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Film / Not Okay

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"Have you ever wanted to be noticed so badly, you didn't even care what it was for? You just wake up every day thinking, 'I want to be seen. I want to be important. I want to have purpose. I want to be known. I want to be loved. I wanna matter.' Yeah, well, let me tell you... be careful what you fucking wish for."
Danni Sanders

Not Okay is a comedy-drama film directed by Quinn Shephard, which was released on Hulu on July 29th, 2022.

Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is a photo editor and aspiring writer at the fictional magazine Depravity who's very unpopular online. Seeking more success with her work and gaining friends, she pretends she's going on a retreat to Paris by posting altered pictures of herself there from her New York City apartment. During the time she's pretending to be in the city, multiple terrorist attacks strike Paris, including near where Danni's claimed location was at the Arc de Triomphe. She fakes a return to the US at the airport, her worried parents overjoyed to see Danni "survived" unscathed.

Discovering that she gains extreme attention given her apparent survival, Danni decides to keep up the lie. Attending a trauma survivors support group, she meets teenage activist Rowan Aldren (Mia Isaac), who survived a school shooting, befriending her as a supposed fellow survivor of violence. Danni then writes an article on her pretended experience and starts a Twitter hashtag, #IAmNotOkay, to help people vent about things they're dealing with. Growing closer to Rowan and dogged by her skeptical coworker Harper (Nadia Alexander), Danni's lies continue piling up as she gains more attention and become increasingly unsustainable under the weight of scrutiny and even her own guilt.

Not Okay contains examples of:

