Habibe Burcu Baba
The Film You’re Killing Me is a black comedy that effectively uses satire to poke fun at popular culture in terms of its obsession with social media, its desensitization to violence, and the portrayal of relationships in the media. The film centers around George, a flamboyantly gay social media junkie, who makes his livelihood producing YouTube videos with his best friend Barnes. George and his circle of friends are never found without a cell phone in hand and a twitter comment to discuss. Their obsession with social media can only be rivalled by their obsessions with themselves. The narcissism in each of the characters is apparent and a frequent occurrence in the dialogue is for one character to say something only to be ignored by the rest who go on to make their own announcements.
Early in the film George meets Joe; a tall, dark and handsome stranger who also happens to be a serial killer. Perhaps a more appropriate term would be an erotophonophile, as for Joe murder is on par with sexual pleasure. Arguably, murder is like an orgasm for Joe and his gory murder scenes are often depicted with cheerful music and inappropriately artful spatterings of blood. While reserved, monotone Joe is completely overt about his penchant for murder, George occupies such a state of self-involved delusion that he fails to acknowledge that his new boyfriend is a psychopath. It is only when a series of George’s friends go missing that he and Barnes piece together Joe’s activities. The film culminates in a jump forward to the future where Joe is in prison after being arrested for murder. Joe and George continue to date via Skype, Barnes and friends continue to obsess over themselves and ultimately the film comes to a close in which no one learns anything. This is likely another dig at popular culture’s seeming inability to disengage from the activities it so ardently scorns. The nature of the relationship between Joe and George is also a satirical outlook on the idea that ‘love endures’ and the obsession that media has with dating, hooking up and fast forward relationships.
As the film is portrayed through a satirical scope, it is difficult to determine if the lack of intersectionalism is a premeditated decision meant to reflect the narrow profile of media in popular culture, or just exclusion on the part of the director. For example, all of the characters in the film are white, middle class, generation X individuals who exhibit an obsession with social media. The topics of race, class, age, nationality and able bodiedness are not touched upon in terms of plot lines and are certainly not discussed among the vapid protagonists. However, the show does address a range of sexual orientations as the plot focuses around a gay couple and their mixed heterosexual and homosexual friend group. It should be noted that transgender people and lesbian couples are not included in the film. Despite the anti-media stance that the film takes, it actually incorporates several elements that arguably make it a product of popular media culture. For example, the binary between George and Joe in terms of their personality and relationship roles can be described in terms of new homonormativity. According to Duggan, “new homonormativity” refers to a new form of normalization of gay and lesbian relationships that upholds and sustains heteronormative assumptions (50). This is evident with George taking on the vain, social and ‘feminine’ role and Joe taking on the strong, silent ‘masculine’ role.
Another area where the film reflects popular media influence, whether intentionally or not is in the presentation of George as a vapid narcissist. Arguably, George occupies a New Man model of masculinity as he does not fit the strict hegemonic profile of Old Man masculinity due to his homosexuality. Nor does he fit a New Lad profile because of his stringent body care and attention to appearance. However, in portraying George as being vain and self centered, the film adheres to popular culture criticisms of the new man as being narcissistic, effeminate, fake and unauthentic (Edwards 2003; Gill 2003 qtd in text pg. 117). If the above postulates of homonormativity and portrayal of New Man masculinity were purposively applied by the director, it would serve as further satire against popular culture. However, if these portrayals were not intended, then it could be argued that the film excludes intersectional profiles of homosexual people; such as those who adhere to different discourses of masculinity or those who do not occupy homonormative gender roles in relationships.
The film is interesting in that while it may not have an intersectional approach in terms of the characters that it includes; there is arguably an intersectional approach in terms of its targets of media satire. As an example, it is obvious that the film uses stereotypes to portray contemporary culture’s obsession with social media. What is interesting is that new media itself actually perpetuates stereotypes. As noted by Anneke and Meyer, “[in new media] people reach for easy, quick solutions that can be textually communicated: stereotypes…Rather than cyberspace offering a world where gender no longer matters, gender is reinscribed in even more narrow, conventional ways” (174). In the film, George is not just a homosexual YouTube blogger but a flamboyant YouTube ‘personality’; a stereotype of what it means to be a gay man who uses social media. Therefore, not only is the film critiquing the stereotypical representation of homosexuals but it is critiquing how platforms such as new media serve to perpetuate these stereotypes.
The film You’re Killing Me satirically presents a stereotyped view of current culture as seen through popular media. This is best portrayed through the obsession with social media demonstrated by the characters, the desensitization to violence through Joe’s campy murder scenes and the portrayal of media relationships through George’s enduring love with his serial killer boyfriend. The lack of diversity and intersectionalism in the film can likely be attributed to satire of the narrow, stereotyped character profiles seen in the media. Despite the dark subject matter of the film, it was both humorous and insightful.
Meyer, Anneke, and Katie Milestone. Gender and Popular Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012. Print. Chapter 5, pg 117.
Meyer, Anneke, and Katie Milestone. Gender and Popular Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012. Print.Chapter 6, pg 174.
Duggan, L. The twilight of equality? Neoliberalism, culture politics, and the attack on democracy. Boston: Beacon Press, 2003. Pg 50. Retrieved from GNDS 125 Course pack week 7: The New Gay Domesticity: Homonormativity in ABC’s Brothers and Sisters, pg. 220.