In his six decades of directing, Martin Scorsese has earned 10 Best Director Academy Award nominations and taken home the award once (for a little indie flick called The Departed). His films dominate every “best of all time” list—and some, like Goodfellas, have become a religion unto themselves. But despite the millions of people who have seen his films—including his most recent opus, Killers of the Flower Moon—Sunday marked his debut in a whole new genre, to one of his biggest audiences yet: the alien-filled Super Bowl commercial.
Titled “Hello Down There,” the 90-second short film for website builder Squarespace—which debuted midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s game—sees clueless young New Yorkers too distracted by cat videos to notice the UFOs casually gliding over them. The spot’s logline reads, “What does a highly advanced civilization have to do to get noticed around here?”
As it turns out, the answer lies in TikTok. Or, at least, for Scorsese, it has. As the epitome of advanced civilization—what else would you call the person who directed Raging Bull—Scorsese has recently been noticed by Gen Z in a whole new way, becoming the parasocial cinephile grandpa to thousands of chronically online youngsters.
This is, of course, the handiwork of Francesca Scorsese. The director’s 24-year-old daughter has followed in his footsteps as a video maven, but her medium isn’t film, it’s vertical video. And her muse isn’t Robert De Niro or Leonardo DiCaprio—it turns out, it’s her dad. Over the past year, Francesca has become his de facto PR rep for “the youth”: his ambassador and translator for a generation that doesn’t necessarily have John Huston’s first picture or Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel saga down rote.
Francesca first featured Scorsese in a TikTok in 2021, asking him to identify different female beauty items based on their photos. (Memorably, he mistook nipple pasties for earbuds.) Early reviews were overwhelmingly positive, with comments like “omg it’s Martin Scorsese from Shark Tale” and “This guy seems like he would make pretty decent movies idk why tho.” (Presumably, those were sarcastic—at least we hope.) Since then, Francesca has upped Scorsese’s screen time on her account, which now has over 200,000 followers and 4.8 million likes. Last summer, she went viral with a 30-second “trailer” of her dad, a compilation of short clips of the director playing with puppies, laughing with old pal Robert De Niro, and strutting around in a slick business suit, with the caption: “He’s a certified silly goose.”
Francesca’s content often taps into Scorsese’s storied career and encyclopedic film knowledge, from a video of him “auditioning” their schnauzer, Oscar (and lauding him as a revelatory talent), to another in which he power ranks popular movies. In her videos, Scorsese is no longer a famous director with dozens of canonical projects under his belt; he’s just a guy. More specifically, he’s an incredibly adorable old guy who loves father-daughter handshakes, twinning with his dog, and watching 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The revelation of Francesca’s videos is their ability to subvert our expectations of how a legendary filmmaker acts and participates in internet culture. For many Gen Zers, the name “Martin Scorsese” may evoke an edgy boyfriend’s Taxi Driver poster, an uncle’s old DVD collection, or a mental image of that short guy always standing next to Leonardo DiCaprio, but these are just vague associations. Sure, Scorsese is the genius behind Mean Streets and The Wolf of Wall Street, but this hardly counts for a zeitgeist-hungry generation that communicates chiefly through memes and irony.
There has to be something more—some kind of hook—and that’s exactly what Francesca has uncovered. With pitch-perfect humor and TikTok trend savvy, she has single-handedly shaped her dad into a memeable, shareable internet figure (the highest rung of Gen Z adoration).
The comments sections of her TikToks are laden with young users begging to be adopted into their family, referring to Scorsese as “grandpa” and praising his commitment to Dance Moms–inspired bits. As one TikTok user commented, “martin scorsese and francesca have figured out what the tiktok peeps want…and it is exactly this.”
If anything perfectly captures Gen Z’s newfound fondness for Marty (as the cool kids call him), it’s Francesca’s video introducing him to internet slang terms. Because Scorsese’s brain presumably functions solely in film quotes and box office stats, Francesca helps him out with context clues like “Watching a movie in 70 mm hits different” and “The King of Comedy was slept on.” There’s nothing like the look on Scorsese’s face when he registers the meaning of the latter, forlornly recalling how “people hated it when it came out. … It was the flop of the year.” (Viewers then gave shout-outs to The King of Comedy in the comments to ease his spirits—perhaps another sign of how hipster film kids do, indeed, have fine taste.)
