Estrangement, Performativity, and Empathy in Bo Burnham's Inside (2021)

  • Carmen Bonasera Ca' Foscari University of Venice
Keywords: Bo Burnham, Verfremdung, Defamiliarization, Empathy, Performativity, Media studies


This paper aims at a critical analysis of comedian Bo Burnham’s Netflix special Inside (2021) – a show filmed during the Covid-19 lockdown period – in terms of defamiliarization techniques, and especially through the lens of the Brechtian notion of Verfremdung. By resuming the main theories of estrangement, comparing Shklovsky’s ostranenie to Brecht’s Verfremdungseffekt, and transposing them into the context of contemporary cinematic texts, the analysis foregrounds instances of the V-effect in Inside, namely the ironic exposure of the automatisms of contemporary society, the attention drawn towards performativity, and the goal of encouraging viewers to adopt a critical frame of mind. Despite the emotional detachment that Verfremdung conventionally pursues, this essay explores the complex interplay between estrangement and affective responses in the audience’s engagement with the comedy special.


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How to Cite
Bonasera, C. (2022). Estrangement, Performativity, and Empathy in Bo Burnham’s <em>Inside</em&gt; (2021). Between, 12(23), 93-116.