Spoilers for Into The Dark episode "New Year, New You" follow.
If the fast-approaching first of January has inspired you to finally follow through on the advice bestowed by a slew of so-called "wellness influencers," the latest installment of Blumhouse's anthology series Into The Dark may make you scratch that resolution off your list. If there's one thing that "New Year, New You" — on Hulu December 28 — wants you to know, it's that those influencers can be downright evil.
Well, at least in the case of "Get Well Danielle," the "Very Very Vegetable" juice mogul and vlogger that Mr. Robot's Carly Chaikin plays to perfection in the Sophia Takal-directed episode.
Underneath her mantras, cruelty-free face creams, and on-brand Instagram stories, Danielle is a killer, a sociopath, and charismatic enough to convince someone that murder is just another form of "knowing your worth."
No one is accusing the Goop-adjacent internet gurus of the world of being murderous in real life. But toxic? Certainly. In conversation with Refinery29, Into The Dark helmer Takal minces no words about influencer culture.
"We’re mimicking people who are presenting their lives in such a curated way, and then feeling bad about our own life. I think that’s a shitty way to live," Takal tells Refinery29 over the phone. "There’s something that feels dystopian to me about it. We’re turning ourselves into the product, and not selling anything besides ourselves. In the same way that products are disposable, we become disposable. We aren’t present in our own lives, we’re only aware of how other people are perceiving us."
While the term "influencer" is now a catch-all term for high-profile stars who staked their claim on social media (controversial YouTuber Logan Paul fits the bill, as, technically, does Kylie Jenner) Takal took aim at a particular subgenre for "New Year, New You." In addition to directing the episode, Takal (who is credited as writer alongside Adam Gaines) also revised a script presented to her by Into The Dark's production company Blumhouse, turning the influencer character into one who preaches inner peace, wellness, and self-care.
"[Carly] and I watched a lot of YouTube videos, specifically of health and wellness influencers. The kind of people who make their own juices and do yoga, and then post photos of themselves doing yoga and looking super hot," says Takal.
Danielle is the work of fiction and yet, for those of us who have ever sought something in the Instagram feed of wellness mavens, she is wholly recognizable.
"[Carly and I] really wanted to get specific with these kind of 'self-care' influencers," Takal explains. "They’re not super bubbly types. We wanted to capture the cadence they use.They’re more even-keeled, more mellow, have more of a California 'hippie' vibe — but through the lens of wanting someone to constantly be looking at you, approving of you."
In the episode, Chaikin's Danielle makes her friend Kayla (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) re-do a video about her New Year's resolution when it gets a little too political, and therefore "alienating," for Danielle's brand. The message is clear: Authenticity comes far second to approval. If it comes into play at all.
"Spending all of your time creating a persona for yourself, and only thinking about how you’re perceived and not checking in with yourself emotionally [can cause a disconnect from your own humanity,]" Takal explains. "On the flip side, looking at images or tiny little videos and sentences on Twitter means you’re not getting a full picture of human beings."
The thing that the world can't see from Danielle's highly-curated feed is her insidious nature. But while Danielle is the villain of the story, it's Suki Waterhouse's Alexis who is the biggest disappointment. After finally besting the influencer, Alexis — who has preached kindness, authenticity, and wanting to help people — only succeeds in stepping into the online space left by Danielle.
"I find this culture [more than individual influencers] very insidious," the director notes of Alexis' motives at the end of the episode. "When everyone else wants to be looked at, it’s hard not to want that, too... The fact that a character dies, and then right away [the influencers] shift away to some other [self-promotional] stuff — that happens so much in our society. I’ll be reading just the most horrible stuff that is happening in our world right now on Twitter, and it is interspersed with the most banal comments about life, or self-promotion."
At the end of the day, Takal hopes that "New Year, New You" holds a mirror up to influencer culture. Though, in 2019, it's probably more like a selfie.
Check out the trailer below:
"New Year, New You" drops on Hulu December 28.