Exhibiting another random attack of noblesse oblige, MTV is airing an arty and somewhat entertaining movie with a muddled message called “DISconnected” on Monday night, a fictional story about a handful of teens and young adults who learn just what a pain the Internet can be.
Especially when you stream naked video of yourself to a bully who is posing as a phony love interest, who then shares it with everyone online. Or when you stalk a new lover because he won’t return the 100-plus texts you’ve sent him on the morning after. Or when you just can’t take it anymore and decide to vlog your death, downing a bottle of pills while an ever-growing number of followers watches via webcam. These scenarios are all rooted in headlines of recent years, instances in which our technology proved to be a malicious tool in the hands of mean girls and bully boys.
But “DISconnected” is also about the pitfalls of constant oversharing, about which it seems abstractly, even fatalistically concerned. The movie oozes the sort of caution that can be summarized in brochures available at the school counselor’s office. Afterward, MTV will air a news special and discussion threads on topics covered in “DISconnected” (which range from basic Web etiquette to suicide prevention), featuring Vinny Guadagnino from “Jersey Shore” and advice columnist Dan Savage.
The movie’s main characters live in different towns and are vaguely aware of one another’s existence because they all visit the same streaming social network and watch and remark on one another’s video musings.
They and the supporting cast all float past us and around us in the cinema version of a busy aquarium full of fish. It’s a narrative device that seeks to mimic the ephemeral, constant quality of social networking. There’s an intentional weightlessness to their stories and issues; as such, adults who watch it will find little with which to sympathize and teens might find it embarrassingly self-conscious.
Eager to break the mold, “DISconnected” ultimately suffers the same shortcomings as every movie that has ever tried to be about Internet life. It’s as though we’re unable to let an old art form (filmmaking) fully describe the revolution we’re presently experiencing via our broadband connections. As hyped up as we get about our gadgets, the movie camera couldn’t care less about them.
(two hours) airs Monday at 9 p.m. on MTV, followed by a one-hour report and discussion about Internet bullying and other issues raised in the movie.