Change doesn’t happen with this much encouragement from the neoliberal centers of power. Real change won’t be marketed like the latest iPhone. It won’t be packed neatly and endorsed by the “experts.” In fact, it’ll be called bad names. It’ll be made fun of, insulted, talked down to, ridiculed. The innuendo and probing and narrative construction will go on 24/7. Television news, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, NPR – doesn’t matter which consumer infotainment product you subscribe to – will be suspicious, hesitant to cover it, and have pundits who cynically mock anyone with a plan or vision of anything substantially different that might disrupt the status quo. But this is what change would look like. And if it actually does happen, television personalities will be completely astonished and chalk it up to a strange twist from out of the blue. They’ll have no idea.
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.
Trumpism is like the political embodiment of those men who put truck nuts and noxious coal burners on their diesel pickup trucks filling up the streets with plumes of black death – what aficionados call “rollin’ coal,” or “Prius repellant.” Youtube has a plethora of videos where a couple of rednecks are yuckin’ in up watching their buddies billow plumes of death from their tailpipes on liberal roadside demonstrators in their pink hats. A glance at the comments below the videos and it’s clear who is watching ecocidal resentment porn – one read something like “nice job, should be using mustard gas though.”
But despite its flaws has an underlying structure that could have made for a great film. As time goes on, I’m beginning to realize a couple of things about Costner’s disaster epic. One, that it was perhaps an ill-timed film – perhaps made a decade too late or two decades too soon. And in the critical flaws of the film’s tone, particularly in the much dissed second half, could be much better interpreted in the real life dystopian Trumpian America of 2017.
It’s a dangerous tactic played by the conspiracy-minded, at worst it rattles the saber for war against another nuclear power, fueled by hawks on both sides of the isle. And at least it perpetuates a cynical politics of blame and externalization, a politics of blindness as harmful as McCarthyism, and uses Kremlingate as a cudgel against the alienated populist progressive left.
A lot about our culture is about displacement, distorted around the contours of power and privilege which warp the social fabric. It’s enough to make people feel really crazy.
I think it was Martin Scorsese who said that film directing was about choosing what to show and not show. That pretty much describes the fault lines between the public and private in Hollywood.
The Geist, the specter, of Tyler Durden, fueled by the restless spirit of the office park dystopia, is a force personifying much of the malcontents in this age of anger. It’s interesting to place Fight Club not as fiction, but as prophetic documentary evidence of a time and place, a metaphor of the historical present, a world trapped between McWorld and Jihad, between globalism and it’s blowback.