“Not OK,” “I Love It For You,” and Our Toxic Relationship With Trauma Stories

This article contains spoilers for “Out of Order”.

Admit it: part of the perverse pleasure we got from watching American Idol was because we heard about all the mishaps that eventually pushed contestants like Fantasia Barrino to perform “Summertime” flawlessly. Likewise, we find the vast list of illnesses, surgeries, and personal defeats that Olympians like Allison Felix have endured to be just as compelling to listen to as dramatic sportscasters recount them in front of their medals.

We live for the drama of everything people have to go through to get to the point where we watch them on TV or follow them on social media. We click, we like, we love – we buy everything thing. Because our culture loves a good teary story.

Or maybe it’s because we’re enjoying a good comeback.

In any case, it makes sense that recent screen narratives use what this infatuation says about us, and, more interestingly, what happens when a public figure uses this interest. Sometimes the writers explore this in a very thoughtful way and actually challenge their main characters, as in the case of Showtime’s I Love It For You. But other times, we get something like writer-director Quinn Shepard’s new Hulu film, Out of Order, which premieres on July 29.

To be fair, the simple synopsis of “Out of Order” sets it up to be one of those hours of hate that people often love to hate that end up getting sequels or second seasons.

A young, healthy, straight, cisgender, white woman (Zoey Deutch) feels so unspecial in the diverse online magazine she works for that she makes up a traumatic story about how she survived to feel valued and loved—including same spirit. as well as, in her opinion, some of her black, transgender people and / or disabled colleagues.

Left to right: Kirk White, Zoey Deutch and Mia Isaac in the film "Not good."
Left to right: Kirk White, Zoey Deutch and Mia Isaac in Out of Order.

Photo by Nicole Rivelli; courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Disaster eventually follows from here, obviously. But first, Shepard makes the audience cringe for about an hour after Danny Sanders (Dutch), a journalist mind you, fabricates a personal essay about how the Paris bombing was miraculously avoided. In fact, she had never even been to the City of Lights.

How does she get such vivid details about how such a trauma actually feels? Not from my own experience, of course. Danni belongs to the type of people who have an absurdly large city apartment on the meager salary of a journalist, whose parents are always ready to lend a helping hand. She’s not one to get used to even minor inconveniences.

So Danni goes to a support group where she – wait – targets a black girl named Rowan (Mia Isaac), the victim of a school shooting, and befriends her. She listens to her story and consolidates her pain, then turns it into an article filled with fabricated experiences.

Around here, you start to wonder if Shepard’s script will have any recognition of race, and why Danny would choose Rowan, someone already marginalized for being black, out of everyone else in the cheerleading squad. This is insidious.

But the narrative jumps blindly to where Danny gets a skyrocketing social media following, unequivocal support from her colleagues, and unlimited days of self-care at work as soon as she publishes an article.

Danny Sanders (Dutch) hangs out with another influencer (Dylan O'Brien). "Not good."
Danny Sanders (Dutch) hangs out with another influencer (Dylan O’Brien) in “Out of Order”.

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Meanwhile, Rowan, a real and respected real-life trauma activist, takes a backseat to the growing phenomenon of Danny Sanders, The Survivor. Admittedly, it’s more than wild that we live in a world where traumatic experiences are even classified and consumed in this way.

What’s even wilder, though, is that Danni realizes from this that black girls and women are perfect sources of trauma, but as a white woman, she can actually gain a lot more support by sharing experiences like this.

As artfully as “Not Okay” captures the essence of the vampiric nature of how trauma is absorbed into modern culture, it completely avoids racial role-playing. Completely ignoring this, Danni feels guilty about lying, but not about how her whiteness gave her the courage to do what she did the way she did it.

Out of Order is simply not smart enough to account for or even reflect the broader ramifications of its storyline or even its protagonist, superficial and one-dimensional. As a result, the film ends with a thud – the terrible truth comes out and has consequences, but in the end nothing and no one is disputed.

It’s a rather grim, if realistic, look at the downfall of troubled favorites that are largely overlooked. Meanwhile, I Love It For You actually delves into its protagonist’s similar moral crises in a much more satisfying way.

Left to right: Aiden Mayeri as Beth Ann McGann, Jonno Wilson as Perry, Vanessa Bayer as Joanna Gold and Molly Shannon as Jackie Stilton in "I love it for you."
From left to right: Aiden Mayeri as Beth Ann McGann, Jonno Wilson as Perry, Vanessa Byer as Joanna Gold and Molly Shannon as Jackie Stilton in I Love It For You.

Vanessa Baier plays Joanna Gold, a childhood leukemia survivor who has long dreamed of working in a home improvement chain. If all she needed for the position was a heart of gold, she would have been hired on the spot. But Joanna is clumsy both on camera and in person, and has little professional experience.

However, she does have a good, factual story that she had cancer. But she wouldn’t use it to get a job and attract a huge audience – would she? Still would. In fact, she goes even further and reluctantly tweaks the narrative to say that she Still having cancer is even better.

It’s not that Joanna does it with a clear conscience. She is instantly tormented by guilt. This is especially true when she sees how many new opportunities open up for her at work, as well as the admiration she receives from colleagues who used to roll their eyes. her back when she was interviewing for the role.

Joanna faces an internal dilemma that Danni never had – or at least not for the same reason. Joanna tries to manage the privileges she gets beyond just getting a job, while Danny’s whole purpose in exploiting the trauma is for privilege and attention. It’s grotesque, though it reflects a range of social media personalities that exist in the real world.

However, “Out of Order” doesn’t really have anything to do with it. to tell about them or about this phenomenon. The problem isn’t that Danny is a likable character (for what it’s worth, while Joanna is cute, she’s not a particularly likable character herself). But she must, at least in the end, really get to grips with the scope of her actions.

Left to right: Jennifer Lewis as Patricia Kanken and Bayer as Joanna in "I love it for you."
Left to right: Jennifer Lewis as Patricia Kanken and Byer as Joanna in I Love It For You.

After Danny is found out, she loses her fame and gains – what? — a chance, perhaps, to rebuild his short-lived career. Meanwhile, Rowans around the world are likely to have a whole new experience to uncover in their support groups.

On the other hand, the core of Joanna’s storyline is her deep regret for everything she learned from her cancer narrative. A job, a new office, a centralized segment of the network, respect even from her tyrant boss, Patricia (Jennifer Lewis), whom she discovers has real cancer. She also feels real regret about the consequences of her choice for people, which Danni never thinks about.

Joanna is in constant conflict over what her lies give her – so much so that she admits it herself, while Danni is coerced into it. Joanna takes responsibility for what she has done and, no matter how she is perceived, accepts the results.

This type of interaction with the larger themes of the story is what makes the character convincingly flawed. “Not Okay” features an imperfect character who capitalizes on something that only a few of us resist – the veneration of millions of strangers based on lies – and refuses to engage in the various conflicts that come with it. Whatactually not okay.