In “Seminal,” a bi-weekly column, we examine under-acknowledged exemplars of dramatic and conceptual mastery from revered performers’ careers — moments that should be described as, dare I say, seminal. This week we’re focusing on a very recent performance, but one that’s going criminally unsung in this years’ endless awards announcements. To compensate, we’re paying homage to that certain master of disguise — Face Book — and his role in 2016’s nihilistic body horror film, The Election, in which the Social Media Platform played the pivotal character of Credible News Sharing Platform, and was, to many, quite convincing!
Though many have sung the praises of Isabelle Huppert for her multifaceted, raw performances in both Elle and Things to Come this year, it’s hard to deny the power of some transformational costumery and a thick, hammy accent. And Face Book, like a psychotic, bewigged Johnny Depp in one of his laudable performances as, say, Willy Wonka or The Lone Ranger (but unlike Johnny Depp: still sexy!), was so compelling in his deviance from his original identity this year as to have shattered reality into what critics are calling “two bubbles.” (Long ago were the days where Face Book innocuously played Puppy Videos and Your Second Cousin Once Removed’s Wedding Photos, and now he’s finally exercising the range of his talent!)
So, sorry Isabelle, but we’re going to turn our attention fully to why Face Book’s performance was so potent — and so deeply arousing!
It’s been said of Mr. Book that he can play anything from a Narcissistic Pastime to a Stalkers’ Tool — but as is the case with so many aging celebrities, as they tire of the vacuousness of their position in the world, they reach for their public image to be more political. Book’s first foray into the performance of Credible News Sharing Platform — even before The Election, the body horror film in question — was in 2014, when he decided to philanthropically recite Trending Topics, with minimalist gravitas, listing them in such a straightforward but deceptively postmodern pastiche-y fashion, seeing the likes of Hugh Jackman hitting “back at Ryan Reynolds for Deadpool Diss” commingling with “Electoral College,” “John Podesta,” and the Empire Strikes Back honest trailer. A devoted method actor, he spent the next two years studying up on how to convincingly play Credible News Sharing Platform — gaining a bravely unflattering amount of weight, practicing his accent in day to day life, insisting that his friends refer to him as “Tom Brokaw.”
And beyond his technical prowess, how can you talk about Face Book without talking about the chiseled, stoic simplicity of his face? His firm, square jaw, his melancholy, oceanic blue cheeks, and that fat, juicy white “f”; that face alone is enough to draw people in, to make them feel at home in his immense presence, to want to give everything over to him — all their screeds, their quips, their GIFs, their vague pleas to “keep me in your thoughts,” their likes, their loves, their friendiversaries, their political ideologies (and maybe, just maybe, their Oscars? #fingerscrossed, #nevertoolate, #oscarstoohuman). And so, in this year’s controversial body horror epic, Face Book was able to leverage that comfort (and his better-than-sex-appeal) to pull off the astonishing feat of convincing viewers he was trustworthy.
And so, in the recent grotesque body horror film from which we’re still recovering (so masterfully disquieting!), the famously promiscuous, ne’er do well actor proved himself quite adept at playing a Credible News Sharing Platform, giving people the instant gratification thrill of clicking on him. Sure, it was a form of fandom that, unbeknownst to them, would lead them astray into a world where the Pope has endorsed Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is using pizza to make children into sex slaves — but it was so captivating! It was, indeed, the kind of astonishing, transcendent character work Johnny Depp did when he wore a tiny mustache and called himself Mortdecai.
But while this performance as a Credible News Sharing Platform was clearly very popular — popular enough to have led to upwards of 8 million “shares, reactions, and comments” on news stories that were not, in fact, real! — it also, it was revealed just yesterday, exhausted Face Book. After having received a great deal of press for his performance, he only just recently came out to say that in the future, he’d be looking to play slightly different roles through “a series of [Stella Adler-technique based] experiments to keep misinformation and false articles from being disseminated.”
Apparently, he’s looking to do something a bit more naturalistic. Meanwhile, here the rest of the world sits, agog in their respective bubbles, at just what an impact it seems he was able to make in just one performance this year.