“Mainstream” Review: Joker Takes On Social Media In The World of “Black Mirror”
Alongside Maya Hawke, Andrew Garfield does his best Joker impression in Gia Coppola’s Black Mirror-esque critique of social media.
It’s a cliché nowadays to say that we’re all slaves to our phones and social media, but it’s an analogy worth keeping in mind when thinking about Mainstream. Even more so, the words of self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde, who wrote that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In the context of social media, this is to say that you cannot defeat the evils of social media using social media. That, however, doesn’t stop Link, one of the protagonists of Mainstream, from trying to do just that.
Link is an odd guy. When our main protagonist, Frankie, played by Maya Hawke, first meets Link, he’s wearing a rat costume. The second time they meet, he’s wearing a cockroach costume. “If you’re in a costume, it’s easier to spot the other freaks”, Link later tells Frankie. This is a guy with a specific view of the world, and he doesn’t have a phone, so you can probably guess what that view is like.
Frankie films Link going on a rant about art that draws a crowd of bystanders and 2,000 views on Frankie’s YouTube channel. She sees something in him, something perhaps more than her shot at YouTube glory. They strike up a friendship, then a partnership, where Frankie unleashes Link’s ability to rant passionately and continuously, focusing on the ills of social media.
The two of them bring in Frankie’s friend Jake, and together the trio reach YouTube stardom. They hire a manager. Their videos, a “Your Phone or Your Dignity” game show, become more elaborate, even warranting filming in front of a studio audience. With Frankie directing and Jake writing, it’s Link, going by “No One Special”, that becomes the star.
Then in a roundtable with other YouTube celebrities (played by themselves), Link is asked a question. “Your growing popularity is derived from your disdain for the very…