As this surprisingly non-judgemental documentary about social media celebrities attests, their livelihood runs on the cryptocurrency of “likes” (usually denoted by a thumbs-up symbol).
Bert Marcus’s intimate portrait of half-a-dozen narcissists who self-started on Instagram, YouTube and video platform Vine (until it was disabled in 2016), is less easy to love than the producer/director’s well-received 2017 history of the DJ, What We Started. First-hand access to key players from the famous-for-being-famous netherworld introduces onanistic spoof-jock Josh Ostrovsky (aka “The Fat Jew”), aspiring character comic Brittany Furlan, Russian-born party host Kirill Bichutsky (the “Slut Whisperer”) and Paris Hilton, the heiress who reinvented herself as a dog-outfits brand.
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All are trapped in a vortex of self-promotion and stunts (one throws dollars off a roof, shouting, “Let’s make it rain on Hollywood Boulevard!”), and although Hilton seems the sanest, she admits she’s minus “part of my soul”. The film is ultimately rather sad: the sassy Furlan can’t get taken seriously as an actor, post-Vine, while Bichutsky, too old for wet T-shirt contests at 33, admits he’s lonely.
Without labouring the point, Marcus reveals the existential emptiness at the centre of this entire, precarious new economy. After all, when Furlan hooks up with Pamela Anderson’s ex Tommy Lee, she loses 100,000 followers in an instant.
The American Meme is available now on Netflix