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Short Film Review: Tingle Monsters Connects Online Harassment/Misogyny To Violence Against Women and Femmes
When ASMR Vlogging Meets Feminist Horror
By Ghia Vitale
Tingle Monsters is a short film that takes place in an ASMR Livestream. The story reflects how violence against women and femmes often starts with words, including internet comments. Warning: Discussions of misogyny, online harassment, and violence against women and femmes are ahead!
In Tingle Monsters, the protagonist named Dee (Alexandra Serio) is an ASMR Livestreamer/vlogger who runs a channel/community called Tingle Monsters. The “tingle” part of the title is a reference to the tingling response that ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) induces. She even has a dedicated following she built over time through her videos/vlogs/livestreams. Still, despite her desire to create what she describes as a “safe space” for healing, she still faces misogynistic harassment online.
Along with playing the main character in this film, Alexandra Serio is also the Webby-nominated writer and director. Furthermore, she is the co-founder and chief content officer of Nameless Network, the company that produced this film. Serio is very passionate about guerilla filmmaking and narratives that are driven by women. She was inspired to make this film when she read the abusive comments that two women/hosts received while she was creating women-led educational content. All of these qualifications make her the perfect person to create a short film that reflects the violence that so many women and femmes face every day.
I really appreciate how viewers watch this short as though it were a Livestream. The running commentary running alongside the happenings in the video helped set the mood and context for the video. Dee’s Livestream starts out innocently—she whispers into the mic, mentions how much she misses her viewers, and tries to give them the calming kind of ASMR experience she’s become popular for providing. However, it doesn’t take long for the unwanted sexual comments to start rolling in and cause her to retreat from the camera due to feeling unsafe/uncomfortable. It only gets worse from there.
The link between words and violence is clear in this film: Not only are misogynistic comments a form of violence, but they also signify the beginning of escalating violence. The misogynistic comments start out sparse, but as danger gradually unfolds on camera, they steadily grow in frequency and worsen in severity. Along with hateful and sexual comments, there are also people leaving disbelieving comments that accuse Dee of orchestrating the danger she’s in and making it up for attention. As the danger reaches its peak, the comments are whirling in so fast, they’re illegible. The chat’s comment section continues accusing Dee of attention-seeking behavior continue until the end of the film. I appreciated that touch because it adds a dizzying sense of chaos to the atmosphere and viewer perspective.
This short film reflects what women and femmes like me experience online: We get harassed for simply existing on the internet. We experience this misogynistic harassment regardless of whether our online presence is political, professional, creative, one of pure recreation, or any other variation you can think of. I know I’m not the only woman or femme who cringes while reading the comments section of just about any given article or social media post. Dee’s case shows how trolls target women and femmes even when we’re not being political or controversial online. That’s not to say that women and femmes with political or controversial opinions deserve trolling or harassment because we absolutely don’t!
Here’s the thing many people don’t realize: Misogynistic harassment and comments are not only manifestations of violence in and of themselves, but they’re also precursors to greater violence against women and femmes. This film guides us through this escalation by connecting the troubling dots between harassing comments online and IRL violence against women and femmes in such a believable way, it gave me the chills. It shows how online harassment is linked to and rooted in real-world harm that reflects the gender inequality/oppression that patriarchy perpetuates.
If you’re interested in horror laced with feminism, Tingle Monsters is a must-see film for you. When I watched this film, I seriously felt like I was watching a horror tragedy unfold on a Livestream. While the ending is sad, it’s also very satisfying. It’s only about 10 minutes long, but each second is full of purpose and thrill, so it’s a rich viewing experience to take in.
Check out the upcoming screenings to see if one is happening near you. For more updates, follow Tingle Monsters and Alexandra Serio on Twitter. Then there’s also Serio’s Instagram if you’re interested. You'll never see another horror film like this one!
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