Written & Directed by Torso
17-year-old Selena Martin is the unlikely voice of her generation. Two years ago, she began suffering mysterious symptoms she claims were brought on by climate change. Now, trapped in a bubble, she has begun to speak out on the subject. But what really happened to Selena Martin?
Experts suspect it is linked specifically to our changing climate, coupled with a severe emotional reaction to political instability, and the recent degradation of truth and reality. However, a consensus has not been reached. Is she allergic to the world? Is she hyper-empathic, carrying the burden of global stress? Or is she trapped in a self-made echo chamber?
Allergic to the world! On October 12th, 2014, Selena was rushed to Mount Sinai with what appeared to be a severe allergic reaction. No one was able to precisely diagnose what caused this illusive allergy. Some experts linked her reaction to air toxicity, or pollution-induced symptoms, but there was no unanimity. Ironically, at the exact moment Americans were struggling to burst their algorithmic bubbles—Selena was suddenly forced to live life within one.
Selena stands with conviction: “I can’t survive in the air of today’s world—it’s obvious that my illness is fully man-made, and that human impact on the environment has literally made me sick. We have to think about our earth, air, and water. My generation will inherit today’s problems—I’m living proof. Our generation has the most at stake in climate change.”
Her environmental commitment has made her a rising voice in the debate, and a social media star. Selena’s YouTube channel has taken off this year, leading to massive fan support, but also parody videos, cyber-bullies, and naysayers.
Her own father! Jim Martin, who, for safety, uses a pseudonym and conceals his image in media coverage, calls himself a “climate realist”—a not so subtle euphemism for climate change denier. This subject has become divisive in the Martin home, turning their once peaceful family life into a hot-bed for partisan debate.
Years in the making! Selena’s parents, Jim and Ana, say there were precursors to the bubble. As a child, she would obsessively wear a raincoat, even in summer months, and had an aversion to physical affection. “It started with her symptoms—she would get dizzy, itchy, nauseous, and began hiding in her closet. She’d wrap herself in her raincoat and wouldn’t let us take it away from her. She would Saran Wrap her hands to use the remote control.”
Teen climate activist Xiuhtezcatl helped Selena through her dark times. “Xiuhtezcatl is my idol, we’ve never met, but I’ve tweeted at him. He’s my age, and he’s a climate warrior, a spokesperson for our generation—he's been suing the US government for violating his right to a healthy atmosphere. He’s also a rapper.”
Dr. Ken Spencer, a Clinical Psychologist at Columbia University’s Global Mental Health Lab, believes Selena is allergic to facts: “On the one hand, Selena suffers from hypersensitivity to misinformation—she doesn’t know what to believe. She didn’t watch TV as a child, she was insulated from information, from half-truths and factoids. And her unhealthy obsession with teen climate change activist Xiuhtezcatl has distorted her reality. She has internalized the burden of global climate change, becoming a human receptacle for environmental degradation. It’s an empathic illness, an emotional contagion, wherein she’s begun to physically carry the burden of our planetary conditions—the gradual warming of the earth, the impending climate wars, etc.”
A sad life! According to Dr. Spencer, empathy comes from a specific set of neurons, called the mirror neurons—and Selena’s are hyperactive, leading to classic psychosomatic behavior. When we “somatize,” a mental or emotional problem is expressed as physical symptoms. Importantly, despite the cause, these symptoms are real and not imagined. Dr. Spencer also observes a transference of her repressed experiences into this plastic bubble, giving it a heightened importance in her sad life.
Thankfully she’s surrounded by supportive friends and family, like her best friend Eloisa. “She’s savage. She loves gouda, she’s always said brie doesn’t go with anything.”
Selena: “This is my personal ecosystem. Your context is shaped by your surroundings. Even though I’m in a bubble—I don’t live in a bubble. I know what’s going on.
But does she? Is she only looking for attention? Could Selena’s bubble be a glimpse of what our lives might look like if we continue to hide in our personalized news feeds? Perhaps. It is a cautionary tale, in which the ending has yet to be written.
Written & Directed By: Torso
Director of Photography: Minnie Bennett
Behind-the-Scenes Photography: Ian Scott Stoner
Make-up: Marcelo Gutierrez
Starring: Sabrina Fuentes, Lily Marotta