Human beings have been searching for identity and meaning in their lives for, what, hundreds of years? Thousands? Doesn’t matter how long, really, but today, 2019 times, the search has accelerated to its most rapid pace. As if that weren’t stressful enough, there’s emerged a dangerous detour on the path to actualization: social media.
Inside each of our pockets, there’s a slick little device that has destroyed the authentic pursuit of identity, because the authentic pursuit of identity has become synonymous with personal branding: a feedback loop predicated upon the cropped photos and carefully curated captions we tell ourselves are us. But they’re not us. We just won’t admit it, and our true selves get lost in the process.
Ultimate multi-hyphenate Kailee McGee takes on the fruitlessness of a search for self-done publicly in her daring short The Person I Am When No One Is Looking. Over the course of 18 minutes and several themed chapters, McGee and a top-flight cast (including Mitra Jouhari) invite us to ride along for the stops and starts of an experiment in meta, a film that alternates between the character of Kailee McGee and the authentic article. Of course Character Kailee only becomes the authentic article when she realizes her character is nothing more than a projection of what society wants: just some post-of-the-day bullshit, as empty as the fake likes Character Kailee buys.
Shot by Mitchell Arens, edited by Rich Costales, and featuring original music from Mark Hadley that lends itself to an impressive climactic dance number, The Person I Am When No One Is Looking is the commentary on social media that so many creators have tried and failed to nail. The secret, it seems, is a comedic tone that’s more tragic than funny. After all, doesn’t tragedy best sum up any life lived through Instagram, any identity honed on Facebook or Twitter? Kailee McGee seems to think so. No matter how hard her followers laugh.
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