If you are gay and online, you know her already.
She is, to evoke Wendy, an icon; she’s got a point; she is the moment. A lip-sync assassin that would make even Coco Montrese tremble.
She is, of course, Blumhouse’s latest creation, M3GAN.
To the average viewer, the M3GAN trailer might look like rather innocuous, cookie-cutter doll horror in the tradition of Child’s Play or Annabelle. The beats are simple—when Cady (Violet McGraw) loses her parents, she moves in with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams, of you-can-be-my-white-Kate-Moss-tonight fame), who is apparently involved in some cutting-edge AI research. She enlists the help of the android M3GAN to befriend and protect the grieving Cady, which goes well until it doesn’t, as these stories tend to go, and M3GAN becomes violent in her quest to protect Cady.
The film’s presence online, however, is anything but mundane, largely owing to a brilliantly-placed shot of M3GAN performing the hell out of some acrobatic choreo. Also, the trailer is soundtracked with a warped remix of Taylor Swift’s “It’s Nice to Have a Friend,” an already-creepy cut from 2019’s Lover. The result is, simply, gay catnip.
Horror and the queer community have a storied relationship, largely tied in an earnest sense to themes of social isolation or a sense of being different, but also because of the genre’s innate understanding of camp. Blumhouse, the production company behind M3GAN and seemingly most mainstream horror titles these days, is certainly aware of this dynamic.
Earlier this year, they tried (and failed) to directly appeal to this sensibility with their maligned They/Them. That film came up short with queer audiences for a myriad of reasons, ranging from its reductive politics to its simple lack of actual horror.
When it came time to market M3GAN, Blumhouse seemed to follow an entirely different model, one that served them well with the community back in 2019. That model, of course, is the unabashed favorite horror film among gay Twitter this century: Tate Taylor’s instantly-iconic Ma.
That film presents perhaps the defining text on the quintessentially-online variety of camp that continues to hold Twitter in a chokehold. Between its outlandish premise and sheer comedic value, anchored by Octavia Spencer’s unwavering commitment to scenery-chewing, it’s no wonder the film achieved instant queer celebrity. When Ma asked if the main characters were mad at her for something, when she urged them not to let her drink alone, when McKaley Miller’s Haley boldly posed the question: “Damn, Ma, don’t you got a job?; — all of this is practically demanding to join the online canon. (As an expert, I’m happy to report it has, and then some.)
The parallels between the Ma and M3GAN campaigns are instantly apparent: ridiculously over-the-top premises, so-bad-it’s-good horror elements, raw memeability in spades, and a woman (human or not) who embodies a particular fierceness at its center. Three years later, Ma still occupies significant space in the Twitterverse, serving as an emblem of camp horror persisting in an era of purposeful or “conscious” takes on the genre. When the trailer for M3GAN dropped, Ma immediately came up as a point of comparison, as if to instantly place M3GAN in her canon.
What makes these films so deeply viral is a sense of humor (in the film or otherwise) that understands the prevailing queer online culture. If there is one thing gay people on Twitter are going to do, it is add their fave’s music to a video—and M3GAN was happy to provide. In my casual experience on Twitter since the trailer dropped, I’ve seen M3GAN edits to nearly every song on RENAISSANCE, “Dancing Queen,” RuPaul’s verse on “Cattitude,” and every K-pop song in the book. The same happened for Ma when the clip of her doing the robot to “Funkytown” hit the scene.
We haven’t yet seen the dancing bit in context, of course, but it’s clear that at the very least the marketing team knew exactly how to captivate the most-online subsect of the queer community.
Not to mention, she absolutely eats!
To be clear, M3GAN does not look like a particularly remarkable movie. Time will tell if the film itself has the same knowing humor as its marketing campaign—something Ma had and then some, justifying its longevity—or if we really are just strapped in for another paint-by-numbers creepy doll movie.
But rest assured, I and all of my terminally-online comrades will be seated on opening night.