In Los Angeles, Melrose and Harper’s corner has become a tourist destination to rival the Eiffel Tower, or the graffiti remnants of the Berlin Wall. Rather than an architectural wonder or piece of living history, people line up (or did in pre-Covid times) to visit the bright pink exterior wall from Paul Smith, a clothing retailer. The wall, repainted every three months in the Pantone “Pink Ladies” shade, serves as the backdrop for hundreds of thousands of photos, making it one of the most Instagrammed places in Los Angeles and even the world.
Why has a wall become so famous? Maybe because the people who pose in front of him imagine their own fame. They stand there, take a picture, and post it on the internet in the hope that people will like it – hundreds of people, even strangers. On Instagram, people can become famous for this type of posting. The desire for fame motivates people to strangely move around the world, to distort reality to its most photogenic, and to place high value on things that seem to have little material value. Like the pink wall. As with so much of what is becoming popular on Instagram, the pink wall is unrecognizable as it demonstrates great artistry or elicits emotional experience. He is simply famous for being popular.
Recently, journalist Nick Bilton set out to study this phenomenon. Bilton has long been an advocate for social media, writing extensively about the positive impacts of technology on society. But his first film, Famous scythe (on HBO, from Feb. 2), brings a little more trepidation – especially to Instagram, the darling social media pic. Why does it seem like everyone wants Instagram fame and what does it take to get it? The film begins on the Pink Wall, with a series of philosophical questions, and ends months later with a grim warning about the Internet celebrity vacuum.
It doesn’t mean that Famous scythe is a downer. It also doesn’t have the kind of anti-tech agenda a movie like The social dilemma, which premiered last fall on Netflix. Instead, the film centers around a social experiment: how easy is it to make celebrities online? Bilton (who appears regularly on screen and is really fun to watch) launches a casting in LA for people who want to be famous, then he selects three guinea pigs: Dominique, an aspiring actress who works in the retail business between hearings. ; Chris, who moved to Los Angeles to try his hand as a fashion designer; and Wiley, the anxious personal assistant of a real estate agent in Beverly Hills. “Everyone wants to be known for something,” Chris says at the start of the film. Instagram, he thinks, is the way to get there.
As part of the experience, Dominique, Chris and Wiley get a makeover from a team of stylists. They ask photographers to help them with a series of creative photoshoots, which then feed into their Instagram feeds: Chris simulates a private jet trip by rent a set for $ 50 an hour; Wiley and Dominique sip champagne in a back pool, staged to look like a luxury hotel. Photo stunts are great fun and reveal a side industry that helps get close to Instagram lies with flimsy props and backdrops. At one point, Dominique posts a photo of herself looking out of an airplane window. In reality, the window was a toilet seat, held in front of a landscape photograph. When cropped and edited, it’s ridiculously hard to tell the difference.