This article contains spoilers for We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
Since the dawn of the Internet, movies have tried to capture the experience of being online, and for the most part have failed. Two initial attempts since 1995, Hackers and Net, set the lower bar to handle the subject intelligently on the big screen. Still, doing significantly better has been surprisingly difficult. 2018 year Wanted may be the most successful example, but its connection to the internet is more of an aesthetic gimmick than a central aspect of its story or themes. 2018 also gave us Cam and Eight classes, both of which deal with the internet as part of their wider coverage, but do not focus on the subject for their entire runtime. However, as a generation that has grown up making films online, projects that explore the messy and sprawling medium are beginning to emerge.
One such recent film, We’re all going to the World’s Fair, may be the best expression of living with and on the internet. Writer-director Jane Schoenbru’s remarkable debut feature is a terrific slow burn that succeeds where so many others have failed. Often referred to as the “creepypasta movie”, We’re all going to the World’s Fair It’s a unique look at the complexities of the Internet as a whole, presenting the huge pros and cons that have become an inevitable part of our lives. Let’s take a look at how it evokes the same feelings as browsing the web.
The joy of discovery and the fear of the unknown
The Internet is a place of endless discovery. A lifetime could be devoted to researching everything and you wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface. It is both beautiful and terrifying. Sometimes you’ll come across something incredible and at other points you’ll find the most disgusting content imaginable. What is unique about the Internet, unlike other forms of communication, is that these highs and lows are often side by side.
These disturbing side approaches are vividly illustrated We’re all going to the World’s Fair Through videos watched by the main character Casey, played by Anna Cobb. In one particularly striking scene, Casey presents a soothing and reassuring ASMR video to help her fall asleep. However, when this pleasant video ends, a loading screen appears that leads to a disturbing video directed at Casey. Throughout the film, the aforementioned loading screen becomes a symbol of anticipatory dread, which turns into joy or horror depending on the video being played. The source of Casey’s suffering and cure is the same.
Feedback: For Good or Bad
The Internet gives young people unprecedented access to communities they might not otherwise find. This means that lonely children and teenagers can discover a sense of belonging that eludes them in real life, but they are also exposed to potentially dangerous people. This dynamic is largely explored through Casey’s relationship with JLB, a grown man played by Michael J. Rogers.
The relationship is complicated, with age differences and power dynamics. It’s never clear what JLB really wants, and while he seems genuinely concerned about Casey’s deteriorating mental state, there’s always the worry that he has sinister intentions.
Interviewer Sailor DiNucci-Radley in conversation with Jane Schoenbrun for life in film, notes that “Casey and JLB’s relationship feels really complicated and reminisced [her] of [her] I have my own experiences trying to find a trans community online.” Schoenbrun responds:
“[a]As a non-binary filmmaker who doesn’t really enjoy binary ‘is it a good thing or a bad thing’ structures when I look at the kinds of work I want to do, one of the main things I’ve tried to do is complicate and humanize relationships. most people will see it really dark. And I agree that it’s a really dark relationship for many reasons, but the movie clearly challenges your perspective of “internet stranger danger” and a creepy pedophile with a big beard and a big plan to get you into something. .”
Schoenbrun refuses to give us easy answers about the nature of Casey and JLB’s relationship, instead using it to highlight both the camaraderie and the potential pitfalls the internet can provide, often simultaneously.
What sets We’re all going to the World’s Fair Apart from other feature films about our online experiences, none of them would exist without the internet. Everything about it, thematically, sonically, and visually, resembles internet culture and, frankly, the online horror and creepypasta communities. The film really captures in a wonderfully melancholic way that surfing the web is both refreshing and unusual at the same time.