Bo Burnham Captures the Pandemic Experience in “Inside”

Spoilers about Bo Burnham’s, Inside, lie ahead. If you like to enjoy things for the first time, just watch this – it’s on Netflix. I promise you will laugh! 

“If you’d have told me a year ago that I’d be locked in my home, I’d have told you, a year ago: Interesting. Now leave me alone.” These are the words Bo Burnham uses to open his hour and a half long musical comedy special, Inside. The theme is, well, being locked inside during a pandemic.

Bo wrote, directed, and of course, stars in it. It was filmed inside his guesthouse during the past year in Los Angeles. The special is as precise as it is honest. Bo, while keeping it meticulously perfect in lights, sounds, visuals and details, also lays it out for viewers. He’s certainly going through it. And I think that’s why it stuck with me and continues to have a ripple effect for millennials, especially. But more on that shortly.

To warm viewers up, he taps into the experience of some common at-home pandemic activities early on. For one, FaceTime calls with parents and, in a totally different vein, sexting. Towards the end, there’s “All Eyes on Me”, which is a stadium-style anthem. He pulls from a lot of popular musical styles in these tracks, giving Drake vibes in “Sexting” and Travis Scott odes in “All Eyes on Me.”

But he takes it to some political spots, too. He wastes no time in pointing out his whiteness, the state of the world and how making comedy seems a little tone-deaf – “should I be joking at a time like this?” And while he weighs the pros and cons through song, he lands on “saving the world with comedy.” Bo doesn’t just go after himself, though. Once that’s out of the way he puts others on blast. At one point, he turns to a sock puppet to sing a song called “How the World Works”, which actually does a pretty solid job of laying out the systematic and systemic problems capitalism poses. Later, he has not one, but two tracks called “Bezos”, that call out the billionaire. Meanwhile, there’s “White Women’s Instagram”, which pokes fun at what one would call “basic” social media aesthetic from white women. You know, dogs in flower crowns and ripe avocados, but…that song does a lot more: it calls out privilege in a clever way.

But perhaps where this special really got me good is the honesty around mental health. In the beginnings of the special, he sings “Robert’s been a little depressed,” during the very upbeat and hopeful, “Content.” As time goes on, he shares his mental illness more openly, through songs like “That Funny Feeling”, but doesn’t always rely on songs to do it. You’ll also notice his hair and appearance change throughout. It isn’t chronological per say, but there is a noticeable mood shift as it goes.

All of that to say, if you’d have told me I would watch the film multiple times and would be listening to the accompanying album to Inside on repeat, I would not have believed you. But here we are. The lyricism is equal parts simple and equal parts telling of these strange times. It is the first thing during the pandemic that has come close to encapsulating the experience in both an entertaining and raw way, at least for me. And it offers something new on every watch / listen.

What did you think of the movie? Drop a comment below. 

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