Danni Sanders on Hulu’s Not Okay is not okay. The millennial has an empty life – no friends, no community, no boyfriend – and a ginormous crush on her coworker Colin. She successfully catches Colin’s attention by faking a trip to Paris to attend a writing retreat.
The morning after an Instagram post, she wakes up to find an area in Paris bombed by terrorists. Such a tragedy would prompt most people to end their deception. However, having tasted the attention she long-craved, Sanders portrays herself as a survivor of the attack.
Sanders quickly learns that faking trauma is much more complicated than faking an overseas trip. Therefore, she befriends Rowan, a school-shooting survivor, to steal from her experiences.
Danni Sanders is fictional but relatable in influencer culture
Nearly everything in Not Okay is fictional, including Danni Sanders. However, director and creator Quinn Shephard created Danni to be a relatable character in the influencer world.
Shepard told Newsweek that she wanted people in the internet age to relate to Sanders’ craving for social media attention – views, likes, clicks, followers, engagements, the like – and the extreme lengths people can go to get that attention. Quinn said:
“Danni is intentionally both terrible and very relatable. I think especially for young white women on the internet. I want it to be a character that people see themselves in so that they can kind of question how they can be less of a Danni in their daily lives.”
Sanders’ actions may seem extreme, but there are real-world influencers who’ve faked tragedy for attention. For instance, Alexandra Damien, a French woman, falsely claimed to be a victim of the November 2015 Paris attacks that left 130 people dead.
Damien collected 20,000 euros from money raised for victims of the attack. She also attended therapy sessions paid for by the French Association of Terror Victims. A court sentenced her to six months in prison for perjury and fraud.
The reaction to people like Damien is always universal condemnation, which they deserve. However, the denunciation often turns vile, with some netizens trolling and bullying the offender. The same happened to Sanders after a coworker exposed her lies.
“Tearing women down on the internet is not always the answer, even though they should be held accountable for their wrongs,” Quinn said.
Not Okay has its fair share of humor and satire, but it negotiates issues relating to gun violence and terrorist attacks with caution and empathy. Quinn didn’t draw from real-life school shootings or the November 2015 Paris attack.
However, school shootings and terrorist attacks happen, and she wanted the film to bring out the victims’ trauma as accurately as possible. Quinn said:
“I really hoped that I would navigate them all right, but to make sure that I was doing so I did vet the script with a number of people, including a trauma consultant, to make sure that I was navigating all of those scenes in an authentic way and I guess that’s the best you can do when you’re going to try to talk about topics like these.”