By David Lam
Created by a roster of talent from NYU Tisch School of Arts’ prestigious Graduate Film and Graduate Acting programs and the Juilliard School of Drama, Viral Beauty is an international comedy about online fame, mirroring our own hyper-connected, social media saturated and selfie absorbed times. As a novel intersection between tech and comedy, Viral Beauty uses bleeding edge technologies and interactive web communications, creating a striking portrait of the online world. It showcases a world obsessed with celebrity, starring real social media personalities with a collective reach of 10+ million subscribers as they react to the tumultuous rise to fame of the film’s protagonist Marsha Day (Casey Killoran). The film blends elements of dark comedy, satire and biting social commentary. It also explores deeper issues of cyber bullying, complexities of standards of beauty, and addictions to fame, consumerism, and technology.
“Viral Beauty is a clever film that captures the schizophrenic voice of current culture. It reveals a world where people are products, empty images, and we consume them in a play of identity politics. The real and virtual blend like bleach and ammonia to create a noxious new compound.” ~Amanda Hauman
“Viral Beauty is well-executed satire (or is it?) of contemporary life with and with-in social media, starring the new ‘American Dream’ of finding fame and making a fortune off of your own personal brand. While the themes are ubiquitous in the social media realm (public vs. private, on-line haters, identity seeking and self-improvement genres), the film comes off as fresh, sassy, poignant, and yet repugnant as it almost too perfectly mirrors the corner of contemporary culture where self-absorption for the highest price and at any cost (soul-be-damned!) is sought-after and paid for. And, where, sometimes, the only way up is to dig deeper into the facade until you make it real. Casey Killoran is spot-on as ‘Marcia Day’, walking on a tight-rope of reality/virtual reality/satire. A solid script, strong directing, high production quality and more than a touch of ‘truthiness’ make this an enjoyable, if not at times uncomfortable (as you peer into your own mirror of actions and values), evening at the movies.” ~Jill Fischer
As a film director with a background in computer science, I am interested in telling stories that reveal the human complexity that technology introduces into our lives. In particular, I find stories that pose questions about how technology becomes an extension of who we are fascinating. Viral Beauty is very much a film about the tension that occurs between self-broadcasting on the web and the inevitable narcissism, capitalism, and construction of identity that emerges from it. It’s a film that explores what is unique to the millennial generation: the chance to become famous fast and where the desire for that fame comes from. It’s also a film about the beauty of the web and its randomness. The use of real Youtubers and social media personalities (Perez Hilton, soundlyawake, Stella Rae, Dion Yorkie, Raiden Quinn, Nicolay and Austin, Emma Willmann) adds a meta-reality that speaks to the film’s heart: the blending of fact and fiction.
Through the prism of an underdog, the film explores the rise and fall of our main heroine, Marsha Day, an overweight millennial that places an ad online in search for the perfect man. By “perfect”, we mean the usual: tall, dark, handsome, with an overflowing bank account. Because Marsha is a pudgy, she is the target of attacks from the internet community, which only catapults her into notoriety when she sticks up for herself, ironically, leading her to contracts for beauty products, cleverly orchestrated by an entertainment manager who takes Marsha on as a client. The tragedy is not so much that she is cyber-bullied (Marsha is pretty strong and doesn’t really ask the audience to pity her), but rather that we live in a culture where her attacks seem inevitable and logical, given our own digested standards of beauty. The film carries on to throw her into fame and out of fame and then possibly back again as she navigates a search for something truer than what’s in front of her.
In the end, I hope Viral Beauty reads as a social commentary dressed as a comedy. On a deeper level, it probes into the deep need for validation and how this fuels a powerful addiction to fame.
David Tyson Lam, New York, August 28, 2016