“The Bling Ring” - A True Reflection of the Social Networking Generation?
Whether you like Sofia Coppola films or not, she undeniably raises some interesting issues with them. Her newest picture, The Bling Ring, starring, amongst others, Harry Potter star Emma Watson, is no exception. Based on true events, the film involves five teenagers (4 girls and 1 boy) who robbed a series of celebrity homes in LA before being arrested and each serving time in jail, cutely labelled The Suspects Wore Louboutins by Nancy Jo Sales in her 2010 Vanity Fair article.
The movie and the real-life story portray a very scary message about the morals and the interests of today’s youth, as well as the ease with which the lives of celebrities can be invaded.
The teenage criminals are portrayed as vapid, celebrity-idolising, drunk-driving terrors who are oblivious to the moral implications of their crimes. They break into the homes of people such as Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson with ease by googling their addresses and their schedules to find out when they won’t be home. They manage to steal three million pounds worth of possessions before being caught and they are only caught because they fail to take basic precautions such as wearing masks to hide their faces from cameras, or gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints.
The tale suggests that the social network (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) generation feels it is entitled to pry into every personal aspect of the lives of the rich and famous with an almost “what’s theirs is ours” attitude - their secrets as well as their possessions. It does not appear to them at all possible that they may be caught. They break into Paris Hilton’s home five or more times and happily tell various friends and acquaintances of their exploits. What perhaps is the scariest aspect of this tale is that once caught, these teenagers themselves reached the A-list status they had always dreamed of and one of the thieves - played by Emma Watson in the movie - was later given her own reality TV show.
This story is a perfect metaphor of all that is wrong with the celebrity and internet culture of today. It highlights all the dangers that come with worshipping those we see in the media. Sofia Coppola demonstrates with this film the truth - or one extreme version of the truth - that today we want to be famous for the sake of being famous without caring how we get there.
It would be wrong to presume that because these events really occurred, they solely point out the very worst aspects and the most extreme repercussions of modern culture. The majority of teenagers would still see what their peers in this movie do and think, that’s not right! It should be a warning, not an admonishment, to modern youth.
Coppola creates both a shocking and yet believable world for the teenage gang. Great detail and work goes into capturing the way of life, the language, attitudes, and style of the Californian teens. As a 41-year-old woman, Coppola succeeds in understanding and capturing the minds of a group of high-school kids who have grown up in a world completely different from the one she grew up in, where having Francis Ford Coppola as a dad did not mean constant invasions by the paparazzi. She put great effort into collaborating with the younger generation and reading about the lives of the real-life Bling Ring to achieve this fete. The film would undoubtedly have failed if its audience felt like it was listening to the voice of an older generation.
This is greatly helped by a solid cast of relative unknowns although Watson delivers a standout and convincing performance. Each actor brilliantly encapsulates their character’s disassociation from the moral truth and the repercussions of their acts. There are truly chilling moments in the film, particularly where we realise the utter lack of repentance or personal growth of most of the ring at the end. At one point, group leader Rebecca (Katie Chang) is told that her personal idol, Lindsay Lohan, has reported her crimes to the police and she asks, out of a desperate need for insight into her heroine’s life, rather than out of guilt for her offence, “What did Lindsay say?”
The Bling Ring is a truly fascinating, thrilling and shocking tale which, particularly if the story is new to you, will leave you reflecting on the events involved and their implications. Perhaps more credit should go to the actual events of 2010 in which five real teenagers robbed various celebrities’ homes but Coppola’s imagination makes that film entertaining and thought-provoking. She does justice to an interesting tale and should be praised for seeing it as film-worthy material, but she had some pretty remarkable, socially-significant material to work with.