  • All for Nothing: Danni actually got what she wanted, only for it to be incredibly disappointing. By the end of the film, her life is actually worse than it was at the start.
  • An Aesop: Lying about something serious to get clout is, well, not okay. Eventually your lies will catch up to you and you will be forced to deal with the consequences.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The movie beings with a content warning that says that it contains, “flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikeable female protagonist.”
  • As Herself:
    • The film's director Quinn Shephard appears as one of the attendees in the second support group Danni attends where she plays herself, rebuking Danni for not truly having apologized.
    • Although most of their names aren't mentioned, presumably all the YouTubers that appear in cameos. (Caroline Calloway is, however, mentioned by name).
  • Asshole Victim: Deconstructed. There's no question that Danni is a horribly selfish person and her actions were despicable. However, the devastating consequences she faces for it and the fact that it was a genuine misunderstanding she simply got caught up in and went along with simply because she was extremely lonely (as well as the fact that she will likely never be able to make things right with anyone she hurt or betrayed) make it hard not to sympathize with her.
  • Attention Whore: Danni wants people to notice her, and is willing to do some underhanded things to achieve this.
  • Bad Influencer:
    • Danni's mistaken as surviving terrorist attacks, and goes with it to gain acclaim, with her lies piling on each other over time.
    • Colin is a dim, vapid stoner who also epitomizes Pretty Fly for a White Guy. For some reason he's a popular influencer.
    • Some of the popular YouTubers who jump on the backlash bandwagon when Danni comes clean. As bad as she was, posting her home address and comparing her to Hitler is over the line.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Said almost word for word by Danni to the audience in the beginning, along with the use of the word fucking. She wanted more attention, more people to notice her, and boy did she get's just a shame that the attention was entirely negative, hostile, and outright life-ruining.
  • Becoming the Mask: Deconstructed. Danni makes a sincere effort to do this and become a genuine activist but her good intentions don't change that she is still deceiving everyone and using a tragedy for her own benefit. If anything, it just makes things worse as the inevitable fallout means the causes she's attached herself to have been badly undermined by their association with her.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: In her final poem, Rowan asks of Danni "why do people like you get movies and shows on Netflix and Hulu and people like me are told to wait for change?"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: After Danni watches the vile lambasting on her laptop as a result of her fake sob story, the miserable girl looks directly at the camera and tells the viewer to "Be careful what you fucking wish for."
  • Brick Joke: When Quinn confronts Danni about the holes in her story, she complains about no one fact-checking the story. When Danni comes clean, their editor is seen on the phone assuring their boss that they did fact-check the story.
  • Broken Pedestal: Rowan and almost everyone else sees Danni as this after the truth comes out about Danni being a fraud after she had briefly gained respect as a supposed terrorism survivor.
  • Butch Lesbian: Harper is a mild example, with very short hair, wearing dress shirts and ties over pants, and having a Tomboyish Name. She's established as queer early on.
  • Content Warnings: When the film was released on Hulu, it came with one warning that it featured, among other things, an "unlikable female protagonist". This was actually a tongue-in-cheek dig at test screening audiences who had complained that they found Danni unlikable, despite the fact that a) they weren't meant to like her and that b) there are plenty of films featuring equally, if not more, unlikable male protagonists. However, the joke flew over the heads of many viewers, who were confused as to why they were being warned about this.
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Danni's story is found out as a lie by the fact that the weather she reports in Paris at the time was different, the Notre Dame wasn't open so she can't have toured it, and the writer's group she had supposedly attended doesn't exist.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • When Harper confronts Danni with the evidence of her lies, Danni tries to justify herself by stating that she had no idea the terrorist attack would happen. Harper retorts with questioning why Danni would find it better to uphold the lie rather than admit she faked the trip to Paris the second the terrorist attack happened.
    • Similarly, Harper questions why no one bothered to do a single, basic round of fact-checking on Danni's story, as the entire thing completely falls apart once you look at it with any scrutiny. Danni's lies never would've gotten published and the entire fallout never would've happened had anyone looked into the basic details.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Rowan survived a school shooting in which her sister was murdered. She still has panic attacks where she's triggered by things which remind her of it. Her mom also survived the shooting, since at the time she worked in the front office there.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: While Danni is a repulsive person and the backlash she receives after she comes clean is entirely self-inflicted, confronting her in meatspace is difficult to justify, comparing a mere grifter to Adolf Hitler and especially saying she's worse is ludicrous, and absolutely nobody deserves to receive death threats or be doxxed.
  • The Ditz: Danni starts off as this, somehow thinking that her article is worth publishing despite her saying things like she "missed" 9/11.
