The premiere of ABC’s new show Selfie aired last night, and in case you couldn’t guess from my title, it was awful. Not only does it completely alienate the millennial viewers it is so desperately trying to connect with, Selfie also completely misuses its leads, Karen Gillan and John Cho. And did I mention that the entire premise of the show is based around shaming a young woman for making decisions that might make women in the 1920s clutch their pearls? Because nothing says “modern sitcom” like a man in his forties telling females in their twenties that their clothing, makeup, social habits, and sexual choices are all wrong.
Here’s a quick rundown of the premier: Eliza Doolie (named for Eliza Doolittle and played by Gillan) is vain. She is Instagram famous, she lives and breathes social media, and she is sleeping with a guy from her job–whom she finds out is married while on a plane with her coworkers. This is the first of many times in the show where Eliza experiences consequences for a situation that isn’t actually her fault; she had no idea he was married, yet the following scene involves Eliza projectile vomiting and being completely humiliated. For some reason, this is all inexplicably credited to her frequent use of social media and attachment to technology.
Eliza realizes she doesn’t have any “real” friends, so she enlists the help of Henry (Cho), a rebranding specialist at her company. By the way, Eliza is the best employee in her department, yet they portray Henry as a classy intellectual and Eliza as a bumbling slut. Though he initially resists, Henry winds up “helping” her regarding Eliza’s appearance, lifestyle, and “loose sexual morals” (actual quote). Why, you ask? Because Eliza literally says this:
“Look, I know. I know you don’t like me. But if you don’t like me, change me.“
Therein lies the lesson of Selfie: don’t be yourself, women. Only be what a man in his forties tells you to be, because as of right now, you’re not good enough until he says so. And should you refuse? You’re a bad person who doesn’t deserve friends, love, or happiness. Or your career, because it’s implied that Eliza’s skirts are the only reason she’s employed, or something.
Henry proceeds to make “changes” in Eliza’s life, eventually taking her as his date to a wedding, where her insecurities somehow manifest themselves into her playing a game during the ceremony. Unfortunately, this moment makes less commentary on social media dependency and more or less just explains how having self-control is a good thing. Oh, and after informing her she’s “assigned” to attend this wedding with him, here’s the TOTEZ ADORBZZZ* little rhyme he recites:
“Makeup should be light,
your dress less tight.
Hair should be tame,
your face softly framed.
No 6-inch heels,
no cleavage revealed.
and bring a wrap
in case it’s breezy.”
On the aforementioned topic of self-control, maybe the screenwriters of this show need to exercise even the slightest restraint with regard to all the slang they seem to believe millennials are actually utilizing in our daily speech. Instead of feeling like I could relate to this character, they wound up simply making a shrill caricature that is neither believable nor remotely accurate. Go to an actual bar, listen to some actual human beings, and eventually you’ll stop sounding like 55-year-olds re-imagining conversations between middle schoolers. Oh, and not writing nursery rhymes like a 15-year-old mall goth who rhymes “life” and “strife.”
At best, Selfie is a cliche blend of on the manic pixie dream girl tale and My Fair Lady. He gives her a makeover, she teaches him ~*how to be aliiiive*~. At worst, it’s a moral instructional on how women “should” be, full of encouragement towards dressing conservatively, not having premarital sex, and being neither seen nor heard. Of course it had to be about a woman, despite the fact that this generation and the one below us absolutely have social media famous men. It couldn’t be plausible that a woman might have casual sex, take photos of herself, wear short skirts, and be a good person, right?
You know what else is sad about this? I was really, truly hoping that Selfie would give both Gillan and Cho the starring roles they deserve. Scottish-born Gillan was great in Dr. Who, and I loved Cho as Matthew Perry‘s BFF on Go On (of which I may be the only completely dedicated fan). Both are very talented, but have not yet permeated American entertainment as leads, so I was pretty excited to hear they would be appearing in a television show based on My Fair Lady together. However, instead of a witty sitcom based around our increasingly social media-driven culture, we got…Selfie.
On that note, I’m re-posting our Show Us Your Best Selfie article from last week, because regardless of how many selfies you take, I have no doubt you are infinitely smarter than this show.