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.
Why is Hulu warning me about “an unlikeable female protagonist”? Do unlikeable male protagonists need content warnings? pic.twitter.com/gHTmzgJaIW
— Christina Buttons (@buttonslives) July 31, 2022
We as a society need to have a serious convo about the term “unlikable female protagonist” & how incredibly destructive & misused this phrase has become.
— Amy Trueblood (@atruebooks) July 31, 2022
lmao what how is "unlikable female protagonist" a content warning next to things like flashing lights and themes of trauma 😭
— REI鈴 (@reiitsurugi) July 31, 2022
They'll warn you of an "unlikable female protagonist" but no warning about wasting 2hrs of your life watching a crappy movie. https://t.co/k88oQ6d6E2
— Look Dumbass (@lookdumbass) July 31, 2022
putting on the "unlikable female protagonist" movie determined to like her no matter what. sitting here squinting and going red in the face liking her for two whole hours
— Shuja Haider (@shujaxhaider) August 1, 2022
Just went to watch a film and was hit with this content warning:
"This film contains flashing lights, themes of trauma, and an unlikable female protagonist"
We need a content warning for women being..human? Never have I ever seen a content warning of this sort for men.
— Brandy 🐍 (@lunacyandmagic) July 31, 2022
The first time I have ever seen a CW for “unlikable female protagonist” pic.twitter.com/2xq7P03ByM
— Olivia Taylor Smith (@OliviaTSmith) July 30, 2022
“Unlikable Female Protagonist” pic.twitter.com/UaET7KhtlS
— TheFamousArtistBirdyRose (@TheFamousArtBR) July 31, 2022
— Solzhenixon (@sardonic_greek) July 31, 2022
In this case, "unlikable female protagonist" read like a selling point to me. "Tired of sweet, pure-hearted female leads? Here you go."
— Verdant Basilisk (@BasiliskVerdant) July 31, 2022
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: