JOURNAL RESPONSE – Fan Girl by Paul Jarrett

I decided to analyze the 2015 ABC Spark film Fan Girl directed by Paul Jarrett. It follows high school student Telulah Farrow as she navigates trying to put together her final project for her film class and following her favourite band, All Time Low. Although she wants nothing more than to go to film school after graduation, her love for the band and their lead singer Alex cause her to run into roadblocks on the way. With the help of her best friend Jamie and project partner Darvan, a repeating senior, she ends up being able to not only get up close and see the band live but entering her film in a high-ranking festival at the end of the schoolyear.

This film has a big focus on how social media affects its characters and the role in modern society, making it one of the biggest themes in the movie. At the beginning when Telulah’s still trying to put her trailer together, she explains “Sure, traditional social groups still exist but with social networking it brings a new everchanging assortment” before expanding on these modern-day cliques. At one point, her friend Rosemarie begins having a breakdown in the school bathroom because she forgot her Twitter password and can no longer access her account. Another one of film’s storylines focuses on Telulah’s mother trying to begin indulging in social media because she’s “feeling left out of the loop.”

Capitalist consumerism is a huge theme throughout the film because in almost every scene, there’s a callback to social media; for example when a main characters is faced with an embarrassing or uncomfortable moment, one of the more “popular girls” would show up to make sure to post an “instee” and update the school body. Holly, the main popular girl, even mentioning at one point how she doesn’t understand how another student could even live without a phone. Another comedic point in the movie is when Telulah is handing out flyers to spread the word about an online page she’s created where classmates can post and have a chance to be in her final project, but many are bewildered at the basic idea of a flyer.

I think the modern idea of the “bourgeoisie hero” can be very interesting because they can be portrayed in numerous ways. In the film, the image of the bourgeoisie hero is drawn out as somebody with an influential social media presence and following. One of the most interesting characters in the movie is Claire Bovary, who ends up moving to Huntville halfway through the film. She’s introduced by Telulah at the beginning of the movie, complaining, “You know what really irritates me? Here at Huntville high, the most popular girl in our school doesn’t even go to our school. She doesn’t even live in the same state and she’s the most popular girl here.” Later, Claire confides with Telulah about feeling insecure because she feels she’s treated better by their peers on Facebook than in the hallways. Telulah also seems to struggle with this self-consciousness through the movie as well. Aside from being close with Jamie, she only really considers herself to be close friends with fellow music fans she’s met through her popular blog online.

Still of Telulah (Kiernan Shipka) in the hallway

Credit: Crome Yellow

Telulah’s relationship with her film teacher, Paul, is very important to both the story and her own personal growth. The movie begins with Telulah only having hours to put together a trailer so her final film project would be considered for entry. She’s unable to complete her assignment after spending the night before on a project dedicated to All Time Low and illfatedly breaking her camera during lunch, but Paul decides to consider her ode to the band as her submitted assignment. At the movies climax when Telulah feels she’s put everything into this project and just wants to give up, Paul continues pushing and guiding her, explaining “Everybody’s got something to say. Look around, every kid has a phone in their hand. Sure, they’re not talking but they’re saying something.”

The “Rags-to-Riches” narrative is also relevant throughout the film. As much as Telulah wants to be a filmmaker, her absolute dream would be to meet her favourite band and eventually work for them. Until the end of the film when she brings herself to Paul in absolute defeat, she’s unable to accept any other possible pathway. She spends the majority of the movie trying to track down the band for her final project although she’s unaware whether or not they’re even in town until running into their lead singer. It’s not until Paul explains “Sometimes we set out for one thing and we’re surprised by something else… The hard part though is deciding which is more important. In life, sure, but especially in film”, finally making Telulah accept that things might not always end up the way she believes they will.

This film is very representative of how much social networking dictates modern society and how important it has become for some people to survive. One of the highlighting points showing that is when Claire’s insecurity shines through her goodwill, describing to Telulah “I’m friends with him on Facebook but I’m not, not going to friend someone because I don’t know them. That’s just mean… Hey, you know that girl Holly? She said if she sees me outside of Facebook, she’s not my friend.” While people are not usually that explicit while face-to-face, that statement embodies a lot of the insecurities a lot of the modern generation faces regularly surrounding social networking. This film really focuses on the idea that real life popularity is not all that matters anymore, and online presence is just as, if not more significant. I found it very interesting because it really argued both pros and cons to social media throughout instead of picking a bias like many teen movies do. Overall, the film displays the tools this modern generation rely on to navigate everyday life and really emphasizes it’s rises and downfalls.

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