Netflix’s ‘Bird Box’ creates social media craze


Saeed Adyani/Netflix

Trevante Rhodes and Sandra Bullock in “Bird Box.”

By Shahum Ajmal, Contributing Editor

The trending page on Twitter was littered with the #BirdBoxChallenge as Pitt students were home for winter break, featuring videos of people attempting to do everyday tasks while blindfolded. The origin of this viral craze comes from the new Netflix thriller film, “Bird Box,” where the few humans left in the world must wear blindfolds nearly all the time to avoid an intangible supernatural doom.

“Bird Box” – released on Dec. 13 – takes viewers through a dark post-apocalyptic setting, where an unidentifiable negative energy rushes into human society in a wind-like nature. This wind, upon being seen, forces its victims to instantly commit suicide. It can also possess them into hunting down those trying to escape its wrath.

Every movement characters take in “Bird Box” is a risk, with no one ever mentally or physically safe. The energy creeps in during climactic scenes through whisper-like dialogues, urging survivors to take their blindfolds off to either insanely die or become believers in the force and find anyone still trying to hide.

The Netflix original is based on Josh Malerman’s 2014 novel, “Bird Box,” and has scored a 62 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but broke Netflix records — reeling in more than 45 million Netflix streams in its first week on the streaming service.

“Bird Box” begins with Malorie (Sandra Bullock) and her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) watching new clips of the unidentifiable energy causing mass devastation in countries abroad. The pregnant Malorie and her sister choose to ignore this dangerous new reality, thinking they will remain safe in Sacramento, California.

The movie goes in and out of the past and present in a subtle manner, allowing the audience to follow Malorie’s journey. Five years after that opening scene, she has found herself alone with two children — who remain nameless until the end of the movie, simply referred to as “girl” and “boy” — trying to find a way out of Sacramento.

The story line develops while following a somewhat cliched horror movie plot, as Malorie becomes stranded in an upscale suburban house with a group of strangers. The personalities are where the horror movie cliches shine, as viewers attempt to keep up with a hero, a jerk, a sweetheart, an old person, a coward and a few other irrelevant people who neither advance nor help the situation.

Despite the horror genre cliches, the film still achieved a great amount of success, which is partially due to its viral meme. The meme of the “Bird Box” challenge has spread across the internet, taking inspiration from specific scenes in the movie where Marlorie has to find ways to survive while wearing a blindfold in order to avoid seeing the negative force. One scene in particular features Malorie boating down a river seeking shelter, all while wearing her blindfold.

Numerous Youtubers have jumped on the challenge, filming themselves trying to complete their daily activities blindfolded. Famous British Youtuber @Roxxsaurus posted a 30-minute-long video where, alongside her random daily activities, she went canoeing while blindfolded. This was likely an attempt to recreate the iconic scene that inspired the meme.

The #BirdBoxChallenge may have overshadowed the actual quality of the film and caused the audience to ignore its high points, such as the performances of the lead actors. The movie has created so much buzz that some celebrities have taken to Twitter to express their interest in the movie’s challenge. “Bird Box” even gained public reactions from celebrities Kim Kardashian and Chrissy Teigen, among others.

The #BirdBoxChallenge gained so much traction on social media that Netflix tweeted an official comment concerning the challenge, asking people to ensure they remain safe while doing it.

Despite the viral social media trends, Bullock’s performance in the film is commendable, but odd for those of us who grew up watching her in family films. The movie casts other well-known Hollywood stars, such as John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes, BD Wong and Pruitt Taylor Vince — though Paulson’s short-lived performance stands out above the others, similar to Bullock’s.

“Bird Box” is captivating with interesting visuals effectively capturing a post-apocalyptic lifestyle. The film goes in and out of blindfolded characters’ points of view, immersing viewers into the toll each character is enduring mentally and physically in different extremes. The suspense is so intense that viewers remain uncomfortable while following every moment of Malorie’s voyage to safety.

The film’s popularity through social media is distracting. However, the movie’s look into notable life lessons by coming to understand a mother’s journey through sincere acting is deserving. Additionally, the screenplay designed around dealing with a guilty conscious and learning humility helps add to the movie’s ability to be relatable. While it does struggle to free itself of the typical horror movie cliches, the film is worth the watch.

A deeper takeaway is an appreciation for nature and how sometimes in a busy life, you can lose appreciation for nature and loved ones. Sometimes, blinding yourself from reality is the only way you can gain inner peace — however, throwing yourself down a river blindfolded might not be the best solution.