  • Downer Ending: Danni ends the movie as a pariah without a friend in the world, fired from her job, her employment prospects incredibly bleak, unable to find a boyfriend or husband, forced to move back in with her parents with her mother hating her, too, getting death threats and hated by seemingly the entire world, her future uncertain at best, her relationship with Rowan completely unsalvageable, and unsure if she's even really learned anything. It's implied she's learned more than her self-loathing will let her admit, but any change for the better will come too late because she'll forever be known as the girl who faked being in a terrorist attack for attention. She'll likely have to live with crippling guilt in silence and with no opportunity to make amends for what she did, because any sincere attempt to talk about or own up to it, including an apology to Rowan or any genuine survivor of the Arc de Triomphe attack, will likely be seen as an insincere grifter's narcissistic pity party, as it was in the online shaming victims group. Meanwhile Rowan herself has to cope with her trust having been grossly abused and might also have to worry about her own cause, already an uphill battle because of the inherent political minefield, being undermined by association with Danni.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Danni's article "Why Am I So Sad" has her complain about living in Bushwick (because she can't get a good matcha in that neighborhood), not having her own office (even though as a photo editor, she doesn't merit getting one), and lamenting that she missed 9/11 (she was on a cruise when it happened, and was disappointed she couldn't share the experience with others who went through it). To sum up, she's an attention seeker who doesn't understand how awful certain things are. It also neatly explains why she's hated and widely mocked prior to her fake survivorship.
    • Danni gets another one while on the subway. She notices several reminders to 'take her happy pills', goes to take one and takes three at the same time instead to catch up - something which is NOT recommended and is actually dangerous. This shows she doesn't really consider the consequences of her actions.
  • Everyone Has Standards: When she realizes Harper knows the truth of her lies, Danni immediately tries to bribe her with everything from money to ensuring she gets a promotion. But Harper cuts her off by making it clear that yes, she's jealous of Danni's attention and wants to get ahead, but the reason she's going to expose the truth isn't to boost her own name, but because she's disgusted by Danni going around claiming to have been a victim of a terrorist attack where real people died just to be famous.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Invoked by Harper in how anyone should have seen through Danni's story from her claims of the weather being wrong to touring a closed-down Notre Dame Cathedral to her supposed writer's group not existing.
    Harper: God, does no one fact check anymore?
  • Fangirl: Danni is one for Harry Potter, having the books in her old room and naming her guinea pig "Guinea Weasley". She also references Alan Rickman in her article, speculating if it was his ghost that saved her.
  • Fan Disservice: There's not much that's sexy about Danni's sex scene. It's uncomfortable for her and Colin's dirty talk is more disturbing than erotic.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Danni gets mistaken as having survived terrorist attacks in Paris and goes with the idea, expanding on the lies as she adds to her activities based on this while getting more attention for it. She even creates a fake website to support the alleged writers' retreat which she'd been going to Paris on (Danni actually just stayed at home the whole time).
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: At the end, Rowan tells Danni that this is the best outcome she can hope for, and even then, it will still take a long time (if she even does forgive her).
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that part of Danni's insecurities and desire for attention stem from her relationship with her mother who is largely cold and distant. When her mother tells Danni she loves her after believing she survived the attack, Danni is genuinely surprised, indicating she almost never expresses affection for Danni.
  • Gay Paree: Invoked and parodied by Danni's "memories" of Paris, which are blown up out of all proportion and include a passionate fighting/kissing French couple, a French Accordion, and a mime - because she wasn't there in the first place.
  • Good Parents: Danni’s dad is shown to be very loving to his daughter. After Danni reveals the truth, he hugs her in an attempt to comfort her, in spite of the fact that he has been receiving death threats at work because of Danni.
  • Hated by All: Danni, to the n-th degree, after her lies are revealed. Because she not only lied about surviving a terrorist attack, but also wrote about her "experience" online and went to a support group for people who were real survivors, all for attention, she winds up becoming one of the most hated people in the country (and possibly even the world)note .
  • Heroic BSoD: After two random guys shoot firecrackers at a rally, Rowan (a school shooting survivor) has a PTSD attack and is sent to the hospital.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar:
    • After the truth comes out, Danni’s parents start getting accused of being involved in the scam despite the fact that they were just as fooled by their daughter as everybody else was. It's part of the reason why Danni’s mother acts so cold to her after she’s forced to move back in.
    • As part of the uproar that Danni is subjected to, she sees a video of a hairstylist on her computer saying that she wanted to do her hairstyle in a certain way, but she decided not to because it looked too much like the hairstyle that Danni Sanders has. The fact that both have dark hair with some of it dyed white is an addition..
    • Poor Rowan, already a victim of persecution, ends up receiving extra harassment once her friend turns out to be a liar, something she makes sure to scream at Danni.
