Let me confess that I wasn’t familiar with Chris Crocker before watching “Me @the Zoo,” but after sitting through this 86-minute HBO documentary, I’m not sure I’ll soon forget him.
Crocker –- a youth who identifies as female and had the misfortune to be born in the closed-minded confines of rural Tennessee –- became a fleeting Internet sensation by posting videos of himself, including one in which he unleashed support for Britney Spears by shrieking, “Leave Britney alone!,” generating millions of YouTube views. The prospect of a reality show, and media appearances on “Maury” and “Jimmy Kimmel,” followed.
Dennis Harvey has already ably reviewed the film –- which premieres on June 25, part of HBO's summer documentary series –- for Variety, but let me echo his endorsement (and some of his quibbles), since this is a significant work that deserves to be seen and given some thought.
Frankly, filmmakers Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch can’t really get under Crocker’s skin –- the film is derived almost entirely from his videos or other media accounts – or provide a legitimate ending. But viewed through a wider lens, they don’t really need to.
That’s because Crocker’s antics and the reaction they produced ought to provoke some soul-searching about a culture so enamored with fame, and a media that sets the bar so low on who achieves 15 minutes (or so) of it.
Even the title is almost purposely vague –- it refers to one of the first videos posted on YouTube –- in a documentary that dares to be impenetrable and appears perfectly content to let viewers sort out what it means (or doesn't).
In a way, though, the movie probes some of the same issues HBO traffics in more awkwardly in “The Newsroom,” or at least provides an intriguing companion to the Aaron Sorkin-produced drama.
Mostly, “Me @the Zoo” reminds us how in today’s digital age what's possible often races ahead of concerns about collateral damage, and that in this particular zoo, the hyenas and jackals seem to be running the joint.
Directed, produced and edited by Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch; producers, Nicholas Shumaker, Jack Turner; executive producers, Vin Farrell, Jim McKay, Michael Stipe Rachel Grady, Sheila Nevins.