up to girls like Lauren Avery, and copying her because they feel her identity is so openly available—the way she talks, the way she takes images—the reality is that they can xerox it quickly. You could say Mudditchgirl91 is seeking sympathy from her viewer through her shocking acts or you could say she’s attention starved and callous. I’m very much someone who grows tired of people not doing what I want to see, so I end up doing it myself.”

In the behind-the scenes-audio you uploaded, we hear Bella McFadden say, “I love the Columbine Killers; Dylan and Eric are my babes,’ and giggling. You and I have talked about people doing stuff like this; showing off about their love for the disturbing, worst things in order to seem cool. Do you think this is a conscious effort on her part to be shocking, or is it just a symptom of the Tumblr trend for fetishizing the darkest parts of humanity?

 

 

“Our generation grew up very young with the Internet and from a young age, some of us saw some disgusting things that we can’t erase from our brains. I do believe the reason youth identify with serial killers is because of the void of Rock ‘N’ Roll. No one has any outlet who is voicing back millennial alienation to us, so we gravitate to our Gen X anti-heroes: Trent, Fiona, Billy, Manson, Shirley because they are articulating what we are thinking because the majority of them were in their twenties making the music that captures our so-called ‘angst.’ Lana can capture the feeling of depression in song form [and] write about mortality, but when she actually opens up about being suicidal, we are the first to call her a fraud. It’s like, ‘What the fuck? How is that fair?’ I think for some young people, it might be a conscious decision to try to attract negative attention by being dark, but it might be genuine too. That’s the biggest problem; you don’t know anymore because it all looks the same. I do think the ability to shock has a filter of longing for sympathy [and] attention from people, even if it’s strangers on the Internet.”

Basically, do you think she actually believes what she is saying?

“I do. I think that she probably empathizes with them, and probably feels that she could understand their wrath [and] alienation of being in high school and people thinking they’re different. That is deeply fucked up and sad to me, but a total universal feeling; maybe we should try to listen or understand why to move forward and help young people like this.”

Do you think this kind of mentality is creative, or dangerous, or a symptom of apathy, or none of the above?

“I think if you can recognize your darkness, and you can calcify it into a form of expression like a script, a novel, a song, you should turn it into a positive thing; but if you use it as a form of fashion and you make that very clear that you are addicted to the same attention an emo 13-year-old in 2007 would seek by dressing creepy
and acting weird in front of their peers wearing Hollister, that’s dangerous. It’s time to grow up.”

I don’t actually see this film as exploitative because the whole time, InternetGirl seems complicit and you can hear her say that she is “all about it” in the behind-the-scenes. You can almost see the Tumblr notes, like dollar signs, in her eyes. Do you feel like you exploited her craving for Internet fame in any way? Or was that the point you were trying to make?

“We both talked about this after. She had no idea it was going to get as publicized as it did, but yes, I do feel I did a little bit of exploitation; I almost feel like myself, I was playing a character. She almost started crying during one scene, and was like, ‘Alex, it’s too much.’ I am only two years older than her, but I really had to go into the mind of an older guy on set with a young model, so we could bring light to these issues, to bring awareness. There was this sick rush and anxiety going through my head that was very self-involved about ‘my vision,’ and then I thought, ‘Holy shit, think of these young girls in fashion, who are pressured to basically be a doll in the male artist’s vision.’ It’s sick. I had to say to her, ‘No, you are doing this scene. We are too far in it. I have to get this made, remember? Everyone’s going to think this is fake in the end.’ I felt like a criminal after making it. I really did. I almost threw up. I think she’s deserving of this ‘cult-fame’ she has received. I think this is maybe what she has wanted the whole time. If anything, this was the way to get that kind of attention.”

Do you think that Tumblr kids believe the Internet is their reality? Have we lost the distinction between online and reality completely?

“The Tumblr kids don’t know how to express themselves in reality; they would rather hide away online because online, it’s like a downer pharmaceutical for the harsh realities that are inevitable. We are going to grow old; we are not always going to be young and beautiful. There is no blur between URL and IRL anymore, you do log on and you walk around and go for a walk on your Tumblr or Twitter. It’s very much a real thing, and I think obviously when you can express yourself in a way where you can take 950 different selfies to get the right one, you would feel more comfortable putting out your most ideal caricature of yourself online rather in real life, when people can always catch you at your bad angles. I think people secretly wish they could immortalize themselves as the current Internet presence they feel comfortable with because age will be the first one to fuck up someone’s ‘aesthetic.’

Who do you think has the power to leave a lasting creative legacy for our generation?

“Alice Glass. We need her on the same stage as Miley. She deserves all the radio and camera time a mainstream outlet can offer. I think she and Charli XCX are probably the most important female artists in the world. If we think about the punk violence behind the fact that Charli blew up with songs like ‘Boomclap’ and ‘Fancy,’ then when it was time for the highly anticipated album to drop, she had angry, important songs like ‘Body Of My Own’ when she could have easily delivered us 30 different versions of what a suit would think are EDM bangers. I guess, Azealia too. On her good days. Lana Del Rey is the Kurt Cobain of our generation for sure, he definitely channels himself through her. I want Sky to win, too. Male artists? I mean, I don’t know of any who will.”