  • How We Got Here: The beginning of the movie shows articles and videos all over the internet vocalizing how they hate Danni Sanders, with the girl herself watching all of this in her room in heartbreak. Most of what follows in the movie shows how it lead up to this moment.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Part of what makes Danni's arc so sad is that it was largely brought on by just being very lonely and struggling to make friends as none of her co-workers even try to hide their disdain for her and she finally finds real friends in Rowan and other survivors before her lie is exposed, destroying their relationship completely.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Played for Drama. When Harper confronts Danni with proof of her fraud, Danni claims to have become a different person. She then desperately tries to bribe Harper to stay quiet about what she found.
  • Inelegant Blubbering:
    • Danni's father does after she "returns", utterly relieved she's alive.
    • Danni herself does this after Rowan confronts her about the deception, and gets told to leave. She breaks down crying messily in the elevator on her way out.
  • Jerkass: Some white guys shoot firecrackers onto the stage when Danni and Rowan are giving a speech against violence, causing Rowan (who'd survived a school shooting) to have a panic attack and collapse as these sound like gunshots while they yell "snowflakes". Then on Twitter we see that many users are mocking Rowan over this, claiming that "real" victims don't react this way. "Jerkass" is really putting it mildly here.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Harper is rude, smug, and by her own admission jealous of the attention Danni gets after the attack, but she's the only one of Danni's colleagues who notices something suspicious about Danni's story. When confronting her with the evidence, Harper reminds Danni people were killed in the attacks.
  • Jerkass Realization: As her lie falls apart and the world turns on her, Danni is forced to acknowledge to a support group that she wasn't that nice a person before this all started and even worse once she got famous. Notably, a member of the group calls her out on "you're saying you learned but at the end of the day you're a privileged white girl who thinks she's the main character." Danni admits that's right in how she's not sure if she really has grown and learned anything from this. The final scene does have her affected by hearing Rowan's poem railing on her lies and leaving the auditorium in tears at how Rowan is a true survivor while Danni was only pretending to be.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Played for Drama. Danni is a Villain Protagonist who fakes surviving a terrorist attack for attention. When she reveals her lie, she's fired from her job, her friendship with Rowan is destroyed, she get endlessly harassed online, she becomes a national pariah, and is forced to move back in with her unhappy parents after being doxed.
  • Leno Device: Todd and Aaron are used to emphasize just how much society hates Danni because of her lies, with them even leaking her address online!
  • Lousy Lovers Are Losers: When Danni has sex with Colin it ends up being an unsatisfying experience in several ways: it takes place in an uncomfortable bathroom, he gives her some cringy dirty talk, he finishes in seconds and does so inside her without using protection, leading her to freak out and needing to go get some emergency contraception. He's also completely oblivious to his shortcomings and later quickly ditches her for other women now that he had his quickie with her. All this highlights how he's callous.
  • Maintain the Lie: Writer Danni tries to boost her social media status by faking a trip to Paris, photoshopping herself into spots around the city and figuring out a way to be picked up at the airport as if she just flew back. As fate would have it, a terrorist attack occurs right around the area she claimed to have been staying at. Rather than admit the lie, Danni goes through with the "return" and is hailed as heroically surviving this event. Going along with the fame and attention, Danni continues to be pulled into acting like a "survivor" even with real victims. Eventually, she confesses before she's to be exposed, leading to her losing her job and getting turned on by the media with the film ending with her realizing how many people were hurt by her selfish grab for attention.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Danni hooks up with Colin in the bathroom, which leads to some pretty unsatisfying results.
  • Morton's Fork: What turns out to be the choice as Danni is confronted by Harper about her multitude of lies. She could either confess that she made up her whole story of survivorship, or Harper would tell the world herself that she did. Danni chooses to do the former, but in doing so, she still receives worldwide backlash for her major fabrication, even if Harper revealed it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Danni really starts feeling guilty about faking being a survivor after seeing how much Rowan, a real survivor, was harmed by her experience (along with her older sister dying in the shooting which she survived), realizing her action was indeed "Not Okay".
  • No Social Skills: Danni has a serious case of this, really struggling to understand how insensitive she can be even before her lie. One of her first scenes has her pitching an article where she laments not having been in New York for the September 11th attacks and therefore not feeling the same kinship with people her age who were and not understanding how tone deaf that is.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Danni's reaction when she learns about the attacks in Paris, after she spent a week posting fake pictures of herself being there.
    • Danni looks like a deer in the headlights when Harper visits her and says they need to talk about Paris.
  • Phony Veteran: A variant in that the story is all about Danni being a fake survivor of a real terrorist attack.
  • Punny Name: Danni has a pet guinea pig called Guinea Weasley, in a Shout-Out to Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. At one point, she tells it to not look at her "like that".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rowan's poem towards Danni at the end of the film emphasizes how badly hurt she was by Danni's deception, ending with Rowan saying that maybe she'll forgive her one day, but their friendship is all but destroyed.
