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SXSW: The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution

Technology is changing our every day lives and a rapid-fire pace. We live at the pace of social media and the intersection between the real world and the internet became even more enmeshed than ever before. The power of the internet is inescapable.

The COVID pandemic brought on a level of digital disruption that had real world ramifications. R/Wallstreetbets became a gathering place for average folks to become retail investors. They turned GameStop ($GME) and AMC ($AMC) into meme stocks creating a short squeeze that adversely affected hedgefund investors and short sellers. They gamified their work with apps like Robinhood and with memes, symbols and jargon like “diamond hands” and “tendies”. All the extra time at home gave Americans an opportunity to learn financial strategies and turn it into a game that both made them a lot of money and disrupted the financial market. At the same time another form of disruption was brewing online, building steam during the 2020 presidential election and culminating in the January 6th, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The internet allows for varying levels of anonymity. Behind avatars, online users can expose a darker side of humanity with all of the dangerous ideologies and harmful rhetoric that comes with it.

Directed by Ondi Timoner, The New Americans: A Gaming Revolution is a high-paced and engrossing documentary about our new age of finance and digital disruption. This subject matter can be difficult to understand especially for the uninitiated who are unfamiliar with r/Wallstreetbets, cryptocurrency, memes and TikTok. Even the chronically online, like myself, need a bit of guidance to understand this complex online world and all the jargon that goes with it. Timoner uses facets of internet culture to visually tell her story while also pausing throughout the movie to define specific words and phrases that need to be clarified in order for the current conversation happening on screen to be fully understood. This helps the viewer not get lost in the technicalities and enriches the film by providing both visual entertaining with information.

“…the only way to approach this journey was to interview people across all aspects of the disruption and to tell the resulting story in the same language that drove it: with Tik-Toks, memes, and fast-cuts that mimic the online world of the new generation that fueled this movement.”

Director Ondi Timoner
  • Notable talking heads in the film include
  • R/Wallstreetbets founder Jamie Rogozinski
  • The Real Wolf of Wall Street Jordan Belfort
  • Former White House Communications director and founder of SkyBridge Capital Anthony Scaramucci
  • Investor Raoul Pal who provides the viewer with valuable insights
  • Influencers Blayne Macauley, Hugh Henne, ProThe Doge, Taylor Price
  • Investors, artists, and more.

The New Americans: A Gaming Revolution presents complicated subject matter in a way that is both approachable and entertaining.

The New Americans: A Gaming Revolution had its world premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival.

Fantasia Festival: Feels Good, Man

When cartoonist Matt Furie created Pepe the Frog, he had no clue that his seemingly benign humanoid frog character would take over the internet and evolve into a symbol of hate speech. Directed by Arthur Jones, the documentary Feels Good, Man chronicles the long journey that Furie’s creation took over the years and it offers revelations about fringe internet culture that are eye-opening and alarming.

Furie’s story is an extraordinary one. This mild-mannered artist is the opposite of who you might think would be behind an internet hate meme. He draws images of toys, creates children’s books which he reads to his daughter and drew Pepe the Frog as a vessel through which to make jokes about bodily functions. The problem with the image of Pepe is that it could easily be co-opted; anyone could draw him, his identity could easily be adapted to trending memes and Furie did not and could not take ownership of Pepe in a significant way in order to control how his creation was used online.

I won’t go into  all the specifics of how Pepe morphed from hand drawn comic book character to a symbol of radicalization. The documentary does such a good job revealing each and every stage of Pepe’s evolution that it’s what makes this film so engrossing. Pepe went from a “Feels Good, Man” meme, to a mascot for outsiders, to a trolling personality then is now a symbol for dangerous radicals, white supremacists and the alt-right. Jones’s film does an exemplary job demonstrating how Pepe became a key element in Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. We also see Furie fighting back and disconnecting from the creation that became bigger than himself. The documentary features interviews with Furie, his family and friends, fellow cartoonists, psychologists and other experts.

Feels Good, Man is a riveting documentary that offers many insights into the dangers of internet culture. 

Feels Good, Man is part of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Festival.

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