The daring exploration of American morality of “Assassination Nation”

Political gore, the end of privacy and political righteousness via the female gaze

From right to left: actresses Abra (Em), Suki Waterhouse (Sarah), Odessa Young (Lily) and Hari Nef (Bex) in “Assassination Nation” (2018). Credits: Neon Company.

Before exploring a more realistic portrayal of teenagers in modern age with HBO series Euphoria, back in 2018 director Sam Levinson, ventured to explore similar themes but in a more heavy-handed, bloody approach to matters such as mental health, the erosion of privacy given social media’s power over us, coming of age, social prejudices and more importantly: how political upheavals turn violent given faulty ideals of morality.

“Assassination Nation”, is a action/thriller film that follows the story of four teenage girls who are hunted by an entire city after they are falsely accused of leaking the private information of the whole city of Salem (yes it’s a direct reference to the Witch Hunt of the 17th century, which is now easily explained as a transfiguration of sexism in real life), which spurs a rampant murder spree and havoc in the area. The four friends, Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Em (Abra) and Bex (Hari Nef) are characters with their own personal issues and are written in a manner as to convey discussion about important topics such as: abortion, transgender rights, racism, revenge porn, all packed in the setting of the Land of The Free (please tell me you understand a dry pun). The social context in which the film premiered also matters. In 2018, Donald Trump was still president of the US. To every sane mind, most remember the policies and conservative violent mob culture asserted by Trump back in his heyday. More importantly, the film doesn’t paint a colourful picture of the coming of age process in an epoch colourless sometimes, which youth is more than sick of. Especially in an environment far from the world of pastel hues inside a cinema.

From right to left: actresses Odessa Young (Lily), Suki Waterhouse (Sarah), Abra (Em) and Hari Nef (Bex) in “Assassination Nation” (2018). Credits: Neon Company.

As an American, director Sam Levinson stated that the film was a necessary exaggeration of the state his country found itself in. His daughter was born at the time, and Levinson felt preoccupied with the world she would grow up in. Especially as a woman. By mixing a Tumbler aesthetic and a soft-gore ethos, “Assassination Nation” more than anything is a disclaimer made by the director as to raise awareness of internet culture and violence, or aka, cancel culture turning violent in real life.

What is most intriguing about the film is its defiance to insert an array of discussion in the time frame of about 1h and 30 minutes, in which the viewer flinches so many times given the accuracy presented to them in regards to dark subjects. The film is loaded with trigger warnings. The very first minutes of it we are already warned of the themes that will be explored in capital letters whilst frenetic and disturbing scenes are shown.

Credits: Neon Company.

The film could be described as a pre-calculated formula between “The Purge” and of course, “Euphoria”, even though the latter would only be released in late 2019. And more interestingly, it nods to the model of violence displayed by film director, Quentin Tarantino: a concoction of a comical aggressive laugh in the face of a danger coloured by dark blood spilled all over the film.

By the time it was release, the film received great criticism — just as almost everything that is brilliant and ahead of its time — for its transgressive exposé of American society’s hypocrisy, in the case of “Assassination Nation”, in regards to the standards women are forced to be coerced by, which is not similar to that of men. The four main characters, just as every teenager ever, have their flaws and shortcomings, yet, the film reflects the behaviour displayed by old people, especially men on the internet, which is that of abusive vitriolic nature towards young people. “Yo, you looks at a leaked picture of a young girl and thinks — ‘I have to kill this bitch?’”, ponders the main character, Lily, after she’s been chased by old men when personal videos of hers are leaked around the whole city. Of course the phrase is a direct sarcasm and nod to a rather unfortunate reality many people have lived.

Actresses Suki Waterhouse (Sarah) and Abra (Em) in “Assassination Nation” (2018). Credits: Neon Company.

Given its massive exploration of sexism, classism, toxic masculinity, homophobia, clear use of guns and illegal drugs, nationalism, the male gaze and the others aforementioned topics, “Assassination Nation” biggest shortcoming is its ending. The desire to explore many themes hinders the plot to reach a decisive conclusion, leaving the viewer to wander as to what happened to our main characters after they get their turn to face up the society which desires to kill them, both morally and biologically. The film’s ending insinuates that a sequel would be much needed, but it just hasn’t happened. Just yet…

Fortunately, since it has been added to Netflix’s catalogue this year, the film has received ever more attention for its self-awareness and its comprehension of its surroundings in the real world. Since 2018, when it premiered, discussions regarding social justice have been at the centre of many current entertainment productions. And for its real and raw characterisation of American society, the film is finally getting its moment on the popular spectrum as how not to be tone-deaf or blinded to the current — well in this case, past — social debacles.

And of course, the fashion is just what every aesthetic sucker would die for. Imagine donning that dreamy, cutesy outfit whilst slaying the patriarchy’s minions? Ugh, to die for.




here you will find a collection of reports written by matt so far during his time at university

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Colorist Keyhan Bayegan Finds a Common Thread of Emotion in Every Story

King for a Night: ‘The King of Comedy’ (1982)

Pitching Your Projects

Spoiler Alert: Julie and Julia (2009)

Micro-Genre Analysis

From Filmmaker to Flatiron

On set in 2007

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
☁ hello, i am matt ☁

☁ hello, i am matt ☁

here you will find a collection of reports written by matt so far during his time at university

More from Medium

Words of Wisdom — An interview with GSoC Scholar Adarsh S.

Inside Scoop — Ally Campbell

Hello-World to Text Vectorization for ML problems

Local sanitation, recycling and logistics held some part of my youth.