It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a Twitter account, must be in want of a following. Such is the comedic premise for Single Blonde Failure, a web series released last week on Youtube that hyperbolizes the problem of social media influencing and how an online persona can eclipse IRL personage.
Co-created by Brooklyn comedians Carly Ann Filbin and Bobby Hankinson, Single Blonde Failure follows protagonist Carly Hanson (played by Filbin) through a series of misadventures in the borough as she becomes increasingly pledged to her personal “brand,” facing off against cranky clerks, topknot-sporting PR queens, and white men who aren’t her boyfriend along the way.
Brokelyn chatted with Hankinson — who, in addition to co-writing this series, has also written for us and currently works on the biz side of Brokelyn — about the journey to realizing SBF‘s unique take on social media addiction. Because despite the exaggerated humor, the series lands on a pretty real message about what it means to be less than the person you claim to be online.
“It’s about forgiving yourself for not being so interesting,” Hankinson, 31, told us. “For not being so put together, for not being this aspirational caricature that’s made in a boardroom.”
Hankinson and Filbin met while touring together with Awkward Sex and the City, a New York City-based comedy show hosted by Natalie Wall. It was over those long bus rides that they’d trade notes — Hankinson on his bizarre past in PR, and Filbin on her personal experience as a “broke single blonde in the city” — which eventually led to the concept for SBF. You can catch Hankinson in the episode above, playing alongside Filbin as the date who announces “I’m gay!”
Filbin originally wanted to have the protagonist more like Carrie Bradshaw, running an advice column in a magazine while failing to take her own advice. Hankinson had to remind his writing partner that things had changed since the Sex and the City.
“One day I called her and told her, ‘That doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no Carrie Bradshaw model, that’s not how things work.'”
The duo pivoted their series’ protagonist, Carly Hanson, toward Bradshaw’s modern-day doppelgänger: The Influencer, or the Early Adopter. Or in Hankinson’s words, the “Gwyneth Kinfolk Instagram Persona.” These are the Helena Glazers and the Millioneiresses of NYC, whose personal brands afford them tens of thousands of Twitter followers, which in turn affords them a lifestyle of free swag.
That said, Carly Hanson is a far cry from the hopelessly luxe Carrie Bradshaw, who tbh probably would have scored all of those Manolos for free if she were blogging today. Where Bradshaw merely struggle to resist temptation (shoes, men, etc.), Hanson struggles to maintain a sense of authenticity as she is called upon to perform her indulgence in temptation.
And while online reality may be an alternate reality, it has real consequences. Black Mirror got it pretty much on the nose in the fittingly titled “Nosedive” episode, the first of its third season, which posited a kind of social media caste system in which people could use their phones to rate each other after every human interaction. At its most extreme, online distortion translates to things like fake news.
In Single Blonde Failure, it’s on the micro. It’s trying to hug your gynecologist so you can use a trending hashtag, or promoting a cosmetics brand at the expense of your feminist principles.
For Hankinson, the internet is a beast that needs constant feeding — and it’s at its most vicious when we’re at our least interesting.
“I get stressed out about not posting on social media, [but] what am I supposed to post [if] I’m just working on the computer in my pajamas?” he told us. “There are days you’re crushing it living that New york life, and days when you’re in three blankets and sweatpants.”
I pointed out to Hankinson that the “three blankets and sweatpants” lifestyle can be just as strong of a personal brand, and demand the same social media upkeep, as the “I eat Moon Juice brain dust for breakfast” influencers of the world. Not that brands are rushing to the door of someone who boasts a hot mess of a lifestyle, per se, but trade out brand sponsorships for comedy gigs and you’ve got yourself a similar level of learned celebrity (think SNL’s Vanessa Bayer, who became a cult hero for her lazy Sunday routine).
In Single Blonde Failure, Filbin’s character straddles the two: she isn’t put-together enough to be an influencer, but she also isn’t dirty enough to be a standup comedian’s cool girlfriend.
Seeing that contrast in high relief offers us viewers a kind of catharsis. We get to watch Filbin implode in every episode, albeit lightly. And anyone who’s ever stressed out about their online brand will breathe a sigh of relief in seeing Filbin fail, because it reminds us that at the end of the day, your timeline isn’t the real world.
“You always fantasize in back of your head,” Hankinson said. “‘Surely they can’t always be making that hemp smoothie every morning. Don’t they just grab a bagel from the bodega sometimes?'”
Check out all seven episodes of Single Blonde Failure on YouTube now!
Sam is isn’t blonde or a failure. Follow her on Twitter to find out the rest: @ahoysamantha