By Tara McNamara,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Nudity, drinking, profanity in loud influencer satire.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Argues that smartphones and apps associated with them, like social media and YouTube, have led us to chase affirmation from strangers and are destroying young people's mental health, self-image, and self-esteem.
Positive Role Models
While viewers may empathize with some of the characters and their personal struggles, there are no clearly positive role models.
Violence & Scariness
Bullying. Reference to a supporting character's death by suicide, with emphasis on the root cause.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In a nonsexual context, a man is shown fully naked, covered only by a prosthetic penis (which is then shown extensively). Buttocks are exposed during a bowel movement scene. Passionate making out with the implication that it leads to sex. Mention of porn. Sexual gesturing.
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Extremely strong language throughout, with constant use of words including "a--hole," "bulls--t," "hell," "s--t," "slut," and "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Apple products/logos shown. Satirizes glamour of YouTuber life with expensive sports cars and houses.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters work in a bar and drink constantly, including doing shots on the job, and face no consequences. Smoking. Snarky references made to crack cocaine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Mainstream is a satirical drama starring Andrew Garfield that peels back the curtain on social media influencer culture. It's intended to be a thought-provoking critique of the motivation, morality, and sanity of the influencers who are role models to many of today's kids. It follows three YouTube content creators who go viral and quickly learn that edgy videos draw views -- and that the only way to keep viewership up is to continue pushing the envelope. Mature content includes a long scene of Garfield wearing nothing but a very realistic-looking prosthetic penis attached to a flesh-colored thong. A character pulls down his pants and says he's having a bowel movement on someone's desk before chasing people down holding what looks like excrement (attentive listeners can hear him saying it's Play-Doh). Characters smoke and do a lot of drinking, including at the bar where they work. Conversations include the death of parents; there's also bullying and a reference to a supporting character's death by suicide. Characters kiss passionately and use extremely strong language ("s--t," "f--k," and many more).
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Based on 3 parent reviews
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Pretty good movie
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What's the Story?
When Frankie (Maya Hawke) meets eccentric Link (Andrew Garfield), she knows she's found her muse and the star of her YouTube channel. With Frankie's friend Jake (Nat Wolff) writing the content, Link and the channel become a viral sensation. But what's the cost of maintaining that success?
Is It Any Good?
Gia Coppola's sophomore feature effort is a memorable, jarring satire that could help teens think critically about the personalities who influence their actions, attitudes, and self-worth. It starts when Link, a handsome stranger with a big personality, jumps into the frame of wannabe filmmaker Frankie's recording and creates something unexpected. Inevitably, the video racks up views on YouTube. Who wouldn't want to seize the moment to see where the self-generated streaming content train takes them? Link is a modern-day prophet of sorts, and he, Frankie, and Jake start with a vision to create art that offers commentary about how smartphones are taking away people's connectedness and mental acuity. But with success, they become the very thing they're parodying. This offers a valuable media literacy lesson for the modern age, but the delivery -- while creative -- isn't likely to shake the hold that actual YouTube and other social media platforms have on teens.
As an actor, Garfield is so likable that it catches you off-guard when he wholly transforms into Link, an authentically outrageous and obnoxious YouTuber. There's not a drop of Peter Parker or Eduardo Saverin in this wild performance, and it gets harder and harder to see the actor inside the outlandish character. Instead, it's easier and easier to see provocateurs like Jake Paul (who cameos without irony). Link's antics aren't outside the realm of believability, particularly in the unregulated wilds of the internet. But in following content creators who criticize people's unhealthy dependence on digital platforms, Coppola misses exposing the sloppy, opportunistic motivations of influencers who abuse their viewers' trust and loyalty for personal profit. Teens may be put off by a film that preaches to rather than speaks with them, but the seeds of skepticism about influencer culture will likely germinate.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the power of social media influencers and what motivates them to produce content. Which YouTubers or social media stars do you believe act responsibly? Irresponsibly?
How is Mainstream satire, and what's the difference between satire, parody, and a spoof? How can entertainment be used to teach media literacy?
What does the film have to say about people's current relationship to smartphones? Teens: How do you think your life and your friends' lives are affected by technology? Why does making a device convenient make it more likely to become a compulsive habit?
What do you think is the psychological effect of seeking validation in the form of "likes," followers, and subscribers?
What is the movie's message about beauty? How do you think social media, filters, and beauty influencers impact our self-image and self-esteem? Do you think it's better or worse than pre-social media times, when magazines, commercials, and movies dominated this landscape?
- In theaters: May 7, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2022
- Cast: Andrew Garfield, Maya Hawke, Nat Wolff
- Director: Gia Coppola
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language and some graphic nudity
- Last updated: February 25, 2023
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