“It’s like Warhol,” I said, “or Don’t Look Back.”
“If you choose to make that association,” said my friend, “go right ahead.”
It was St. Patrick’s Day, and I was being introduced amidst vodka shots to Bebe Zeva, a documentary feature by alt-lit influentials (and former power couple) Tao Lin and Megan Boyle. As a “documentary film,” the project is so conceptual as to be almost nonexistent—and yet it does exist, and for $20 you can own a 90-minute DVD made from a MacBook video recording of a night Lin and Boyle spent with the then-19-year-old fashion blogger in her home town of Las Vegas on March 30, 2011. They goof around, they drive around, Lin rubs whipped cream in Zeva’s hair, and eventually they all end up giggling in a swimming pool.
Becky Lang calls distributor MDMAfilms, its moniker taken from the chemical name for the drug better known as ecstasy, “the world’s first ironic film company”: three Lin/Boyle films constitute its complete catalog. Is Bebe Zeva a joke? Is Bebe Zeva a joke? She rose to fame as a t-shirt model for the irony-soaked blog Hipster Runoff, but in the documentary she comes across as relaxed and unaffected. Zeva’s on camera the whole time, but the film isn’t really about her: it’s about Lin and Boyle and those of us who sit there for 90 minutes watching a MacBook movie instead of reading Moby Dick, or calling our moms, or doing our taxes.
Bebe Zeva isn’t quite life, and isn’t quite art, but it’s certainly a document. Watch it with nostalgia for the halcyon days of 2011, when Lin and Boyle were married mischiefmakers; watch it with an excitement about the possibilities of a world where a couple can start a “film studio” and make no-budget documentaries on a laptop computer just for the hell of it; watch it with horror about the world that Warhol and Sedgwick have wrought; watch it with amusement at Lin and Boyle’s colossal joke; or watch it with complete indifference. But you might as well watch it…because what else were you going to do? Read Moby Dick?