At the heart of claims that Francesca has done the Lord’s work—or, better yet, deserves an honorary Oscar—there’s a very genuine gratitude for the conversations her posts are creating. With Killers of the Flower Moon in its second theatrical run and up for 10 Oscars next month, Scorsese has been active on the press circuit and now has some internet virality to boot. While there’s no way to quantify the effect Francesca’s TikToks may have had on Killers’ box office performance, it’s difficult to imagine that her videos have not at least piqued the interest of a few otherwise indifferent Gen Zers. (Even if 30-second TikToks pale next to his 206-minute 1920s epic.)
In fact, when the film first hit theaters in October, fans were quick to sing her praises on Twitter and suggest she work her viral social media magic to promote the film. In reference to last year’s SAG strike, which prevented actors from promoting their projects, one tweet stated that “Francesca Scorsese emerged and is carrying killers of the flower moon promo on her back.” An exaggeration? Certainly. But an unfounded one? Absolutely not.
Francesca has always been candid about being a huge fan of her dad’s work—she’s partial to The Irishman and The Wolf of Wall Street—and it’s hard to not melt at the evident love and admiration behind every TikTok she “forces” him into. She’s strategic with her content, but never in a way that feels insincere or overly calculated. This is no clout-chasing ruse that will end with an eye roll. Rather, one gets the sense that Francesca is her dad’s biggest cheerleader.
Look no further than the fact that she seemingly recently convinced him to create a Letterboxd account, where he now shares curated film lists with his nearly 340,000 followers. This came after numerous commenters requested that she get Scorsese on the popular film review app. Even Letterboxd itself was in on the TikTok action, commenting from a verified company account, “Marty has taste,” on the video of him ranking films in a tournament bracket.
Francesca may be the queen bee of film TikTok, but her content speaks to something more than just having a dad with a cinema institute named after him. As the new hub of pop culture, TikTok has the growing power to widen Gen Z’s cinematic horizons. Look no further than Turner Classic Movies’ 800,000-plus followers, or the rise of the “Wes Anderson Challenge,” which saw new Anderson converts channeling his distinctive style in 30-second videos. The most exciting aspect of “filmtok” is, perhaps, that it exists at all, especially considering the platform. Here is a limitless exploration space for kids who may not be aspect ratio experts but will at least do a proper double take when Martin Scorsese inexplicably appears on their For You pages.
A single search of #filmtok yields a truly staggering range of content, from Nicolas Cage reaction memes to red-carpet interviews to a surely long-requested compilation of Disney actors who later played serial killers. The beauty of TikTok is that all these types of content coexist (semi) peacefully, letting users fall down rabbit holes of their choice or stumble across one of the world’s greatest filmmakers guessing what “sneaky link” means. (Spoiler alert: not personal peccadilloes.) Whether you seek genuine advice from a renowned screenwriter or simply discover a director while doom-scrolling, TikTok is the intergenerational playground for all kinds of film lore and know-how.
While it’s safe to say that Scorsese himself is not exactly a fan of TikTok, he certainly recognizes its value to younger generations on some level. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the director swore that he really has no idea what’s happening when Francesca records him for “those things.” He did, however, acknowledge the wide acclaim of their “Oscar the Dog” audition video, noting that “the one we did with the dog, that was known.” And though he may shake his head disapprovingly while Francesca lip-synchs to the Kardashians, there’s always a glint in his eye, a sliver of awareness that says, “Hey, if the kids are into it, why not?” The man knows that an audience is an audience, on TikTok or anywhere else, and more importantly, he trusts his daughter to do a damn good job entertaining them.
With Marty’s Big Game debut in the rearview and the Oscars fast approaching, the father-daughter team has resumed its rightful place in the spotlight. In a teaser for the “Hello Down There” ad released by Squarespace last Monday, Francesca helps her dad transition from TikTok to the final frontier of media literacy: website building.
“Marty & Francesca Make a Website” plays like an extended cut of the duo’s TikToks, with the same delightful back-and-forth unique to a Baby Boomer learning anything technological. In the video, Francesca encourages her dad to make a website that shows his directorial vision of an “intergalactic plea for connection,” but this proves easier said than done. (“URL,” especially, becomes a term of immense confusion.)
However, by the end of the video, Francesca has, once again, helped her dad share his work with younger generations, this time with a font that, to Marty’s approving eye, expresses the “yearning” of his ad’s aliens. The spot ends with Scorsese telling Francesca that their website “slaps,” proving himself a star pupil of Gen Z lingo. “I really regret ever teaching you that,” Francesca replies, but her smile says just the opposite.
Holyn Thigpen is an arts and culture writer based in Atlanta. She holds an MA in English from Trinity College Dublin and spends her free time googling Nicolas Cage.