The American Meme

The American Meme is a Netflix documentary by Bert Marcus, which documents the lives of several social-media influencers, including Paris Hilton, DJ Khaled and Brittany Furlan. The documentary focuses on the effects of social media on their producers and creators. It turns out that the people who 'put themselves out there' have some curious understandings about life, fame and love, which they openly share with viewers in this documentary. Watch the documentary and discuss the following questions as a class:

  1. What are these influencers 'good at'? What are their skills and talents and how do these use technologies and (social media) text types to share their talents with audiences effectively?

  2. Marshal McLuhan once stated: "The medium is the message." What did he mean by this? How are his ideas relevant to this documentary? In your answer, discuss the nature of social media platforms such as Vine, Instagram or Twitter. 

  3. How do these influencers use 'intertextuality' as a stylistic feature of their texts to create meaning? Give examples from the documentary.  

  4. Early in the documentary Emily Ratajkowski says: "There’s the attention argument, that we’re doing it just for attention . . . And I say, what’s wrong with attention?” What is wrong with the attention that these influencers seek? Give specific examples with regards to the influencers in the documentary.

  5. Read the following article by Naomi Fry in The New Yorker. How does it summarise much of the discussion that you have already had as a class about this documentary? How does it present new ideas that you would like to explore or discuss further.  

  6. As a class, try to define the 'global issues' of this documentary? Furthermore discuss the relevance of one or more of the seven concepts from this course to the documentary that you have watched: transformation, identity, communication, representation, creativity, culture and perspective.

  7. As a portfolio assignment, you may want to write a letter to the director of the documentary, Bert Marcus, or one of the influencers that is featured in this documenary. Be sure to include the ideas that you have discussed in class.


You may wish to use this documentary as a 'non-literary body of work' for your individual oral (IO). However, if you struggle to find a literary work on a common global issue, you may want to write aboutThe American Meme for your HL Essay. There are many secondary sources, such as interviews with Paris Hilton about her role in the documentary, which can inform your arguments and line of inquiry.

Last modified: Thursday, 19 March 2020, 11:56 AM