Skip to main content

In Search Party, the journey from poster to influencer to monster is a slippery slope

In Search Party, the journey from poster to influencer to monster is a slippery slope

/

Or: The Poster’s Dilemma

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Image: Warner Media

Much has been made of Search Party as a uniquely millennial show, like it’s a brunch line you can watch other people stand in. It’s true that the HBO Max comedy — initially about finding a missing acquaintance — is absolutely drenched in the iconography of privileged millennials; their world is Instagram-friendly and the characters are all in a self-serving relationship with New York City. But it’s also a show with a uniquely online worldview: where everything, no matter how remote, is happening to you, personally, all the time. 

The new season of Search Party, which premiered last week, starts in a wildly different place than the series began. Unbeknownst to her friends, protagonist Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) is being held hostage by an obsessed fan, imprisoned in his basement. Her friends, on the other hand, are frankly too busy to notice she’s gone missing. They’re dealing with a rush of newfound notoriety after literally getting away with murder, which happened in the show’s first season. (Later seasons have chronicled that fallout.) The very public trial in season 3 has granted Dory and her friends — her ex Drew (John Reynolds), and her best friends Elliott (John Early) and Portia (Meredith Hagner) — a degree of fame they’ve never had before, and this latest crop of episodes shows them getting used to it. 

For Portia and Elliott, this notoriety is all they’ve ever wanted, and they happily use it to sell themselves: the former for a role in the film adaptation of their ordeal, the latter as a conservative pundit. Drew, wracked with self-pity, leaves the city in an attempt to live in obscurity. Dory, on the other hand, languishes alone. It’s a pretty good joke to pin a protagonist’s survival on her hopelessly narcissistic friends. 

Despite this season leaning more into the show’s thriller aspects, Search Party is still resolutely a comedy that keeps its knives out for its subjects — the coddled, internet-ruined millennials who love to post. While most of the show’s plot is concerned with IRL actions like going places and talking to people, its allure is closely related to the thrill of posting and the intoxicating effect of being able to mythologize yourself in the eyes of a growing number of followers. 

But the posting life is a dangerous one. Search Party, among other things, is a slow-motion horror story about how the millennial snake eats its own tail. Fundamentally, it’s a show about what happens when we believe the lies we tell about ourselves and then what happens when those same lies expand outward and make contact with an impressionable public. 

In its scenes that take place in the basement of a deranged fan, Search Party becomes a series about what happens when other people take the lies you told about yourself as gospel truths — about the suffocating vacuum that’s left when you realize people stopped caring about what’s real a long time ago. At the heart of it all is Sief: poster-turned-influencer-turned-monster, acquitted by the public but damned by her own conscience. She’s also imprisoned by the sort of parasocial relationship she first formed with her missing classmate and then encouraged others to build with her

It’s worth noting that Dory doesn’t actually post much throughout Search Party. Even so, the reductive optics of social media are still how she and her friends interact with the world: everything is a place to be seen or not be seen; there are names to tag along with the constant negotiation between their occupations and their ambitions. 

None of this is terribly different from the way upwardly mobile young people have navigated New York City in popular culture — you could say similar things about Sex and the City — but Search Party focuses its satire on how quickly millennial life has proven that a lifestyle of consumption can quickly become consumed itself. 

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.