Why Millenials Need to (Re) Watch the Film, Lost in Translation

What does it mean to be authentic? I’m serious. Should I be funny? Vulnerable? Should I have vanity on the left side of a room and stand on the right? Now… how do we remain authentic on Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook? As a “Millennial”, dealing with this addictive yet seemingly vital tool that is social media has proved one very complicated path. In the present, data-capturing climate, we drift between two oceanic labels that are expectation and reality. A dilemma between the authentic and the fake. And for myself, social media is just one more necessary crutch that could help us either sink or swim. Here we have one more rabbit hole leaving one curiouser and curiouser: if we continue to embrace digital connections, are we forgoing our ability to be authentic as social media usage thrives? As we try to bring our voice, our thoughts, and our lives into the digital, can we do so without social media restructuring our authentic self?

Now, you might be wondering: how, of all things available in this world, could this film help. If Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (daughter of Francis Ford Coppola) has gone under the radar somehow, you have here much more than a basic Rx.

The plot is simple because it’s the mood of which is central in how we are to understand a story that surrounds two people who feel unseen and unheard. This is a film focused on those rare, human moments. Moments that require taking a stroll in the park rather than falling for the default NetflixNchill.

First, let’s go back a bit. It’s 2003. It was only one month before Sophia Coppola introduced her film, Lost in Translation, when the notorious MySpace was launched. A site where you could make friends located anywhere in the world with a click of a button. Acceptance was quickly achieved, the woes were discussed and momentary digital friendships were carved. I don’t need to tell you that social media apps and platforms have improved since the MySpace and Friendster days. If we have a phone, they’re readily available for us to download, review, and stare at for eternity. The ability to post life updates, video chat via WhatsApp, or quickly share the daily selfie with friends and family have made in-person visits feel seemingly less necessary (but of course still desired). Social media has connected the world in an explosive way and is, at minimum, an era-defining invention.

Its main issue many can acknowledge, however, is the occasional false image portrayed via Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. We typically share the good, the great and the oh-so-incredibly-fantastic. Youtubers and social media influencers have discussed the high level contrasts between what they post and what remains behind the camera. But when we, the audience, watch and observe how perfect their lives appear when vlogging, it doesn’t matter if the persona is real or fake – it feels real to us. And if their fanbase is big enough, a good majority may even have a crack at imitation. And by all means, if you can survive as a wanderlust, social media influencer or the next Casey Neistat, then by all means, crack on. There are then those who post without caring how social media is supposed to be done, living a life with these extra worries. There are even innocent times when we want just a couple extra “likes” because, yes, we look killer on the beaches of Fiji.

But without intent to pull the rug out from under anyone, how much does that #wanderlust pic feel like the other ten from this morning? What about the other 100 million different #wanderlust posts? Some of us fight against this black hole version of social media with a #nofilter and post our real thoughts, but isn’t this less like a “someone” and closer to being everyone? The consequences could mean we (unintentionally) become someone else, but, of course, there must be more to this problem than a simple case of the copycat.

Now. Back to Coppola.

She shot the film in Tokyo just under 27 days with zero permits to shoot. She picked up Scarlett Johansson when she was a small, non-avenger, and put her next to Bill-f%@ing-Murray – a man notoriously elusive and difficult to reach with his main line being a 1-800-number.

What surprised everyone back in 2003 was how well Murray could play a role that left embarrassing, slapstick comedy at the door. A review in The New York Times from 2003 critiques Murray’s move:

“We watch him drifting toward a resigned self-knowledge…losing his hold on the immunity to embarrassment that has so often been the saving grace of Mr. Murray’s fools, losers, and outright nutcases” from his past work.

With Murray standing alongside Johansson, Coppola pulled off creating another film classic. The story surrounds two very different people. Bob, an on-the-verge “has been” of an actor traveling to Tokyo for a $2 million Suntory Whiskey commercial, and Charlotte, a young recent graduate, with no plans in sight, following her photographer-husband to Tokyo. She directed and captured what is likely the most naturally developed relationship for the silver screen. There are certainly many other “human” films surrounding lostlessness to choose from, including Perks of being a Wallflower, but here we have a story devoid of romantic love as the constant driver for character growth to take place. Each is on a different path, and we can’t depend on love to help us in find our truths.

