Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

All apologies to Nora Ephron: You've Got Mail is an Orwellian nightmare

Most remember 1998's You’ve Got Mail as a benign romantic comedy where a mismatched pair fall in love thanks, in part, to outdated technology. It would be better if this was the case, but, alas, it’s not. Dig a little deeper and a far darker story appears—one about Tom Hanks’ bookstore CEO not only stealing the livelihood and crushing the dreams of Meg Ryan, owner of a local, independent shop, but somehow making her fall in love with him, too.

Wisecrack shines a light on the movie’s sinister underbelly in a video outlining this horror in great detail. The clip draws parallels with George Orwell’s 1984, a comparison that might sound overwrought until you realize that, yeah, You’ve Got Mail really is a story of how would-be rebels are psychologically manipulated into loving their overlords.

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Like 1984's Winston Smith, Meg Ryan’s character is not only subsumed by the system she lives in, but she’s also learned to love her very own version of Big Brother. Hanks, not content with the annihilation of her business, then uses the demonic AOL to begin a relationship with the woman he’s taken everything from. Wisecrack also points out how Ryan leaves her boyfriend for Hanks amidst a disagreement over whether it’s possible to fall in love with someone you despise ideologically (in this case, that damned Francisco Franco.)

It may be hard to picture Hanks embodying a figure of such enormous evil, but isn’t that always the way? There’s a monster lurking behind the kind eyes of America’s favorite actor, one that only a Nora Ephron rom-com can properly expose.

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About the author

Reid McCarter

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.