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Y2K Fashion, Controversy, and Early Social Media Warnings: Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring

by Amy Walter

Over ten years ago, Sofia Coppola released an ode to all things 2000s in the film ‘The Bling Ring.’ The movie contrasted her previous works, with a more action-packed plot, inspired by the true story of valley teens turned criminals. 

Following main character Nicki, played Emma Watson, and her friends Marc, Rebecca, Chloe, and Sam, we see them smoke weed and rob their rich and famous neighbours. This role marked a renaissance for the Hermione actress, alongside her role in 2012’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. 

With celebrities like Kirsten Dunst making appearances, and Paris Hilton even letting the crew shoot in her home, the film reflects upon the absurdity of celebrity culture during the early 2000s, remaining topical in the age of modern media and the resurgence of Y2K nostalgia.

For this film, Coppola was inspired by a Vanity Fair article titled ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’ by Nancy Jo Sales, which retells the lead up to the burglaries as well as the eventual fall out. 

Coppola was particularly inspired by how it “reflected celebrity culture now,” and the modern desire to be famous, whether that came from infamy or not. As for the film’s teenager protagonist, Coppola felt they were “delusional” on why they were receiving the fame and attention they had so desperately wanted. 

“That part of our culture,” Coppola told The Guardian, “used to be small – that pop, 'guilty pleasure' side of things. Now it just won't stop growing."

Following closely to the true story reported on by Vanity Fair. 

The audience is first introduced to Marc Hall, a shy teenager to a new town who is quickly befriended by fame obsessed Rebecca Ahn. The two begin stalking celebrities online and eventually find their whereabouts, beginning their long line of burglaries. As the rest of their friends get involved, suspicions begin to rise throughout the Hollywood A-listers. 

After security footage eventually leaks to the press, the group is caught and arrested. The film continues to mirror the original article, with a remorseful Marc telling the Vanity Fair journalist that Rebecca was the ringleader. 

The final scene depicts Nicki recounting her 30 days in jail on a talk show, which she uses to promote her website. Like the real-life story, Emma Watson’s Nicki Moore, based on Alexis Neiers, becomes the stylised heroine of the film. 

On the surface, her valley girl accent and large sunglasses embodies the stereotypical L.A girl. However, Sofia Coppola makes an active choice to show the cracks to how Nicki became involved in ‘the bling ring.’ 

Like her friends, Nicki is attracted to the unattainable world of celebrity stardom. Whether it's Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton, she ogles at their wealth and envies at the lack of hers. Despite claiming to the Vanity Fair reporter that her involvement in the crimes was a “huge learning experience,” Nicki’s final scene of dedicating the audience to her website ‘’ suggests otherwise.

‘The Bling Ring’ happens under a haze of drunken parties and the sparkles of stolen dresses, accompanied by a ranging 2000s score. Slow pans of designer shoes and jewellery being reminiscent of shots seen in both her previous works of ‘Marie Antionette’ and ‘The Virgin Suicides.’ 

Similar aestheticized choices remain in the use of light and dark. The shadows of the teen criminals projected onto the Hollywood hills by the light of the looming horizon or faint streetlamps. Slow motion walks of the group in stolen items, accompanied by Kanye West’s ‘POWER,’ also adding to the undeniable style of the movie. 

Whilst the film is commended for its choice of a more action-packed plot and storyline, contrasting from Coppola’s other work, the director in no way neglects the importance of visual storytelling or her signature cinematography.

The film also started Sofia Coppola’s long-term collaboration with costume designer, Stacey Battat. At first taking a typical valley girls aesthetic, being the pinnacle of the 2000s fashion, the cast rock Uggs and Juicy tracksuits, but as they begin obtaining the wardrobes of the Hollywood stars, the looks become increasingly outrageous. 

To achieve the iconic Y2K look, Battat tells New York Magazine they was were to borrow “hundreds of Dior bags, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana”. For many of the stolen looks they referenced what had previously been seen on celebrities, whether on social media, tabloids, or the red carpet. Battat wanted to integrate this authenticity into the film where they could, telling ELLE, “In Miranda Kerr’s closet we used the actual stuff that she wore on the red carpet from Hervé Léger.” 

Even now, the film remains as style inspiration for lovers’ of 2000s fashion. Nostalgia of Victoria Secret and Velour tracksuits being unapologetically welcomed by the 2013 film, unknown to its revival ten years on.

After the release of the film, one of the original members of the group spoke out, Alexis Neiers, labelled the movie “trashy and inaccurate” on Twitter. Additionally, Rachel Bilson, a victim of the robberies, told Cosmopolitan magazine it was “weird to glorify something that was so upsetting for a lot of people." Coppola received similar critique to other films and TV shows that focus on true stories, being slammed for sensationalising experiences of the real people who went through them.

Despite these criticisms, the film remains prevalent within pop culture, arguably bringing the story of ‘The Bling Ring’ to the mainstream. 

Whilst Nancy Jo Sales’ original article dubbed the teens "a bunch of club-hopping Valley kids, motivated by vanity and celebrity-worship,” Coppola explored how the age of social media prompted these pressures. The movie identifies with the modern want to fit in with the romanticised world of stardom, no matter the cost.

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