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Film / Social Nightmare

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Social Nightmare, also known as Mother, is a 2013 Lifetime Made-for-TV Movie Teen Drama/Thriller, produced by The Asylum and directed by Mark Quod, starring Kirsten Prout, Chloe Bridges, Daryl Hannah, Brandon Mychal Smith, Brittania Carraway, Rachel True, Tim Russ, and Keith Allan.

The film follows Catherine "Cat" Hardy (Prout), a straight-A student about to enter college whose life is suddenly turned upside-down when inappropriate photos and status updates begin appearing on her social media profiles. Cat attempts to report the posts to the authorities, claiming she is being set up, but no one believes her. Her only solace during the crisis is found in her mother Susan (Hannah). Cat must now find out who is behind the whole operation before her reputation and future are permanently ruined.

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Practically all the boys at school make some kind of lewd comment to Cat about the sex-related material she's accused of posting online. There's also Rodger and his Hollywood Hacking buddy Cool D who try to coerce sexual favors from her, and a creepy middle-aged guy who shows up at Emily's house for a date, after her pic gets posted to a Sugar Daddy-oriented website. Even seeming Nice Guy Daniel engages in Revenge Porn Blackmail by leaking the sexy pics Cat sent him.
  • Alpha Bitch: Haylee, the Regina George-esque school queen bee, antagonizes Cat and Joan at various points.
  • Artistic License ā€“ History: Emily playfully taunts Cat about possibly of ending up as a one-term student council president by mentioning US presidents who served one term, correctly citing George H. W. Bush as an example, but she also mentions Richard Nixon (who resigned in the middle of his second term), and says "I think he died" about William Howard Taft, who didn't die in office (he lost re-election, then later became Chief Justice).
  • Batter Up!: Susan smashes Daniel's phone with a baseball bat and screams at him to stay away from Cat in retaliation for his Revenge Porn Blackmail stunt.
  • Cassandra Truth: Despite Cat repeatedly insisting that all the content being posted in her name is the work of a hacker, the vast majority of her peers refuse to believe her. Even her closest friends start to turn on her once said content begins targeting them.
  • Cat Fight:
    • Haylee and her girl posse beat up Cat in the restroom, and later Cat and Emily get into fisticuffs in front of the school (and Cat even makes a quip about the irony of a girl named Cat getting involved in those situations).
    • Played for Drama at the climax when Emily shows up to Cat's house to warn her about Susan, then Susan grabs her from the front porch and starts physically attacking her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While helping Cat and Emily write a letter to Brown contesting Emily's rejection, Susan mistakenly uses the word "precede" instead of "proceed." Emily spotting the same grammatical error in her profile on the Sugar Daddy website clues her in to Susan's guilt.
  • Cyberbullying: Cat's chances of getting into a good college hang in the balance when someone starts posting inappropriate and defamatory content online posing as her, leading her to be shunned and bullied online and off.
  • Empty Nest: Susan displays this to an extreme, to the point where she's willing to ruin her daughter's potential future and standing in the community in order to prevent her from ever leaving the house.
  • Everyone Has Standards: While Emily is plenty mad at Cat when she believes she's responsible for the hacking incidents, she still chews Daniel out when he leaks naked pictures of Cat online in retaliation for supposedly telling Joan she was adopted.
  • Freudian Excuse: Susan was an only child, and her attempts to have another child failed horribly, leading to divorce. Now she believes Cat is all she has left, and is willing to sabotage her chances at getting into university to keep her under her wing.
  • Foreshadowing: While comforting Cat about the Slut-Shaming list that was posted in her name, Daniel claims that he'd heard that a lot of the girls on the site "really are sluts," prompting Emily (who mind you, is on the list) to chide him for saying something like that. In light of Daniel later publicizing intimate photos of Cat in retaliation for her supposedly telling June about her being adopted, this could be seen as an early sign of Daniel's hidden dark side.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: We don't really learn anything about what Susan does for a living, but she can afford a huge, well-appointed house.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: It starts out as a cautionary Teen Drama about the threat posted by hacking and identity theft in social media, but in the final act it turns into a Psychological Thriller about a deranged mother whose fear of abandonment leads her to drug her daughter and ruin her life to prevent her from going away to college.
  • Hates Being Nicknamed: While she already goes by Cat as a nickname for Catherine, Cat is annoyed by her mom Susan insistently calling her Kitty-Cat.
  • Idiot Ball: The entire plotline is based around the idea that the students and faculty at Thach High School have absolutely no trouble believing that Cat Hardy, Ivy League-bound model student and morally upright peer, would suddenly turn into an Alpha Bitch and Fille Fatale who engages in Slut-Shaming her fellow students and posting racy pics of herself online, without even seriously considering that her protests that a hacker is trying to ruin her reputation would have merit.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Cat and Emily originally plan to attend Brown together (in a program the university does in conjunction with the Rhode Island School of Design), but the school accepts Cat and rejects Emily. Then Emily gets accepted to Yale, where she also applied without telling Cat.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Cat (Light) is blonde, sunny and kind-hearted, while Emily (Dark) is brunette, resentful and a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Haylee bullies Joan (Daniel's sister), who's Black, and also uses an ableist slur against her.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Cat and Emily are friends again, they're going to Brown together, and Susan is in a mental health treatment facility, is showing progress, and seems remorseful for all the trouble she caused.
  • Red Herring: The logical suspects for the hacker are Emily, mad at Cat for beating her in the election and getting accepted to Brown over her (and possibly jealous that Cat has a boyfriend and she doesn't), and Haylee, mad at Cat for standing up to her bullying. Instead, it's actually her own disturbed mother, Susan.
  • Rejected Apology: Played with. In the epilogue, it's revealed that Daniel has been writing Cat letters in an effort to apologize and/or win her back. But while Cat tells Emily that she has forgiven him for the Revenge Porn Blackmail incident, she can't forget what he did and thus has no interest in getting back together with him.
  • Student Council President: The film opens with Cat holding this position, Emily challenging her for it in the upcoming election despite being her best friend, then Cat getting re-elected. After the hack, the school is up in arms, Cat gets impeached, and Emily takes over.
  • Slut-Shaming: The hacker's first major act against Cat (and the one that turns the majority of the school against her) is to post a derogatory list online exposing several students' supposed sexual activities, rating them as either "scored" or "bored" (with some implied Virgin-Shaming for the latter)..
  • Spoiler Title: An egregious example in regards to the retitle.
  • Take That!: Emily's comment after Yale rescinded her acceptance in the wake of finding out that she had a profile on the site.
    "It's not like there aren't plenty of sluts at Yale anyway!"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Haylee completely disappears after she beats up Cat, and Joan is also absent from the second half of the story though she instigates a plot point when Cat appears to out her as having been adopted, which leads Daniel to post Revenge Porn Blackmail pics of Cat online.