“On social media, it’s easy to post an unabashed thought and be met with either love or hostility… [W]hat this article is picking at…is the moment a vlogger or social media influencer with a huge platform posts their #unfiltered self for all to see. But people…forget that it’s still their job to be liked…”

It’s during their stay at the Park Hyatt hotel in Tokyo where they find themselves staring out the hotel windows, seeing the world go round as their life remains stagnant. Then, over the course of a few days, their paths occasionally cross. Each being a moment drawing them closer until the internal turmoil is seen or understood for the first time. These are the moments that lie at the core of what Coppola wanted to capture and cherish. The authentic self.

What’s isn’t so surprising is how the same feeling of isolation that’s shown in the beginning of the film is what many of us experience today with social media. Even with the ability to connect with everyone you know, isolation still lingers. However, there is a solution presented in both the film and how social media is being used today. If we look at the characters that couldn’t see the chaos or confusion within Charlotte and Bob, and see how social media influencers act up on their platforms, all you need to do is to ignore the isolation. Well… transition over from chaos and confusion, then isolation, and finally into the final level which we can call social media authentic, for all the world to see.

On social media, it’s easy to post an unabashed thought and be met with either love or hostility. Everyone, by all means, has the freedom to say their piece as long as it’s void of harming others. Yet, what this article is picking at, specifically, is the moment a vlogger or social media influencer with a huge platform posts their #unfiltered self the viewers. But people forget that it’s still their job to be liked, to grow the following, and to make sure you smash that subscribe button so they can monetize the social media content. The problem is that this is still social media, and people are selling a product, that product is “the perfect life”. Pandering to a wider audience is critical for them to make a living. This is that transition from feeling isolated like Bob and Charlotte, to then ignoring our own personal confusion necessary to grow, and rather than growing into something true, the life of the social media mogul who panders to all the followers is what we grab for instead.

While some of us may be old enough to dodge the personality imitation and make our own decisions, we have incoming generations who won’t see it as such. Perhaps it sounds like madness or complete absurdity. But here’s a follow up recommendation – a response to Coppola’s creation, and that is Spike Jonze’s Her (also with Johansson). The plot being of one person’s love for a machine that quickly learns all of his wants and desires. Comparing this to current social media analytics through data collection, social media will transform the general public’s social scene into something that comes with the underlying algorithm.

The generations after us will grow up watching vloggers, social media influencers, and even improved upon advertisements that are made to look like posts. Everything being recommended or suggested by Facebook or Google’s personal data algorithm that knows what we search. But can all that we google, watch on YouTube, upvote on reddit or like on Facebook help us become authentic? The percentage of people using social media – be it for sharing their meal of the day or a short, lip-syncing video – continues to rise. If it continues, authenticity will be simply guided unnaturally by a mere algorithm.

As we swim in and out of the whirlpool of digital socialization, authenticity draws closer to being another hashtag than toward its original definition. For everyone, myself included, there is the hope in being authentic for others to either enjoy, appreciate, or, at the very least, notice, our existence. When we are honest in who we are, feeling alive becomes natural, happening at times when it’s least expected.

Lost in Translation is a film that can recalibrate the many addicted to the social media lifestyle who might be continuing to risk or gamble their own, naturally grown authenticity. While it’s true we have a need to be seen, heard and understood, having the most followers or likes cannot provide the necessary fulfillment as one human connection can (obviously). Even Instagram has realized this to some extent considering the soon to be eradicated “likes” visual. We can’t be authentic on social media because it’s nearly impossible to please everyone with that unabashed version of who we are, avoiding that lingering fear held toward the trolls and the haters. Either way, give the film a gander, because what you have here is still, and will forever be, a knockout, cinema classic.

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