30 Movies in 30 Days: Tickled

Had I seen it before: No.

Year: 2016

Director: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve

Writer: N/A, documentary

Where you can stream it now: Hulu or free on Tubi w/ads

What IMDb says: Journalist David Farrier stumbles upon a mysterious tickling competition online. As he delves deeper he comes up against fierce resistance, but that doesn’t stop him getting to the bottom of a story stranger than fiction.

Why I picked it: A friend told me about it.

What I liked: I love how the documentary world is essentially the wild west of filmmaking. Anything goes. I’ve found oftentimes some of the best documentaries are the ones about topics that no one in their wildest dreams would have written on their own (look at Tiger King). Tickled succeeds in quickly getting me interested in a world I didn’t even know existed. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t happen in works of fiction, and for that I am grateful.

It’s also a film that made me think. What should the rules be for content such as tickling videos, which are not overtly pornographic but are still used for sexual gratification by some? What, if anything, needs to be taught to young people so they’re more aware of such schemes and less likely to be manipulated?

What I didn’t like: Personally, I’m really not a fan of when documentarians make the film more about themselves/the process of making a documentary than their actual subject matter. From my experience, documentaries tend to be at their best when they tell the story at hand, and the filmmakers function mostly as outside observers. Here, the filmmakers seemed more intent on telling us what kind of risks they were taking to make the film in the first place. There were a lot of “but what if we get sued?” scenes, only to be followed up with “no! We must persist on our quest for the truth!” scenes. By the end, it didn’t feel like the story was really about any of the victims who were duped into making what’s essentially soft core porn, or how their lives were ruined as a result.

The film wasn’t interested in exploring any of the questions I found most compelling: What legal rights do you have to control how videos you appear in are distributed? What obligations do videographers have to disclose how the non-sexual act that talent agreed to might be consumed in a sexual way? How can people use threats of legal action to control people even if they don’t actually have any legal ground to stand on? Is it at all possible to make and distribute tickling videos in an ethical way, or are such videos still wrong even when the business making them is more transparent about their purpose? The film briefly touches on an Orlando-based producer and distributor of tickling videos who seems to be doing it the right way, but we really don’t get a very in-depth look into his operation. Again, one of my favorite things about Tickled was how it makes me think about issues I was previously unaware of. I just wish the film had the desire to dig deeper into the questions it raises.

Will I watch it again: I doubt it.

Who would enjoy it?: That’s a good question. People who like learning about off-the-beaten-path weird corners of the internet I suppose?

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