This may be dismissed off-hand as the bizarre world of the madman, but it’s indicative of a broader social pattern of grave suspicion of social reality, a kind of full flowering reifying the post-truth world we’ve found ourselves in. Entertainment has conquered reality after all, and buried the world of facts with it. Everything became suspicious, cynical. Art or entertainment no longer a reflection of the real world, but its hall of mirrors absorbing reality itself. Only when everything became an absorbing simulation, reality became somehow more melodramatic. It was emotional. It was meaner, fearful, dumber. The masters of the suspicion proliferated in tandem with the explosion of the phony world, and everyone’s lost their minds.
La Mer from Fragile Dignity on Vimeo.
The great derangement in this society is precisely the manner in which a culture falls apart. And this is why there is no easy fix. It’s like we’re approaching a socioeconomic event horizon. In physics, the event horizon is the zone where time and space and reality are warped beyond all recognition as one enters into a black hole. We’re in the middle of this process sociologically, approaching the singularity of capitalism, entering the final acceleration where the fabric of this social reality will become more and more insane, reality turned upside-down, where the earth really does seem flat and fascist, in-real-life social reality molded by Facebook algorithms. Where we see all the paranoid tropes and fears and desires whiz by faster and faster so that we can never keep up with the 500 television shows we can’t seem to turn off vying for our ever shorter attentions, where our deranged reality becomes spaghetti-fied and ripped apart at the seams.
Yet we are trained by the stories of this self-styled individualism, its attendant self-obsession over personal wounds and desires that must be faced. As if stories were there to serve only a private therapeutic function. This basic level of selfish heroism is in fact a fantasy. And perhaps, I suppose it could be argued, a necessary one in some respects because it is itself a bulwark against an unbearable reality of our own foolishness, our own meaninglessness, our own boredom, the slow tedium of everyday life. We are, perhaps all, in fact becoming Walter Mittys – or perhaps a better more recent example is Sam Lowry from the film Brazil – one of the quintessential American heroic tropes. We’re all timid bored milquetoasts trapped in an addicted consumer-driven neoliberal dystopian nightmare who increasingly rely on heroic fantasy to cope with reality becoming more and more unbearable.
Most dramatic fiction these days takes places in a world of the color blind, unconscious to the racial contours of society, as if race were incidental, and certainly showing no thought on the character’s behalves of their own whiteness. Here I to look at three films to show a kind of time lapse of a similar racial story tropes, separated by about twenty-five years and all having Sidney Poitier as a symbolic touchstone. These three films all touch a kind of inflection point in white racial awareness in their respective eras – Get Out, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (the boilerplate for these type of movies) and Six Degrees of Separation. These dramas don’t present one-stop answers, nor are they meant to, but they do demonstrate and dramatize the contours of the problems of whiteness with different levels of fledgling racial self-awareness.
This Tom Hanks horror-satire is basically a compendium of middle class white fragility, which is the engine of the suspense as well as the humor.