“But first… let me take a selfie…”
Yeah, this is the sort of show that would open on a song about selfies, courtesy of The Chainsmokers. Then again, if you’re watching a show called Selfie, then you kind of already know what to expect.
Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) is obsessed with social media and technology, and has millions of followers on Twitter and Instagram. The only problem is that “being friended isn’t the same thing as having friends,” a.k.a. Eliza is Forever Alone. She’s horrible at relationships – unknowingly dating a married man for some time – and she doesn’t know how to navigate real-life social situations – she’s constantly doing something on her phone and pays zero attention to anything that doesn’t directly involve her.
Despite her millions of followers, Eliza is lonely and nobody seems to actually like her, least of all her co-workers at Some Marketing Company (does it really matter what the actual name is?). After an embarrassing incident goes viral (“#epicfail”), Eliza enlists the help of her co-worker Henry (John Cho) to rebrand herself and completely change her image à la My Fair Lady, which this sitcom is very loosely based on.
Selfie is selling itself as a critique of social media, but Eliza is such an exaggerated personification of social media/Internet culture (the “me” generation) that she reads more as a cartoon than as an actual human being. As we all know, humor is often derived from exaggerations, but there are very little jokes in Selfie that don’t involve spouting off a bunch of Internet jargon. There’s very little thoughtful critique to be had.
The dialogue balances precariously between slightly amusing and awful, especially with the overuse of terms like LOL, gif, hashtag insert-thing-here. Maybe they were pushing it so hard because it was the pilot episode, in which case they really, really need to ease up in future episodes.
Speaking of things they need to ease up on: the show’s message so far seems to be that the “me” generation is full of shallow and self-obsessed individuals, but the way they’re framing shallowness in relation to social media is questionable (read: highly gendered.) Lines like “loose sexual morals,” “change you from vapid and obsessed to a woman of stature,” and “I think it’d be a chance to show the higher ups a side of yourself other than the back one,” make this very clear.
And it’s not like there’s anything inherently wrong with social media. The pilot does, eventually, present two sides of the spectrum: Henry repeatedly calls Eliza out on being self-centered in the episode, leading to Eliza accusing Henry (the spokesperson for anti-Internet and anti-social media) of being a “holier-than-thou, antisocial, judgemental, hypercritical, unfun” man.
Time will tell if the show will continue in that direction, or if social media will just be looked at in very black and white terms.
As previously mentioned, Henry is the exact opposite of Eliza, a vocal critic of “her generation’s” obsession with social media and Internet fame. He serves as both a foil and a mentor to Eliza in the pilot, but currently only exists to berate her in the most patronizing tone possible. The amount of slut-shaming from Henry, and several other characters, made us more than a little uncomfortable. For example, Henry rhymes a set of rules for Eliza on how to dress appropriately for a wedding: “makeup light, dress less tight, 6 inch heels, no cleavage revealed, nothing coarse, nothing sleazy.” #Cringe.
Despite the slut-shaming, romance is definitely on the cards between Eliza and Henry. From what we saw, however, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of chemistry between Gillan and Cho.
But all is not lost when it comes to Selfie. There are a few sentimental moments sprinkled here and there and it does have some heart, leaving room for character growth and interesting relationship dynamics. Karen Gillan and John Cho manage to elevate the meager material they’re dealt with, as well, although Gillan seems to have come out of the Zooey Deschanel School of Acting in preparation for this role. If Eliza became more nuanced (and we did see glimpses of it in the pilot), Henry stopped being a dick (to put it mildly), and if the script stopped referencing the Internet so much, then Selfie could improve.
Unless it make these changes, we predict a very short shelf-life for Selfie. Sorry Not Sorry.