How an invented Scorsese movie electrified online audiences
Have you seen Goncharov? It’s the Scorsese film that features a Russian-Italian mafia showdown in Naples, that stars Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Gene Hackman, and that is completely made-up.
Made-up not by the director, that is, but by the ‘audience’ – a development that surely would send ‘Death of the Author’ theorist Roland Barthes not so much spinning in his grave, as cartwheeling out of the cemetery gates.
So what does it look like, when the an entirely invented film finds an audience online?
A little like this, it turns out:
This is, naturally, going to require some context.
Using Pulsar TRAC, we mapped mentions of the ‘movie’ across platforms including Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, News, Podcasts, TV and Google Search, to understand how the trend originated, spread and attained the kind of recognition the marketing teams behind genuine movies strive for.
It started in 2020, when a pair of knock-off boots featured the name of a non-existent Scorsese movie, rather than the brand name. This quickly led to humor around the poster’s apparent ‘ignorance’ of the movie in question.
Goncharov all started with a pair of knockoff boots
which turned into a meme
which turned into worldbuilding
about a fake mafia film set in Naples in 1973 “at the fall of the Soviet Union” pic.twitter.com/ONc6GBj0NO
— Danielle | Goodwill Hunting (@DLVermeer) November 23, 2022
The joke was incubated on Tumblr, passing over time into the niche humor, impenetrable to many outsiders, that defines the platform. Then, on November 20th, interest exploded.
Clearly Twitter played a crucial role in introducing the concept to the wider world, acting as a repository for discussions taking place on more closed off parts of the internet. At first, Twitter and Tumblr appear to have formed a reciprocal relationship around Goncharov, with interest in the wider world stimulating buzz on the platform that originated it all.
The relative interest on Twitter quickly eclipsed that on Tumblr, however, as the novelty of a niche trend being picked up by wider culture quickly rescinded, and a wider pool of Twitter users started engaging with the the movie.
So what did this look like on a network level? This brings us back to the visualization that opened this piece, this time with an annotation displaying three of the tweets that played a key role in disseminating the humor to a wider audience.
The visualization turns structural proximities into visual proximities, meaning that the closer two nodes are to one another, the closer they are within the conversational network. Nodes towards the centre are more important in spreading information throughout the network.
The nodes highlighted in pale blue are tweets, those in yellow retweets, with the size of each node dependant on the visibility of the Tweet in question. The exception to this color-coding rule are the three highlighted Tweets, which have been assigned a highlight color for clarity.
There are now more fanfics on AO3 for Goncharov, a completely fabricated film made up by Tumblr that has never existed, than for Avatar, the 4th highest-grossing film to date.
I am in awe.
— 🏳️🌈 Hailey Piper 🏳️🌈 (@HaileyPiperSays) November 22, 2022