Netflix’s Comedy Special "Inside" Is A Chaotic Reflection Of 2020

Image Source: The Comic's Comic

Written, directed, and edited by Bo Burnham throughout the pandemic, “Inside” is a comedic film that features songs and bits about his isolation and mental health, which captures how a majority of people felt during the pandemic.

But 2020 was more than the pandemic. After the death of George Floyd and the BLM protects, there has been a stream of activism on social media of BIPOC influencers educating about systemic racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny, colonization, and so much more. 

Some people have been enlightened, while others choose to be ignorant and gaslight activists and allies. However, some people aren’t quite enlightened and do performative activism, which is done by “allies” to be a part of the “trend.” These people have been overwhelmingly White. Because of this, Bo Burnham’s “Inside” also has songs and bits that mock the White lens and their response to social issues.

How Our Isolation Made Us Dependent On The Internet

In the beginning, Bo sings a song about face-timing his mom, but quickly gets frustrated with her thumb over her camera. Seemingly mean, it accurately represents how the pandemic has made many of us anti-social and easily frustrated with others, making online conversations via social media easier than face-to-face interactions. 

Even if we have no one to speak to, the content we encounter on the internet makes us feel less alone, making “the outside world... merely a theatrical space in which one stage and records content for the much more real, much more vital digital space.” But since the internet has an infinite amount of content, being on the internet has become a desirable way to escape reality. 

Image Source: LyricsVin

However, this isn’t a good thing. The song “Welcome to the Internet” lists things people can do and find on the internet with a fast-paced rhythm, reflecting the amount of content the internet has and the speed people consume. This is emphasized with the star lights Bo uses to represent a universe. But he also uses colorful clouds of lights to represent an addiction.

People were on the internet before the pandemic, but our isolation made us dependent on it. Because of this, the internet laughs manically like an evil character for controlling us.

How Our Isolation Intensified Depression

The internet is resourceful for information, but a lot of internet usage can be harmful in the long run. For Bo, that meant developing a dissociation disorder. 

In fact, in his song “30,” he mentions how zoomers think he’s out of touch with reality. In response, he says, “Oh yeah? Well, your f*cking phones are poisoning your minds. Okay? So when you develop a dissociative mental disorder in your late twenties, don’t come crawling back to me.” When he says this, he’s upset because he developed the disorder, which then challenges Gen Z to rethink his experience with the internet.

Image Source: Popsugar

But that’s not the only disorder he has. Bo Burnham also suffers from depression, which he first expresses at the beginning of the film by saying that making this special avoided him putting a bullet through his head. Then towards the end, he says he never wants to finish it since he doesn’t want to go back to living his life.

In between, he continues to express his depression through his song “Shit.” Everything from - “I haven't had a shower in the last nine days” to “All my clothes are dirty” and “Feeling like a saggy, massive sack of shit” reveal the experience of having depression, which was experienced more intensely during the pandemic since we were away from family and friends, making times for support difficult to receive. 

The following segment exhibits this in detail with a gameplay bit of Bo only being able to sit, stand, cry, or play the piano, which reflects his life during the pandemic.

Bo eventually says he’s mentally at a low point. But because he can’t handle expressing it seriously, he breaks out into song with colorful lights and a smile before saying how he feels, showing he copes through comedy.

On a larger scale, this is how people with depression cope as well, so when Bo does this, he’s representing them at the same time he’s revealing himself. This is important since there’s a point in time where he watches a video of himself telling himself not to commit suicide, which is the same struggle people with depression faced during the pandemic.

Image Source: Inlander

How White “Allies” Make Everything About Themselves 

From a series of songs and bits that expose white behavior, one of the first songs Bo performs is “Comedy.”

In this song, Bo acknowledges that our social issues are too serious to joke about. So in the chorus when he says, “the world needs a direction from a white guy like me,” he takes the fact that he’s a white man to mock other white people and their need to still be the center of attention with issues relating to people of color. 

Plus when he says this, a deep voice says “Bingo” as clouds and an angelic spotlight is cast on the wall behind him, indicating that white “allies” who think this way perceive themselves as the lifesavers of people of color, which Bo reinforces when he says “I'm white, and I'm here to save the day.” 

Image Source: Insider

Because of this, simply self-reflecting makes white people feel special, despite not knowing nor fully understanding the forms and instances systemic racism can take. This is demonstrated when Bo says, “The world is so fu*ked up. Systematic oppression, income inequality, the other stuff.” Saying “the other stuff” clearly illustrates how white people want to be allies without actually wanting to learn about our issues since activism has become a trend on social media. As a result, many people fake their activism just to stay relevant, showing how white people can’t stop making everything about themselves. 

Bo even says that white people had the floor for four hundred years so “maybe I should just shut the fuck up,” but then says “I don’t wanna do that.” This shows that white people understand that they need to listen and learn, but they’re too selfish to do that. 

How White “Allies” Participate in Performative Activism

In “How the World Works,” Bo sings about how animals work together as if he was on a kid’s tv show. But the puppet socko tells the audience how the world actually works by saying “The world is built with blood! And genocide and exploitation...And every politician, every cop on the street protects the interests of the pedophilic corporate elite.” 

The fact that socko is a puppet on Bo’s hand, under Bo’s control, yet able to speak the truth, shows that socko represent minorities. Because of this, Bo remains smiley through socko’s lyrics to appear like an ally until Bo asks, “What can I do?” Asking this question is a form of performative activism since there are many online resources they can turn to instead of burdening others to educate them, which is especially true when they say they’re “just trying to become a better person.” This then shows that no matter what kind of issue is occurring, white people are always trying to make it about themselves.

Image Source: TechRadar

Socko says this to Bo, but he tells him, “Watch your mouth, buddy. Remember who's on whose hand here,” showing that white people hate being directly spoken to as being the problem of our issues. Socko speaking to the general public wasn’t a problem to Bo, but once he points at white people Bo threatens him, which ironically shows the problem minorities face from performative activism. 

The issue continues with “White Woman’s Instagram,” which has gained a lot of controversy for being misogynistic since Bo recreates stereotypical photos that white women take of themselves. However, the song shows the contrast between the white and BIPOC experiences. “How The World Works” shows how minorities are treated, but “White Woman’s Instagram” shows how white women take photos of themselves instead of posting about racial injustice. So the contrast between these two songs reinforces that white people never face the same problems as minorities nor care about their issues. 

And if they do “care,” they respond like Bo in “problematic.” In this song, Bo sings “Times are changing, and I'm getting old. Are you gonna hold me accountable?” When he says this, he acknowledges that as an older person he’s probably said and done offensive things in the past. But the only thing he did was dress up as Aladdin, which isn’t even racist, showing that white people would apologize about nothing for attention. 

Image Source: BuzzFeed

At this point, “Inside” doesn’t sound like a comedy show, and in a way, it isn’t. Bo is funny, but “Inside” is a chaotic reflection of 2020 involving various forms of art.

But it should be noted that there are many more themes than the ones I’ve covered. These are just the ones that spoke to me the most, so I merely scratched the surface of his masterpiece.

Because of this, “Inside” is a film that needs to be watched multiple times to truly understand it from beginning to end. But fear not, each rewatch will leave you speechless from the new things you’ll notice.

Hi! Hello! My pronouns are she/her, and I'm a storyteller who loves tea and cats.

No Saves yet. Share it with your friends.

Write Your Diary

Get Free Access To Our Publishing Resources

Independent creators, thought-leaders, experts and individuals with unique perspectives use our free publishing tools to express themselves and create new ideas.

Start Writing