Short of the Week

Erica Wexler is Online

Everyone writes to Erica Wexler on her Facebook, and she’s great about responding. But Erica Wexler is dead.

Zombie movies and mockumentaries–two sub genres that are incredibly overplayed in the world of shorts. But, it seems, that every once in awhile a film comes along with the sole purpose of proving my blanket statement wrong. For the flesh eating folk, be sure to check out the recently featured Play Dead. As for mockumentaries, I turn you to Erica Wexler is Online, a faux-documentary meditation on posthumous social networking.

You see, Erica Wexler is your average college student/avid social networker. The one hitch? She’s dead. Doron Hagay’s darkly comedic short features a community dealing with the consequences of a dead girl who can Facebook from the beyond the grave. It’s a great premise to be sure, but Hagay’s film succeeds where so many others fail because of it’s slightly understated tone.  Mockumentaries often fall victim to a certain showy, “look-at-me-aren’t-I-clever,” winking at the camera style that’s about as subtle as an after school special. Here, everything is played with a lot more nuance–from the steady pacing to the simple text call-outs displaying Erica Wexler’s messages. It also helps that the acting is quite good. Too often films such as this feature performances that are ostentatious or stilted in their attempt to be “real.” Not the case here, as every interviewee is perfectly cast and shot simply over smartly chosen backdrops.

Most intriguing of all, however, is what the short  is trying to say. In the film, no one seems all that shocked that they are digitally communicating with a dead person.  This apathy–this blasé treatment of that which is seemingly incredible–is intrinsically linked to the nature of social networking itself.  If there’s a criticism of today’s connected culture, it’s that nothing is cool enough to impress us anymore. The internet, social networking specifically, has it made it possible for us to see amazing, unimaginable things at literally every second of the day. But, really, are we ever impressed anymore? It’s the age old sentiment of disaffected youth, except now we express our indifference as a global network of millions. This notion is represented by the film’s characters, who shrug blandly when talking about what should be astounding. As for their correspondence with the very dead Erica Wexler, that too is  equally innocuous: “Should I cut side bangs?” one girl asks.  And, so, in her messages, Erica informs people about their own lives–about their own futures.  Even when speaking to a ghost, people would rather talk about themselves.

And, really, isn’t that what social networking is? A narcissistic, high-tech popularity contest? Sure, we’re connecting with people all over the globe in a feel-good kumbaya, but what are the interactions that get us the most excited? It’s when people respond to the stuff we post, tweet, status update, instagram, etc.  We love it when people “like” what we “like”–when they notice what we notice.  In Erica Wexler is Online director Doron Hagey seems to say that even in death, that mindset doesn’t change.

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Ivan is a filmmaker, video editor, and motion graphic artist from the Washington, DC area. He is an avid movie watcher and podcast listener. He’s also quite handsome and charming (at least that's what his Mom says). For more information about Ivan, visit Lucky 9 Studios.
  • anon

    Of course, the plot hole is that FB pages of the deceased can be “memorialized” (i.e. all activity stops) by the person’s family etc. This is know from experience with my deceased daughter’s FB page.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Fresh and beautiful—it’s great to see new stories like this that stem from the fundamental changes that technology forces upon on our lives.

  • Estrid

    First Love? O_o

  • Estrid

    First Love? O_o

  • http://www.facebook.com/thompsign Mark Thompson

    they say facebook but the text graphic they used wasnt facebooks, and friends are maxed out at 5000 (unless they upped it) but i still like the idea. its like a ghost but inside the internet as opposed to being in the physical world. hey i buy it lol!