Bird Box: How A Mediocre Sci-Fi Thriller Has Become A Social Media Phenomenon

Alex Eastland, Staff Writer

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If you didn’t see at least one Bird Box post in your social media feed over winter break, chances are you slept through your whole vacation. The Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock has been everywhere online. After being hit with an onslaught of Bird Box memes and Instagram videos tagged with “#BirdBoxChallenge”, it felt necessary to tune in and see what everyone was talking about. The social media phenomenon that is Bird Box, however, is in no way justified by the quality of the film. Sorry, Twitter, Bird Box isn’t good.

In a world of live-action Disney remakes and all-female Ghostbusters movies, there is a distinct lack of originality in Hollywood. Netflix has, for the most part, been a breath of fresh air in that regard, offering some incredible and original TV shows and movies, such as Black Mirror, Roma, and American Vandal. But, in what has become their biggest Netflix Original movie ever, Bird Box fails to bring anything new to the table. If you haven’t had the pleasure of enduring Bird Box, the plot is pretty simple: monsters, not shown on camera, make you kill yourself if you look at them (think John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, but more poorly done and with sight instead of hearing). Bird Box offers pretty much zero explanation as to what the monsters are, where they came from, or why they’re doing what they’re doing and is filled with plot holes. The script is lazy, and not even Sandra Bullock’s impressive performance can save the film from its horrendous writing and awkward, choppy editing. 

That’s not to say that Bird Box never shows any potential. Early in the movie, there are several very good scenes and an attempt to make some interesting statements on the concepts of loneliness, independence, and freedom, and how these three ideas intersect during an apocalyptic scenario. Halfway through exploring these themes, however, Bird Box completely abandons their attempt at making an interesting, thought-provoking film and, instead, puts forth a lazy effort at creating a cliche, apocalyptic sci-fi thriller. There’s absolutely nothing special, new, or all that interesting about Bird Box. The concept, though played-out at this point, is cool, but the film doesn’t add anything new to the ideas it is based around.

So, if the movie is truly so bland and uninspired, why has it become the social media sensation that it is? Bird Box’s 62% Rotten Tomatoes score is nothing to brag about and the official marketing campaign for the film has been seemingly nonexistent. Bird Box is obviously huge at this point, but I have seen not one commercial, billboard, trailer, or YouTube ad.

In fact, the way many discovered the movie was through memes, tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook videos, etc. The #BirdBoxChallenge has blown up on social media and caused even more interest in Bird Box. This social media buzz was obviously intentionally stirred up by Netflix. For one, the entire movie is essentially meme bait. With a simple plot, a stereotypical, almost caricaturistic supporting cast and constant confused, memeable looks from the main characters, Twitter was destined to have a field day. Netflix also more directly influenced social media, teaming up with Twitch streamers to promote Bird Box through blindfolded gaming streams. Claims and conspiracy theories regarding Netflix utilizing bots to promote Twitter memes about Bird Box have gone viral, but whether or not that is true is irrelevant. The truth is this: Netflix has, through meme culture, turned a basic, mediocre-at-best, unoriginal sci-fi thriller into one of the biggest movies and social media phenomenons we’ve seen in a while. Though Bird Box itself is far from groundbreaking, the marketing campaign behind it is. If other streaming platforms, movie production companies, TV networks, and music labels follow the formula set by Bird Box, we could live in a future where memes dominate media promotion.

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