A24’s Aesthetics of Counter Culture

Curator's Note

A24 wants to be thought of as a genre. Its branding is built on a united set of aesthetic attitudes in its films and marketing. Psychedelic imagery and off-kilter rhythms permeate the genre pictures the studio produces or distributes, whether they be horror films, thrillers, or period piece epics. Their more straight-faced dramas are auteur-driven and crib rigorously from contemporary global art cinema. It is difficult to network the array of aesthetic signifiers and their cultural contexts which allow A24 to sell itself as a genre, or at least as something like a genre, but that is exactly what makes its films so imminently identifiable. This sentiment I share is not especially novel. Those prone to making this sort of observation might accuse A24 of representing “mood-board culture” (74), like Curtis Everett Pawley, a podcaster quoted in the New York Magazine article “The Cult of A24” by Nate Jones. One might be inclined to write off A24’s branding project completely, to say, “No, A24 is a company, not a genre or a style or anything else.” But in the hyper-commodified, splintered, and diffuse conditions of the culture we find ourselves in, can we be so sure that these things are mutually exclusive?

In that same article, a brief anecdote is shared about a New York City based influencer’s A24-themed birthday party. Guests came dressed up as characters from the studio’s various properties, and the event was held at the apropos Lady Bird Lake. In justifying the idea, the birthday girl is quoted as saying, “They’re not just these feel-good, rom-com-esque movies. There’s a deeper element” (72). This ‘deeper element’ she is referencing is likely the aforementioned auteur stylings and moody atmospheres which pervade the studio’s films, but her sentiment speaks to the broader branding initiative of A24: that it must be defined oppositionally. A24 was founded in 2012, and capitalized on a bourgeoning culture of online contrarianism. The Witch, Studio staple Ari Aster’s 2015 debut, stood in stark contrast to the then dominant, commercially viable jump-scare oeuvre of horror films. I remember being told that this film was great specifically because of its lack of jump scares. Never in casual conversation do I remember hearing it compared to The Shining. With A24 films, one is never so much a thing as it is not another thing.

Jones implies that the studio’s brand of zeitgeist-focused hipster taste-making is unsustainable. He asks when A24 will become mainstream enough through its branding and merchandising that its fans become just another flavor of "Disney adults" (74). I propose that the studio’s project is in some part unsustainable, but rather because there is no meaningful mainstream for it to arrive at. Mark Fisher described Nirvana as dethroning the “pastiche-rock which reproduced the forms of the past without anxiety” (10). Perhaps A24 is attempting to relate itself as Nirvana, but is creating a feedback loop in which its own forms of the past are defined by anxiety. Maybe the question is not the authenticity of A24’s genre-brand-building project, but the extent to which anything can be counter-cultural in our contemporary context.


Works Cited

Fisher, Mark. Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative?. John Hunt Publishing, 2009.

Jones, Nate. “The Cult of A24.” New York, vol. 55, no. 17, Aug. 2022, pp. 70–74. EBSCOhost,




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