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A Short Visual History of How Texting Is Depicted in Film

A Short Visual History of How Texting Is Depicted in Film

If the recently-released trailer (at bottom of page) for Jason Reitman’s dark-side- of-the-Internet expose Men, Women & Children has you seeing floating text messages everywhere, mash-up master Tony Zhou is here to shed some light on that suddenly ubiquitous bit of textual clutter. 

 The editor and video essayist follows up insightful pieces on “Bayhem" and "The Spielberg Oner" with "A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film" (below), a five-minute crash course in the still-evolving way that filmmakers are struggling to keep up with the dramatic changes happening in the realm of interpersonal and online communication. Zhou first noticed the trend towards cutting-and-pasting text bubbles onscreen in the wildly popular TV series, Sherlock, but the practice actually dates back a little further to soap operas, teen comedies like 2008’s Sex Drive and movies hailing from such tech-forward nations as Japan and South Korea. 

In his typically erudite and well-edited way, Zhou illustrates how far filmmakers’ use of texting has come and how far it still has to go, pulling clips from such movies as The Fifth Estate and The Fault in Our Stars (above), as well as TV shows like House of Cards and Pretty Little Liars.  Since Men, Women & Children is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival in a couple of weeks, it’s probably too late for Reitman to make any last-minute changes, but if he watches Zhou’s video, maybe he can apply its lessons to his next movie.