Reality thanks to the power of the internet has become increasingly malleable. Who we know and are can change with just a few clicks of a mouse. It’s never been easier to connect with other people. As explored in the film “Getting Go” however, altering our digital realities often can lead to profound effects on our real lives.
“Getting Go” takes the form of a documentary. Early into the film the audience is introduced to Tanner Cohen, the film’s primary character. He’s a young adult finishing up his undergrad in New York City. Tanner has a fascination with the social media site Tumblr, specifically vlogging and pictures of gay men online. Eventually he stumbles across Go – an attractive go-go dancer he instantly falls in love with.
Doubting his own abilities to communicate with Go, even online, Tanner dismisses the idea of ever connecting with him. He believes the dancer is way out of his league. This quickly changes however as Tanner drinks a bit more that night and makes a bold move to email Go under the guise of being a videographer making a film about the life of go-go dancers in New York City. After a bit of internal struggle, Tanner finally hits send on his email to Go. Doubting anything will become of the message he calls it a night.
To Tanner’s surprise, Go is actually interested in helping him with his go-go documentary project and agrees to help. Shocked and a little overwhelmed, Tanner frantically begins to research videography techniques, storytelling, and borrows camera equipment from a friend. His quick research allows him to pass as a documentary film maker and begin filming Go at work and in his personal life.
What follows is a series of events that leads to a deeper understanding of Tanner as a character and a look at the life of a go-go boy. I won’t give away the entire plot but it’s a fun ride filled with emotional connections between the two and an overall question of defining “normal” and accepting what you need to be happy.
One of the core components of the film I found fascinating is Tanner’s evolution as a character. At the beginning of the film he’s nothing more than a simple college student unsure of what he wants to do with his love life, career, and future. Throughout the film he uses the internet as a tool to overcome these barriers. Despite knowing little to nothing about filming a documentary, Tanner quickly gets up to speed with the craft and is able to shoot a variety of scenes with Go thanks to information he found on the internet. He also is able to broaden his connections with the outside world and actually make a physical connection.
The internet helped reshape Tanner’s reality leading to personal growth and development. All growth wasn’t positive however as Tanner found himself torn between the person who he was trying to be and the person he actually was. This conflict comes to a head after a relationship he is in doesn’t go as he initially planned. While he tried his best to imitate the lifestyle of an edgy film maker with little qualms about the bold sexuality of his partner, Tanner is conflicted by the fact that he wants a more traditional relationship. Ultimately this leads Tanner to a personal breakthrough which allows him to see himself as who he really is in real life. While the idea of digital reality is often thrown around as something some people toy with as a means to escape reality itself, Tanner’s story shows that while it’s tempting to fabricate a reality, your true self will often shine through the facade you’ve created after time due to misaligned priorities and values.
Another powerful theme explored in the film is the internet’s ability to create connections. Tanner experiences this when he is able to meet Go digitally. The encounter fundamentally changes his life by introducing him to a world of possibilities he thought he’d never have access to. It also acted as a gateway for Tanner to step out of his shell and into a larger more complicated world. Often in real life, many people are constrained by their physical surrounding, limiting their access to new ideas, thinking, and ways of life. The internet is a powerful tool which helps take down this barrier and make the greater world more understandable.
Finally, a more subtle theme explored closer to the end of the film worth considering is the “normalization” of homosexuality in America. While not universally accepted across the nation, it has picked up steam in recent years with new laws springing up to protect members of the LGBT community and marriage equality being legalized in a number of states. All these positive changes are worth celebrating, but the film gently touches on the complexity of “normalizing” gay culture. Go in particular exists closer to the fringe of gay culture which isn’t as widely accepted by mainstream America. Being a go-go boy, some see his profession closely aligned with the sex industry. Go also has a more fluid definition of love which doesn’t default to monogamy.
Go’s “fringe” type of homosexuality is balanced out in the film by Tanner. A young man who desperately wants to live within the traditional confines of love and a relationship. Tanner in many ways can pass in the predominant heterosexual society. He’s spent most of his life following the traditional education path and will likely end up in a conventional job. He’s very much the opposite of Go. While it’s tempting to pick one side over the other, a greater conversation can be had around what the range of homosexuality can bring to the larger conversation about sexuality as a whole and the importance of preserving diverse points of view.
“Getting Go” is a quirky film. At times it feels a bit too good to believe with the connection between the two characters being rather instantaneous and deep. The concept however is rather daring for a LGBT film. No one dies of AIDs, the main character is an imperfect and rather normal young adult, and most importantly of all, the ending is a little messy and real. There is no perfect ending to the story; the audience is left to ponder the possibilities of what happens next to both characters.
The film touches on a number of themes including identity, connection, and the “normalization” of gay culture in America. It will likely never be a mainstream hit but it serves a greater purpose. “Getting Go” isn’t simple, it’s a journey of discovery and accepting the fact that the other side of the digital looking glass might not be that far away; it’s sometimes worth taking a closer look to understand what you might be missing out on.