The Columnist Shows Us What Happens When Trolls Go Too Far

Femke Boot (Katja Herbers of Evil) can’t take it anymore. She’s being bullied on the Internet by everyone—random strangers from across the globe and even her neighbor, who is an extreme conservative while she is quite liberal. (Not to mention, he says some vile things about her online while being cordial to her face.) She’s a columnist for a Dutch online publication, Volksrant, and is receiving blowback from her latest column…too much blowback to deal with on a daily basis, and she’s cracking.

It seems we’re faced with this scenario all the time these days. Politics is driving people apart like I’ve never seen before, and it is so easy for anyone and everyone to force their opinions on people and spend their free time being keyboard warriors tearing each other apart like rabid dogs from the comfort of their own homes.

Never Read the Comments

Femke reads the comments.

Never read the comments. How many times have we heard that advice? The only problem is, Femke reads them; she reads them all and takes them VERY personally. Oh, and I forgot to mention that she’s supposed to be working on a novel but has a serious case of writer’s block that these comments are exacerbating, bringing more negativity on her from her no-nonsense publisher.

But Femke has a plan to teach them all a lesson about being kind. She researches those who make these nasty comments about her and hunts them down to even the score. The thing is, her score has a body count, and her morality has an expiration date.

At first, she is pretty good at hiding her new hobby. Her daughter (Claire Porro) is wrapped up with fighting “the man” at school while advocating for free speech. Her boyfriend (Bram van der Kelen) looks to delight in their newfound domesticated bliss. Her life seems to be going pretty well. That is, until she becomes obsessed with finding the leader of the online trolls—the one who posts the nastiest comments and entices others to follow. That’s when everything begins to unravel.

Lessons Learned

This movie is delightful, and I have no idea how it flew under my radar. We’ve all been Fenke a time or two in our lives. You may have posted an opinion about the pandemic or vaccines or hell, even about a new Stephen King book…and someone jumped on it. And someone else joined the dogpile. And before you knew it, you were being attacked from all sides for simply posting an idea. You may have wanted to lash out but walked away disenchanted instead. The difference is, Femke did what some of us only fantasize about. She found her attackers, and she made them pay.

Katja Herbers is so much fun as Femke. She’s a single mother raising an outspoken daughter, and she’s a believable one. You’ll like her and sympathize with her from the very beginning as she begins being a punching bag for misogynistic trolls who make it their primary position to dehumanize her. Herbers is a slight, delicate-looking woman which is a great juxtaposition to her intense rage. Her visage is another smokescreen she uses to hide behind when confronting her attackers, allowing her to catch them off guard and to easily deliver her bloody justice.

As her murders mount, her writing intensifies. The plot of her novel is unclear, but it’s a good guess that she is writing about what she is doing in the shadows, and her fans love it. So much so that when she appears at a celebration of her book release covered in her last victim’s blood, everyone seems to believe that it is a brilliant marketing move (and it really would be if it weren’t real).

Femke arrives at her book release party.

The Columnist isn’t an Oscar-winning movie, but it is enjoyable and offers a valuable commentary about remembering that those on the other side of the computer are living, breathing human beings with feelings and that we should all remember The Golden Rule. The movie uses subtitles, however, when the audience is privy to Femke’s social media feed. Those tweets are all in English, adding a punch to the words and drawing the viewer into conversation while showing just how global these trolls are.

There’s also a background commentary on human behavior as we see Femke’s life begin to get better and better, yet she still puts too much stock in what strangers are saying about her online. Instead of ignoring their opinions and not reading the comments, she is so compelled to keep tabs on her feed that she is distracted everywhere she goes—including while doing menial tasks like grocery shopping. Sadly, this preoccupation with what others are saying about her begins to encroach on her entire life not only motivating her to kill but unraveling her relationships with her daughter and her boyfriend. We are forced to go from rooting for her justice-seeking behaviors to having a front seat to her heart-wrenching mental decline as she allows these comments to blow up everything she has built.

I’d love to say that this movie is a far-fetched fantasy, but I’m not so sure that it is. I see this as more of a cautionary tale of what can happen when we push others too far. As Femke says when we meet her at the beginning of the film, can’t we all just be kind to each other?

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Written by Audrie Bretl Martin

Audrie Bretl Martin is a full-time communicator and a lover of all things pop culture. She holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Augustana College and a master's degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Iowa.

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