Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Disconnect - the movie - and connecting....

Disoonnect is a 2012 film that I found very watchable. More than that, it made me think. In keeping with its title, it's a rather fragmentary piece of work, putting together three stories about people who run into trouble of various kinds thanks to their absorption with the internet. There are links between the different stories, although they are rather loose, and the human dramas are well told, and well acted,

So we have a story about cyber-bullying, where two boys pretend to be a girl and induce another boy to send a revealing photo of himself, which they promptly circulate to their circle. The victim responds by hanging himself. This is a highly topical situation, with all the publicity recently surrounding celebrities whose private photos have been hacked and publicised. It's a scenario which tells us more about the worthlessness of the hackers than anyone else, and I found this story the most powerful in the film.

Another story concerns a journalist who befriends a teenager who is, in effect, a male prostitute, while the final story is about a couple whose bank accounts are broken into by a hacker. One of the themes common to the three stories is that of impersonation. The internet makes it easy for people to disguise their identities, and the ability to pretend to be someone else - a subject that's always fascinated me as a novelist, as anyone who has read The Arsenic Labyrinth will appreciate - can be corrupting in the extreme.

Disconnect is a film I can recommend, even though its "messages" are not necessarily straightforward (and that's not a criticism -some social issues are too complex to give rise to straightforward messages.)  One issue it doesn't really touch on is that of internet trolls, and I feel sure that trolls will soon feature in a number of novels and films, because their unpleasant behaviour is, let's face it, interesting.

My own view is that it is the anonymity of trolls that is the central problem, because it facilitates and encourages a malign blend of cowardice and cruelty. If people who behave unkindly could not hide their identity, surely many of them would behave differently. Most human beings are, I like to think, instinctively decent, but the phoney comfort blanket of anonymity tempts them to hurt others for no good reason. As always, I'd be interested in your views (as long as you put your name to them!) My final reflection prompted by this thought-provoking film is this. If ever there was a suitably topical subject for a novelist, it's the question of anonymous trolling on the internet.


Deb said...

Sounds interesting... I'm glad you mentioned trolls because I've stopped commenting on some blogs because of the awfulness of the trolls. I think moderating the comments, as you do, helps eliminate that element.

Regarding internet anonymity, I strongly recommend Don Chaon's excellent novel, Await Your Reply. A great book with an incredible twist toward the end.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Internet trolls are a huge problem. I have seen them create horrible reviews on Good Reads and Amazon for books before they even debut. And often it is very clear, they haven't read the book. I almost wonder if they are "for hire" to sabotage a book. I know this is the case with reviews on restaurants and hotels.

Martin Edwards said...

Deb, thanks. Yes, I do think moderation is desirable. I'm not familiar with teh book, but it sounds great.

Martin Edwards said...

Patti, I agree, it's depressing. The internet is largely wonderful, but it would be even better without trolls. And I think even the trolls would be happier in the long run if they focused more on the positives in life etc.