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Social Animals

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Social Animals Movie Poster Image
Insightful docu looks at pros, cons of Instagram; language.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 87 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A cautionary tale about social media. Teens are especially vulnerable to cyberbullying. Instagram is a powerful device that may result in positive outcomes, also has the potential to harm.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Three central teens are ardent Instagram users with goals in common: they want to be liked/accepted, build a community, and, in two of the three, find fame. They are willing to reveal both the positive and harmful effects that their investment in social media has had on them, and what they've learned through their experiences. Parental figures have varied responses to their children's ventures (concern, pride, wisdom). Ethnic diversity.

Violence

Cyberbullying. Discussion of suicide.

Sex

Provocative clothing and sexy photos of young teen. Conversations about "booty" pics (nude photographs), with emphasis on the vulnerability of underage girls. Teen girl refers to having sex.

Language

"F--k," "bitch," "s--t," "d--k," "slut," one use of the "N" word.

Consumerism

Verbal or visual references to: Red Bull, Adidas, Chase Bank, Canon.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking cigarettes, talk of "smoking weed."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Social Animals is a documentary that puts Instagram and kids in sharp focus. The movie makes it clear that today's digital culture, though seductive and fun, may have long-lasting negative consequences. Achieving and depending upon "likes" and the pressure to look perfect can become all-consuming endeavors. Three teens' stories are detailed -- a budding daredevil photographer from the streets of Brooklyn, a 15-year-old design entrepreneur and model in upscale Los Angeles, and a vulnerable but savvy girl from middle America. Some serious themes like cyberbullying and stalking; teen suicide; and online sexual predators are explored. While swearing/profanity (i.e., "f--k," "bitch," "s--t," "d--k," "slut," one use of the "N" word) is heard as part of everyday conversation, it's a cautionary film that may be valuable for younger teens as well as older ones.

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What's the story?

In SOCIAL ANIMALS, Kaylyn Slevin is a 15-year-old who wants turn her beauty into fame and fortune; Humza Deas is a 17-year-old photographer who's willing to risk his life for the perfect shot; and Emma Crockett is a teen who simply wants to belong. Filmmaker Jonathan Ignatius Green follows these three Instagram faithfuls as they use the platform to try to realize their dreams. For each, the experience online is complex, challenging, and finds them on dangerous ground. Jealous "friends," sexual predators, and bullies follow them. Unknown enemies stalk them and exploit their vulnerabilities. Other teens are on-hand for online testimonies about their own cyber experiences. For some, there are rewards. For others, it's strictly a learning experience, and a difficult one at that.

Is it any good?

Foregoing a narrator, experts, or statistics, filmmaker Jonathan Ignatius Green lets the kids speak for themselves, constructing a fascinating movie that's both timely and relevant. For "newbies" (mostly adults) unfamiliar with "branding" and career-making social network enterprises, Social Animals a surprising look at how the online culture is changing both values and behavior. Teens who are well-acquainted with the pros and cons of having one's personal life perpetually on-screen will find that it is a reminder that maturity is required, though not always on-hand. Not everyone portrayed in the film is admirable, or even likable, but that doesn't lessen the impact of the movie's message.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the character strengths and skills it takes to mindfully negotiate social networks (i.e., integrity, self-control, empathy).

  • Have you, or anyone you love, been a victim of cyberbullying? Explain why the anonymity of the internet is a major cause. How does your family or your community deal with the issue? What, if any, resources are available to you if you become the object of bullying?

  • Discuss the statement in Social Animals: "On social media you can edit yourself to who you want to be, in person you're stuck with who you are." In what ways does this idea have meaning for you?

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