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THE MOVIE PREMIER BREAKING THE INTERNET

THE MOVIE PREMIER BREAKING THE INTERNET

Me to everyone who’s texted me today: so sorry I didn’t get back you, I’ve been deep diving into the “Don’t Worry Darling” conspiracy theories” - @Molly_kornfeld

If you haven’t been singing about corn, you’ve probably been going down internet rabbit holes about the new film Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde. It’s been a wilde week in the world of celebrity and internet culture since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Conversation has been flying across the internet and social media platforms, with ‘Don’t Worry Darling Drama’’ rapidly becoming a trending search term. It’s not a total surprise - since the movie first went into production, the cast and film has been engulfed in controversy, from rumoured affairs to cast changes. Not clear on what exactly happened? In short, the male-lead changed from Shia LeBoeuf to Harry Styles, who started dating the newly-single director Olivia Wilde. Fast forward to the premiere where there are visible tensions between Wilde and female-lead Florence Pugh amid rumours of beef. People think Harry Styles may have spit on Chris Pine who looked like he didn’t want to be there. There’s endless more layers to this - here’s a Twitter thread and a TikTok that break it down more. You could write a whole new movie about the reaction to this film so far (which people are asking for).

For 52INSIGHTS this week, we explore why this celebrity moment goes far beyond mere ‘gossip.’ We delve into how youth culture is driving and reacting to the scandal(s) - inspiring new banks of memes, conspiracy theories and driving conversation around misogyny and the working world.

NEED TO BE IN ON THE JOKE

I'm so lost about this Chris Pine/Harry Styles/Florence Pugh/Olivia something cluster. I do not need an explainer. I just need to understand the memes.” - @carrie_lomax.

As the premiere happened in real-time it was tough to miss clips and photos of the star-studded cast promoting the film as they appeared online. Funny interview snippets served to fuel the already sparking flames of controversy around the film’s production. In the open floor of online critique, it didn’t take long for those sparks to burst into hot-takes-fuelled flames. Out of context, a lot of these images and clips don’t make sense - especially for those who might not have been aware of the film or rumours surrounding it. People were asking for explanations - and the internet responded in the most beautiful way - see this explanation of events given in ‘NFL terms’. The goal in understanding the events surrounding the film is not necessarily about getting a blow-by-blow account of the drama though - it’s about being able to have enough literacy to be ‘in on the joke’ and understand the memes. The entire event became an opportunity for others to create and go wild with their own interpretations of what is going on behind the scenes - POV you’re the publicist for ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ - weaving its way into the imagination of the online masses even more.

A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS

Wake up babes, new meme format just dropped. @Jennavoris

Being culturally relevant or showing an understanding of important cultural discourse is a big part of how younger generations communicate online. The need to comment or provide a fresh take on something is an instinctive urge for many. It’s how meme-culture thrives. All the drama and micro-interactions around this film has created fresh, commentary-rich meme-templates, embedded with new cultural relevance and a coded secondary message.

Cheers to whichever publicist is currently writing the “Harry Styles says he did not spit on Chris Pine” headline for tomorrow’ - @Jennavoris.

Enter Chris Pine, now crowned the new unofficial spokesperson for quiet quitting (for being disinterested and seemingly dissociating during the press tour - very hashtag relatable). The other meme hero of the moment is Florence Pugh, echoing loud quitting sentiments by being very absent from the majority of the press events and becoming a symbol for zero f#cks strutting with a spritz. One of the reasons why sharing memes is so popular among young people is that instant short-hand, layered understanding you get from a meme, with 38% of Gen Z sharing memes as code to ‘someone who will get it’. It can be tough to be alive right now.

Good or bad, there’s no doubt many more people heard about the film because of all the drama-fuelled discourse.

DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Thanks to the soap opera level of drama, the goal of connecting and commenting on the different pieces of the Don’t Worry Darling puzzle has overshadowed the film itself. This is resulting in conspiracy theories, gaining traction on Reddit. Does Florence Pugh hate Olivia Wilde?’ Did Harry really spit on Chris? All of these questions tap into natural human curiosity, generating more reach and press. With a global superstar like Harry Styles at the core of the drama (we can’t even keep up), fandom invites more attention than usual. The film’s director, Olivia Wilde, who started dating Styles when filming began, was already being watched closely by disappointed fans throughout the film festival, receiving hate online and conspiracy theories spreading. Now there are videos analysing their interactions and celebrating their supposed split. Regardless of where you personally stand on Wilde as a director, the hate and rumours around her sheds light on the dangerous trend of online misogyny. Another conspiracy theory floating around is that Warner Brothers wants the film to bomb as a proof point that women are a risk as directors. Despite on-set affairs and celebrity feuds being longstanding features of the film industry:

Do you think anyone would ask Christopher Nolan or Wes Anderson or Todd Phillips about on-set drama? Ask if they’ve “fallen out” with an actor. Nope. Because they’re shown respect.” - Terry White.

BRAND TAKEOUTS

The Power of Fandom - Obsessive levels of fandom around celebrities (and brands) can have a dramatic impact, for better or worse. For celebrities, boundaries can become blurred, parasocial relationships feel almost real. For brands, this can mean the expectations from fans can be higher as their level of loyalty increases. To maintain and retain loyal and engaged fanbases, it’s about putting them at the centre of everything you do, and showing them respect. There are also clever ways you can harness niche fandoms and drive brand love by inspiring and tapping into the passion and creativity young people have. Interested in reading more about modern fandoms? Check out this piece on niche celebrities taking over the internet to get greater insight into fandom fragmentation, and this one on how BTS became one of the most popular bands in history.

Drama: To Add Or Not To Add? - Between all the characters, the clips and quotes, the premiere is bringing drama that internet users can talk about, twist, own and spread with ease. Everyone’s having fun filling in the blanks in creative ways. It’s always fun seeing a new meme come to life - but while it’s tempting to react it’s not always the right thing to do, especially considering the unseen underlying tensions. Consider how you can add value in a conversation rather than do something for the sake of it.

One of reasons why this particular meme sensation went viral so quickly (aside from our unquenchable thirst for celeb drama) was simply because of how many components there were washing over the internet. It’s possible to find a way in, without going too deep into the drama. From Harry’s irresistible soundbite which could be reworked and remixed to suit basically any brand, see great examples from Delta and Nandos, to the excruciatingly awkward visuals of the cast at the festival press conference and premiere, lampooned fantastically by Ryanair and Dominos. No FYP [For You Page] or algorithmic preference could contain seeing or hearing about this! Dylan Newe, Senior Manager, Social & Digital Innovation Team

Equality & Intersectionality: It can be easy to disregard the bigger picture sometimes, but don’t forget the political and social undertones of a viral online joke. There are many important social justice conversations ongoing, especially in Hollywood, around the likes of gender equality. Ensure you are on the right side of history when it comes to these issues that younger generations care deeply about, and continue to drive a focus on equality and safe work cultures - there’s still a lot of work to be done.