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Hulu’s ‘Not Okay’ Ironic Content Warning About ‘Unlikable Female Protagonist’ Causes Confusion

Not Okay - Zoey Deutch
Searchlight Pictures

Pack the littluns off to bed, lower the shades and steel your soul: Hulu is warning viewers that original movie “Not Okay” features “an unlikable female protagonist.”

On Hulu, a notice in front of the R-rated movie says: “CONTENT WARNING: This film contains flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist. Viewer discretion advised.” “Not Okay” stars Zoey Deutch as a villainous, pathologically ruthless internet fame-seeker. It premiered Friday, July 29, on Hulu.

Of course, Hulu’s trigger alert about the “unlikable female protagonist” is actually a meta-joke — it’s meant to be cultural commentary about disagreeable women characters being worthy of a mature-content disclaimer on the order of, say, exploding-head violence or graphic nudity. Note that the original trailer for “Not Okay” features a comically oversize red warning card punctuated with exclamation marks that has the same caution about the film’s unlikable main character.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, writer and director Quinn Shephard (“Blame”) said the “unlikable female protagonist” warning is intended to provoke the audience. “It was interesting to me that a large chunk of the audience seemed genuinely upset by the fact that the film was about Danni [the main character], and so I just wanted to kind of poke at it a little,” she said.

But without any context, some have taken Hulu’s content warning at face value — leading to a spate of irate, confused and derisive reactions on social media…. along with a few attagirls.

Here’s the movie’s synopsis: “Not Okay” follows Danni Sanders (Deutch), an aimless aspiring writer with no friends, no romantic prospects and — worst of all — no followers, who fakes an Instagram-friendly trip to Paris in the hopes of boosting her social media clout. When a terrifying incident strikes the City of Lights, Danni unwittingly falls into a lie bigger than she ever imagined. She “returns” a hero, even striking up an unlikely friendship with Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school-shooting survivor dedicated to societal change, and scooping up the man of her dreams, Colin (Dylan O’Brien). As an influencer and advocate, Danni finally has the life and audience she always wanted. But it’s only a matter of time before the façade cracks, and she learns the hard way that the internet loves a takedown.

Alongside Deutch, Isaac and O’Brien, the film also stars Embeth Davidtz, Nadia Alexander, Tia Dionne Hodge, Negin Farsad, Karan Soni and Dash Perry.

Brad Weston and Caroline Jaczko serve as producers of the film, from Disney’s Searchlight Pictures.

Here’s how the “Not Okay” content warning appears on Hulu, without so much as a wink or a nod: