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Jane Schoenbrun: Director of Future Cult Classics

Riley is a new writer, but has dabbled in creative personal works, spoken word, and film reviewing.

Writer/director Jane Schoenbrun (left) and actress Anna Cobb

Writer/director Jane Schoenbrun (left) and actress Anna Cobb

Who is Jane Schoenbrun?

Jane Schoenbrun is a non-binary American filmmaker whose first narrative film, We're All Going to the World's Fair, debuted at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Along with this piece, they've also directed other internet-centered pieces such as A Self-Induced Hallucination, and the upcoming A24 film, I Saw the TV Glow.

Their works so far have included similar sorts of themes, horror via unrestricted internet access while a larger struggle is at play. Schoenbrun has stated that she strives to make content personalized to her and her own struggles as someone within the LGBTQ community.

Within these films there's a critique of the internet and what it does to younger audiences, as well as themes of gender dysphoria as told through horror elements.

Jane has stated that they feel as if most content centered around the internet is written by and for people who never really experienced it. The loneliness that encompasses it, the fragility of having an online friend across the world and the sheer boredom of staring at a screen constantly.

What's a Cult Classic?

Have you ever watched a movie and loved it so much you had to look it up later, only to find out that it tanked in every box office known to man? It's happened to us all, finding something that's not necessarily popular with mainstream audiences but is revolutionary for a dedicated following of fans. For example, one of my personal favorites, Repo! The Genetic Opera saw a very limited release and received mixed reviews, but has an intense and sizable fanbase.

There are thousands of movies that would qualify under this definition but the question is why? What is it about these films that make them so undesirable to most and so perfect for others? It's not entirely something that's based on personal tastes, but instead relies on the film contents themselves.

Intense Fanbase Outside the Mainstream

Often times, these films go to extremes, showing excessive violence, gore, or sexual taboos. That's not always the case of course, some movies fall under the "so bad it's good" trope, where the movie is such a mess that you can't look away. The live action Cats film meets this definition.

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Bottom line: If you think Kevin Hart is funny, you're probably not going to be a fan of a textbook cult classic like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A Different Kind of Internet Critique

Movies rooted in the dangers of being "chronically online" have existed since the computer became a commonplace household item. Everyone was forced to watch the Emily Osment classic Cyberbully in health class or maybe you've seen the Skype-centered train wreck that was the film Unfriended. These films are often too on the nose with why the Internet affects teens in the ways it does, it gives kids another, unmonitored, outlet to be cruel to one another.

The Internet as Tool for Self-Hatred

Jane Schoenbrun is not making content about kids picking on one another but about something far more relatable. These films are mainly about the main character being cruel to themselves via the Internet. This happens every single day, young teens and adolescents looking into the mirror and wishing that what they see will change, will look more like someone they saw online.

Okay, now imagine that horrible unsettling feeling of not liking who you are and also not being cis or straight. Being thirteen is already a turmoil of angst and self-hatred but also figuring out that you hate the body you're in for an entirely different reason than not being conventionally attractive? Total bummer rage fest.

Anna Cobb as Casey in We're All Going to the World's Fair

Anna Cobb as Casey in We're All Going to the World's Fair

We're All Going to the World's Fair

We see a great depiction of this feeling in We're All Going to the World's Fair, as told through the main character Casey. There's this great sense of unease with Casey, even before she takes on the World's Fair challenge, as if she isn't really sure of her own actions.

We see how incredibly lonely that this teen is, reaching out to anyone that listens and making shocking content for attention while not really understanding why they're doing it themselves. Every single young person who grew up constantly online, especially during quarantine, can relate to that feeling.

Jane Schoenbrun: A Director for Gen Z

That is why I truly believe Jane Schoenbrun's content will stick with younger audiences, in a way it won't connect with older people going to see it in theaters. It's just creepy, unsettling and raw enough to withstand the test of time and be beloved by people who went through (or are currently going through) something similar.

But don't just take my word for it, go watch We're All Going to the World's Fair yourself and get a jump start on this future cult classic.

© 2022 Riley Smith

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