Social media in the movie “Chef”

A couple of weeks ago, I went to go see Chef. I had read a review that described it as “food porn,” so I knew that it would be my kind of movie. It was pretty good (I mean, it’s no cinematic tour de force…but it IS a nice, light, entertaining way to spend 2 hours in a dark and seriously air-conditioned room). Plus the basic message was a pretty easy one to get on board with: Be true to yourself, follow your passion, and you will be rewarded with both professional and personal successes.

What I found most interesting about the film is the key role that social media plays in it. Social media (especially Twitter, but also Youtube, Facebook, Vine, and text messaging) is absolutely central to the narrative arc of the film. In fact, it’s hard to imagine this story working at all without all of these social media elements, which fuel both the film’s “complicating action” as well as its “resolution” (to use some terms from a very well-known sociolinguistic model of narrative structure.) And, hard as it may be to believe, Twitter actually gets more screen time than Scarlett Johansson!

There’s also a lot of metadiscursive “topicalizing” of social media. In other words, the characters TALK about social media throughout the film. Especially the main character, who comes across as though he’s been living in a bubble for the better part of this century, and is just learning about all this “internet stuff” for the very first time. This trope of the 40-something-technologically-out-of-touch-dad learning about the wondrous workings of social media from his pre-teen son did get a bit old for me after a while.

Nevertheless, it’s a cute little movie, and one that reflects how technologically-mediated our lives are at this point in time.

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