by Bri Castellini
A few weeks ago on Twitter, I was having a conversation about branding and public personas with some fellow filmmakers, and one of them (a fantastic Canadian director named Brianne Nord-Stewart) made a joke that “my personal online presence is regulated by the notions of “am I okay with this living on forever?” & “do I care if my grandpa sees this?”” And it struck me how considerably less family friendly my online presence has become over the past few years.
When I first started out on the internet, in my wee pre-teen years, I was incredibly cautious about my public activities. I wouldn’t tell anyone my last name, wouldn’t reveal my home state let alone my city, and would sometimes even invent fake names for friends and places to keep myself “safe.” I got older and a little more bold[er], yet in college I was still chastising friends for swearing on camera for videos I intended to upload to YouTube. Because I’ve been online in the same few places so long, my entire family has access to my blogs, videos, and social media posts- Hi, family!- so I’ve always kept my digital identity cleanish.
This despite the fact that I’ve been swearing like an injured sailor since I was 12 years old. I used to play basketball with a boy at lunch where instead of talking we’d just swear at each other and giggle. For two years in a row in high school I put “stop swearing so much” as a New Years Resolution. It never stuck.
But throughout that time, online and around the fam, I kept my expletives to myself- it was a big deal for me to start using “hell” and “pissed.” It wasn’t that I personally found these words offensive, but that I knew who I was to my family and didn’t want to upset them.
I’m not actually sure when this changed. I know I started swearing around the ‘rents when I went to college, because I was more confident in my relationship with them and my own budding “adulthood,” but my online presence remained relatively clean. I worried that a dirty digital mouth could affect my future job prospects but also that it could affect my relationship with my family.
The swearing online happened slowly, but probably the biggest change was when I moved to New York. Not only was I living entirely on my own dime, marking the ACTUAL start of my adulthood, but I had moved to become a filmmaker, which has its own set of rules and decorum. No longer was I theoretically vying for a professional office gig- I was entering a world where a little inappropriate online humor was not only tolerated, but considered a special skill. And then I made a web series where I played a character who in the pilot spends a lot of time adjusting her cleavage and saying things like “I have needs…. SEX NEEDS.” Safe to say the ship done sailed on my public persona’s PG rating.
I know most of my family has seen at least some of my film work, all of which include “fucks” and “shits” and discussions of sex and once even of masturbation (honestly the grossest word of the whole set). The fact that my grandparents (allege) to enjoy Brains, since season 2 featured me aggressively making out with multiple people, and the fact that my mom sat through an early cut of Ace and Anxious where a full minute of screen time was dedicated to the protagonist preparing to use a vibrator for the first time and still found herself able to chuckle, is patently insane.
Sure, there’s something to be said about adulthood and autonomy and not needing permission to be the way I am, but there’s also still a part of me that pauses before posting a particularly raunchy tweet. Not because I think it’ll reflect poorly on me as a professional, because at this point profanity is part of my brand, but because I know that at some point in the following few hours, my grandmother will see it, gasp, and, depending on the subject, text my mom. Not to say that this cycle isn’t amusing- it very much is. But I don’t post things with the express purpose to horrify my grandmother, so it’s always a consideration.
I’m curious, fellow artists, what your thoughts are. Do your families follow your public posts, and your work? Do they approve? Do they care? Do you ever worry that saying “fuck” in a tweet or a film will make holidays uncomfortable?
Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE This post first appeared on her seriously cool blog.