By Ramona Minero
Have you ever walked down the street, thinking the person beside you is listening, until you look over to find them zeroed in on their mobile device in an all-consuming two-hand-touch-and-scroll? If you answered yes, know someone like that, or if that’s you, we found your new web series of choice.
#Hashtag, created by and starring Caitlin Bergh and Laura Zak, shamelessly explores just how deep our social media interactions interweave into our everyday lives. #Hashtag is a hilariously unique find that delivers an unforgiving depiction of the familiar plugged-in-zoned-out habits of many people today.
The series is set in the queer community of Andersonville, a Chicago neighborhood with a small town feel, that feels even smaller, especially the queer dating pool, thanks to technology. The show follows the entertainingly unfiltered lives of Skylar and Liv – two best friends who appear to be forerunners in the race to reduce our entire existence to online interactions.
#Hashtag revolves around their dating lives, Skylar, a struggling, Twitter-obsessed stand-up comic, and Liv, a dog lover, avid Instagram user and book aficionado. Unlike other web series that have explored online dating, #Hashtag takes online dating to a new level, showing how our daily social media interactions on sites like Instagram and Twitter can turn into opportunities for covert flirting and a starting point to get to know potential love interests.
We are well past the point of denying the saturation of our social media soaked culture in everyday life. From aggregate home bases like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram, to online dating, to professional networks, social media occupies all spare moments belonging to many otherwise sane adults. A recent study shows 40% of young adults even bring social media to the bathroom (HuffPost). In its kickoff season, #Hashtag establishes a steady stride of consistently witty dialogue, cleverly outing our own social media ridiculousness.
You can’t pull yourself away from clouds and shoes long enough to meet my one fan?!
Episode one, “Marlee’s Mom,” touches upon the themes of social media saturation and validation when Skylar introducers her one and only “fan” to Liv, who hardly looks up from her Instagram feed. Filling validation reservoirs with social media is a constant theme throughout the season, shown through hilarious scenes that we’ve all witnessed or experienced ourselves. At one point or another, we all compare ourselves to others: to others’ high social media following, to other couples, to our friends.
#Hashtag also delves into the unique excitement of online dating illusion. Supporting the notion we are creatures of fantasy, Liv plays the field of attractive mates, while failing to find anything as exciting as the pseudo-connection she has formed with a stranger on Instagram, which is largely played out in her imagination.
I can’t tell if she’s really flirting with me or if it’s just my imagination.
Relationships often fail after the honeymoon period, when two people start to see each other a little too clearly. After only a few dates, most people can’t compare to the fantastic vision a potential long-term mate has created of them. So, it’s not too much of a stretch to understand why some would emotionally invest in the allure of an online illusion, especially if they can draw that illusion out over several weeks, or even months, without ever having to put that fantasy to the test of flesh and bone and real-time awkwardness. #Hashtag begs the question: Have the fluid (often imagined) possibilities and exciting secrets offered by social media connections become more appealing to us than the all too fallible face-to-face romance?
In our video interview with Bergh and Zak, they shared their process of creating meaningful storylines. They set out to create a series that closely reflects their real-life personal experiences, although admittedly exaggerated for the cyber screen, in order to give us a take on genuine human behavior we’ve never seen before. Judging by how easily the five-episode pilot season can be devoured in a single binge-viewing session, while providing laughs at the expense of either yourself or someone you know, I’d say they’ve hit their mark. #Hashtag strikes the right balance of authenticity and humorous exaggeration. The characters are extremely likable, even in such an unflattering light, allowing the viewer the opportunity to take a good look at what’s undeniably pervading the lives of a growing population.
While the issues of queer culture and the way labels affect all those in the community are at the forefront of their creative objectives, Bergh and Zak maintain #Hashtag is “not just a queer web series.” That’s just one piece of it – an important piece – but it doesn’t dominate the series. Their aim is to show us a different way of looking at the world and the different ways people can get to know each other. #Hashtag’s main focus is toward the impact of social media on dating in general, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum. Bergh also notes a continued effort to facilitate understanding and acceptance in all her creative endeavors, saying, “I hope families sit down and watch it together. Or maybe separately – maybe in different rooms – but that would be great.” Zak goes on to say, “We’re very proud of the show. There’s not really anything quite like it right now. I think everyone will be able to relate to it in some degree.”
The show premieres Sunday, March 16. Subscribe at TelloFilms to watch. New episodes will be released on Sundays at 11am PST.
On Friday, April 4, you can watch #Hashtag among many queer women at The Dinah Shore Film Festival in Palm Springs, CA. Caitlin Bergh and Laura Zak will be there for a Q&A. Get your tickets to The Dinah Shore Film Festival to watch #Hashtag, as well as other web series and films, with the creators and actors.
For more of what Zak and Bergh have to say about #Hashtag, the dos and don’ts of social media and their thoughts about being first timers at The Dinah Shore, check out our full video interview below (tellofilms.com).