    Rowan: If you're not okay, that's okay. That's advice I gave. Six words that came out of my mouth that on that day you snatched up like a handout. #IAmNotOkay. A sentence that resonated with a nation... no, a generation scared to wake up in their own nation, determined of their own inevitable termination. Smart move, turning that fear into clickbait. But, God, I guess I am just so used to being stolen from, that when I read my words in your voice, I reposted 'em. And applauded as you boasted. Gave you a platform that floated you right up to the top. And you never thought to stop? WHEN YOU LOOKED DOWN AT THE BODIES THAT YOU USED AS PROPS, WHEN YOU LOOKED INTO MY EYES, YOU JUST SAW ANOTHER VOICE TO CO-OPT? You know, for someone who's not okay, you seem okay with quite a lot, actually. And while I was blindsided, why am I not surprised? Why is a story like yours something we read every other night? WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE YOU GET MOVIES ON NETFLIX AND HULU, AND PEOPLE LIKE ME GET TOLD TO SIT TIGHT AND WAIT FOR CHANGE? NO, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT'S LIKE! YOU CAN'T TAKE THE MIC! THIS IS MY TIME SLOT! ONE MORE MINUTE, RIGHT? I have had everything stolen from me. Their breath, stolen. My breath, perpetually holding, wondering if someone near me might be holding... I'm sorry. Is my trauma showing? BECAUSE I DON'T PLAN ON SLOWING OR SITTING DOWN. THIS IS MY TIME TO TAKE BACK THE WORDS THAT YOU STOLE FROM MY MOUTH! YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN ANYTHING DESTROYED EXCEPT YOURSELF! And that is of your own doing. So hell no. I am not okay. I think about her every single day. You know when the newspapers wrote about my sister, they misspelled her name? And now you think her place is something you can claim? Her body is in the ground and you think you're the same? I hope you realize that by doing this, you've only given me more to say. So maybe one day I'll forgive you. But we will never be okay.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Danni realizes how harmful and terrible her actions were but no one has any interest in hearing about her remorse and she has to live with knowing that many people will never see her as anything but a selfish, manipulative narcissist.
  • Reluctant Fanservice Girl: When Danni attends the influencer's party with Colin she wears a dress with a Cleavage Window, apparently to try to fit in, but she never seems very comfortable in it. When she leaves the party to meet Rowan, she's pretty thankful to get a shirt to wear.
  • Small Reference Pools: In-Universe, Danni names Notre-Dame as the cathedral she visited while in Paris, likely not knowing of any others. As noted, this is one of the things Harper finds suspicious about her story, as Notre-Dame is closed to the public.
  • Snowball Lie: When she saw the news of the attacks and then a frantic phone call from her parents, Danni did indeed try to tell them she wasn't in Paris but never got around to it before tripping and cutting the call off. She was about to confess it when she got a call from Colin. Before she knew it, Danni was texting she was fine and from there, the entire story took off.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Rowan is a positive example, a teen who had survived a school shooting and has been an activist opposing gun violence ever since, with angry spoken word poetry she's recited publicly. After she's learned Danni faked surviving a terrorist attack (and used her words to do this) Rowan recites another poem, which denounces Danni for her actions, especially highlighting that since Rowan's black while Danni's white she also received way more attention (she particularly complains that her sister, who'd been murdered in the shooting, is hardly mentioned by news reports at all).
  • Speed Sex: Colin lasts maybe a minute before coming inside Danni, to her dismay, and she gets Plan B afterward as they didn't use protection.
  • Spotting the Thread: Harper realizes Danni's lies about going to Paris as Danni said it was clear then, but actually it was raining at the time. Danni had also talked of touring Notre Dame Cathedral, which would have been odd given it was closed since the 2019 fire. She then dug deeper into it and uncovered that this was all made up. She gives Danni the choice between coming clean herself or Harper blowing the lid. Danni chooses the former.
  • Take That!: Lena Dunham is not overly subtly called tone-deaf.
    Danni's editor: You don't want to be like Lena Dunham.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Danni coming clean as having faked surviving a terrorist attack naturally causes her to be fired, Rowan venting her rage on her and becoming a huge pariah. This part of the film is even titled "I Don't Get a Redemption Arc". Rowan says that while maybe she'll forgive Danni, the two will never be okay. Danni appears to realize this will never be undone too.
  • Trauma Button: Rowan, who survived a school shooting, is triggered by a drill at her school and then firecrackers being shot off near her since they reminded her of this.
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: At least twice Danni wears extravagant eye makeup featuring graphic eyeliner in bright colors. Her manicure is also unusual; instead of having the tips of her nails painted white or cream, those tips are painted in bright colors, different for each finger.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Danni tries buddying up with two of her coworkers—who despise her and make no effort to hide that fact—while they are stuck in a strangely long elevator ride with her.
  • Villain Protagonist: Danni is a monstrously selfish individual who takes advantage of a horrible tragedy for her own benefit, while trying desperately not to be exposed. She at least feels bad for what she's done, but it's made clear this won't get forgiven by most people.

"So maybe one day I'll forgive you. But we will never be okay."


Video Example(s):


Danni's Downfall

After being exposed for lying about surviving a terrorist attack, Danni has no choice but to write an article owning up to her actions. The result? Not only is she widely despised and loses her friendship with Rowan, but she gets fired from her job, is constantly harassed online, and has to move back into her parent's house after being doxed.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / LaserGuidedKarma

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