The protagonists of Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring live their lives in a kind of bubble, as oblivious to other people as other people are to them. For all their Facebooking, they seem oddly unnetworked, going about their business (dressing, partying, robbing mansions) unseen. “We just walked in” they say, ghostily, about the home of Audrina Partridge. The film shows them in Paris Hilton’s wardrobe no less than five times without its owner noticing. Cameras catch them, but in security footage they seem barely there, pixellating into dark green.
This tendency to melt into shadows is in the nature of teenagers, Coppola suggests – a nocturnal extension of their everyday invisibility. Being overlooked by Kirsten Dunst at a club is to be expected; but here teachers, parents and even the police seem unable to notice what’s in full view, even when it’s dressed in Chanel. “Take a seat,” says Marc’s teacher – and that’s all he says for the entire movie. The other teacher in the film is Laurie, who home-schools her children in a bizarre technique involving improvised prayer and focus boards. Her obliviousness is narcissistic: as her daughter is interviewed she faces the journalist, chiming in. But for all her absurdity she’s doing better than the film’s other parents, who appear only when their kids are under arrest.
More than once in our teacher training we’ve been told that a classroom is full of things unseen: hidden messages, shifting loyalties, phones. The advice is to treat these like imaginary numbers – undetectable things that must nonetheless be taken into account. But, after seeing The Bling Ring, I want to test my vision. What’s right in front of my eyes, even gleaming?