The Daily Stream: Assassination Nation Is Justified Glitter And Blood Soaked Rage

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Assassination Nation"

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: From "Euphoria" creator Sam Levinson, "Assassination Nation" centers on high school senior Lily Colson (Odessa Young) and her three best friends Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef), and Em (Abra). The fearsome foursome are your average Gen Z teens, existing in a flurry of texts, selfies, private chats, and social media posts ... making them no different than anyone else, regardless of age, in America. Their small town of Salem is thrown into absolute chaos after an anonymous hacker leaks the personal messages, photos, and secrets of everyone in town. The revelation incites a full-town riot, and the four girls find themselves in a fight for their lives against an entire community that wants them dead.

Why It's Essential Viewing

A new addition to the canon of darkly comedic edgy teen girl movies like "Heathers" and "Jawbreaker," "Assassination Nation" is a high-octane high school fantasy film perfect for a post-Trump, post-#MeToo, post-Cancel Culture (which isn't real, by the way) world. The film feels like looking at America through a warped fun house mirror, but the results are a perfect reflection highlighting that the mirror isn't warped — we are, and we always have been. It's a visually striking film blasted with vibrant colors, loud music, flashy editing, and stylized costuming, all to keep us distracted with the flamboyant and glamour that keeps us from looking beyond the surface.

"Assassination Nation" is a feminist survival thriller, but one that doesn't paint the world on a binary. The people of Salem are all capable of being "good" or "bad" regardless of gender identity, with the true test of their character rooted in how they handle themselves after the leaks are unleashed. How do we treat people when they make us uncomfortable? That's the true meaning of the film and one that is exposed in the film's first 20 minutes during an exchange between Lily and her Principal (national treasure Colman Domingo) about the relevance and merit of nude drawings.

Look at the Bigger Picture

Lily delivers a show stopper of a monologue when discussing nude drawings that is hopefully being used as audition material for young actors. As she says:

All you're looking at is the nudity, but this isn't about that. This isn't about the sex or the porn or even being naked. This is about everything that goes into it. The pressure. The endless mindf***. The 10,000 naked selfies you took before this one, trying to get it just right. Trying to make sure the light hides your left nipple because it's slightly inverted or it's smaller or maybe your labia's too big, but if you pull your pelvic bone up, and bend to the left slightly in a low-light setting... then you will be beautiful. Hashtag flawless. Body confident. But it's all one big lie you can never be because nobody's flawless, and all it takes is one f***ing a-hole to remind you of that. One guy to say 'lol' or 'she's nasty' and you're right back at square one. So yeah, maybe it is explicit or extreme but it sure as hell looks like life to me.

"Assassination Nation" is begging us to look at the bigger picture. Sure, this is a movie about an entire town trying to kill a group of teenagers because they think Lily is responsible for leaking their private information (spoiler alert: she's not), but what's really going on here? Why are grown adults so quick to vilify girls too young to even vote? Why is law enforcement encouraging lynch mob behavior? Why do so many people in this town own assault weapons?!

Art Imitating Life or Is It The Other Way Around?

When "Assassination Nation" dropped in 2018, a lot of naysayers claimed the film was "over-the-top" and a melodramatic critique of privilege and toxic masculinity. The film came out in the wake of the tiki-torch holding white nationalists march on Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 chanting "you will not replace us" and the death of Heather Heyer who was killed when a Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd of progressive counter-protesters. Even in the light of these horrific events, people still felt "Asssasination Nation" was unbelievable.

And then the Trump-rally-turned-insurrection of January 6, 2021 happened. All of the people who contributed to the insurrection had their crimes publicly documented and broadcast in real time, and yet with few exceptions, what has been done to hold any of them accountable? The people who attack the girls in "Assassination Nation" were never at any risk of losing their livelihoods or reputations, they were just terrified of the possibility. Much like the way accountability is treated in America, the only people who actually face backlash in "Assassination Nation" are those who were already marginalized due to race, gender identity, or social status. The white men in this movie who are damaged by the leaks are only at risk because the secrets reveal a conservative anti-Gay politician as a cross-dresser, and an adult man having an affair with a teenager. Their secrets expose them as being part of the "deviant culture" the town has worked so hard to prevent from reaching any level of power. However, in the situation with the adult man and the teenager, it's the teenager who is disowned from her family and humiliated by the public. Imagine that.

Justified Rage

No one in Salem was forced to read the leaks, but they all did it anyway because people like to feel like they have the moral high ground. The attacks on the girls force them in a defensive position, but one that is fueled by the justified rage bubbling inside from long before the leaks were ever released. The film descends into a "Purge"-like frenzy, with the citizens of Salem trying to restore the social hierarchy that keeps women and other minorities "in their place." Now that Pandora's Box has been opened, the girls have no intentions of closing it and going back to the way things were before. Everything has been laid bare, and these girls are going to stand up for themselves in the face of it all, no matter what it takes. Their glitter-draped retaliation is a cathartic release of the decades of oppression stacked upon them from all sides, and proves hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned.