Goncharov: How Social Media Created A Viral Fake Scorsese Movie


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Gaslight, Gatekeep, Goncharov

The best Martin Scorsese film is arguably his 1973 classic, Goncharov. It's got everything you want in a mafia movie: murder, love, striking visuals, queer-coded characters, cats, an iconic score...Robert De Niro. Like the poster says, it's "the greatest Mafia movie ever made." Except there's one small problem—it doesn't actually exist. 

The hoax film has taken the internet by storm, garnering attention from traditional media and celebrities alike. In this blog, Hollywood Branded discusses the phenomenon that is Goncharov and what brands can learn from its virality and apply it to their social media strategy. 

Goncharov How Social Media Created A Viral Fake Scorsese Movie

What Exactly Is Happening? 

It all started with a photograph of a shoe. According to The New York Times, a few years old Tumblr post made by a user named zootycon, shared a photo of their knock-off boots that came with unique stitching instead of a branded name. “The greatest mafia movie ever made; Martin Scorsese presents GONCHAROV.” Printed underneath is the name of an Italian production company and the tagline that states the film is “about the Naples mafia." 

Goncharov Shoe

Photo Credit: Zootycon | Tumblr.com

The post lived in anonymity for years until another user recently reposted it, and quickly became a trending topic. Users began creating lore to support the idea that Goncharov is a real movie. There's even a carefully comprised dramaturgical Google Doc that keeps track of the plot, characters, scenes, and even fake trivia. 

So what is this "movie" about? 

The plot varies based on who you ask, but most elements stay the same—based in Naples, Robert De Niro stars as Goncharov, a Russian hitman and former discothèque owner who gives up his life of crime after the fall of the Soviet Union. He is caught in a love triangle with his wife, Katya (Cybill Shepherd), and his rival/old friend, Andrey (Al Pacino). Meanwhile, there is an ice-pick-wielding villain running around. Spoiler alert: most characters ultimately wind up dead. 

Goncharov Movie Poster

Photo Credit: @Beelzebubesque | Twitter

Social Media Response

Social media has a reputation for being toxic and unkind, but sometimes...sometimes it can be magical. And fun!

Across every corner of social media, people are playing along with Goncharov. On Tumblr, users are posting about the fake film the way they would post about a real movie or show they’re passionate about—going so far as to craft photoshopped screenshots and gifs to look like scenes of the movie. Others are creating long in-depth analyses of scenes and characters that don't actually exist.

And that's only just scratching the surface; people are really committing to the bit. There are over 600 Goncharov fan fiction stories out there with no signs of stopping anytime soon; people are creating fan art of the characters, there are memes galore, fake academic papers, and even (now removed) critic reviews on Letterboxd. There even is an official composed score.

Tumblr's obsession has since spilled over to TikTok and Twitter, where users are posting content as if the film is real. 

At this point, traditional news media outlets have covered the Goncharov craze, but some big names in Hollywood are also joining in on the fun. Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman herself, posted on Tumblr photographs of her and Henry Winkler from the 70s with the caption, "Me and "The Fonz" at the premiere of Goncharov (1973) at Grauman's Chinese Theatre." Ryan Reynolds also joined the fun by posting his favorite Goncharov line.

But what does the man, the myth, the legend, Scorsese have to say about all this hullaballoo? Well, in a TikTok made by his daughter Francesca, he seems to acknowledge the bit by responding with a cheeky, "Yes. I made that film years ago."

Tumblr Is Making A Comeback

You read that correctly. Tumblr, the social media platform that most wrote off as dead, is on the rebound. Except, was it ever really gone? Apparently, the site continues to be very active—especially when it comes to committing to a bit. For example, not too long ago, a bunch of users decided to pretend that Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean had a canonical gay divorce, and no one batted an eye. Instead, many users jumped on the bandwagon, which turned the film into a trending topic on the microblogging site. Goncharov is just the latest bit going around. 

But why is Tumblr making a resurgence now? 

You can probably thank Elon Musk and his recent Twitter takeover. With Twitter's future remaining uncertain, many people are branching out in search of new platforms, like Tumblr. Some users are even reviving previously abandoned Tumblr accounts. In a tweet by Matt Mullenweg, Automattic's (Tumblr's owner) CEO, he reported a 58% increase in Tumblr’s iOS app downloads and a 57% increase for Android users in the first week of November. At one point, the site even crashed, thanks to the mass Twitter exodus.

If your brand doesn't already have a Tumblr account, it may be time to hop on the bandwagon, even if Twitter survives. 

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Social Media Lessons You Can Learn From Goncharov

Yes, there is something to be learned from meme culture. Memes are a key tool in bringing people together and have been used by companies to reach a wide variety of audiences. So what can your brand learn from viral memes like Goncharov?

Consumers Are Your Best Asset

As Goncharov has shown, consumers and users a super creative. They have been able to craft remarkable viral content with little to no resources that brands usually have at their disposal. 

User-generated Content (UGC) is not a new concept, but it has become increasingly common and even the preferred method of advertising for some brands. More than 86% of companies today use user-generated content as part of their marketing strategy, and 72% believe that it significantly improves their engagement. UGC is also 20% more influential than any other kind of media when it comes to millennial buyers.

Tap into your consumer's creativity and reap the rewards!

Engage With Your Audience

This may be a 'no-brainer,' but it bears repeating. The Goncharov meme was able to successfully take over social media because it involved the community. Users from all backgrounds were able to connect and engage with each other over a shared topic in a safe public space. Without this connection, the meme would not have gone viral.

Engaging with your audience reinforces positive experiences for your consumers and fosters brand loyalty. 

Stay Up To Date With The Latest Trends

Internet culture is constantly evolving, and it is very easy to fall behind if you don't pay attention. One second the internet is all about the Distracted Boyfriend meme, and now it's so yesterday. Goncharov is just a fleeting moment in social media, and it will be yesterday's news by next week. 

While it is impossible to keep up with everything happening on the internet, it's essential to understand social media culture and trending topics. Hopping on late to a trend will make your content seem inauthentic and dated. 

Don't Be Afraid To Be Playful - Commit To The Bit

Brands may have a fear of having fun online, believing it negates being professional. However, I would argue that playing with your audience makes a brand more likable and approachable. There is, of course, an art to being fun and professional while still sticking to your company values; it all boils down to finding the right kind of fun for your brand. 

Goncharov is all about committing to the bit, and it's an admirable quality to have. A great example of a brand committing to a bit online is Duolingo. While the owl has multiple inside jokes going on with the audience, a common one is Duo's obsession with singer Dua Lipa. There are many playful TikTok videos of Duo lusting after the pop star, as they share similar names.

It's silly, fun, and has nothing to do with the app, but it engages their young demographic in a meaningful way. It's okay to have fun!

Love What You're Reading?

Goncharov may not be real (yet), but what is real is its impact on social media. If you're interested in learning more about social media, film, and meme culture, then check out these Hollywood Branded blogs:

Do you know what would make your social media strategy even better? A social influencer campaign to help increase your brand awareness. Check out our User's Guidebook for some tips and tricks. 

How To Connect Your Brand With Social Influencers