Man Cannot Live on Ironic Post-modernism Alone, or Why I'm so Sick of Anti-heroes

Episode 387 · July 21st, 2023 · 1 hr 2 mins

About this Episode

BONUS: Kateri Gormley, Gomer's oldest, joins us on the show to make fun of her dad for 10 minutes.

Top Gun: Maverick which Tom Cruise used to save movie theaters, is a welcomed change of pace, but also is out of place. YouTuber Thomas Flight breaks down Modern movies (High Noon), Postmodern movies (No Country for Old Men, Pulp Fiction) and Metamodern movies (Everything, Everywhere, All at Once) to talk about this.
Title: Why do Movies Feel So Different Now?

  • Tradition defined as the meta-narrative creating worldviews of religion and civilizations of yesteryear. Tradition, with its categories, roles, and super-stories, pull everyone and everything into an ordered and meaningful cosmos.
  • Modernism denies tradition’s ability to deal with reality as it is, drawing on science and reason for real progress. This was begun philosophically with Descartes and Bacon and others, but really becomes the cultural vibe starting in the late 1800s and continuing until World War 2, when the notion of progress blew up 2 cities in Japan.
  • Postmodernism realizes modernism buys into meta-narrative just as much as tradition, but in a different way, by supplying a non-religious meta-narrative. Post-modernism attacks moderism by attacking narrative itself, using deconstruction, irony, self-awareness, etc. We go about unmasking stories to find the will to power beneath. All meta-narratives are powerplays, attempts to manipulate and control the masses. The only way to be free, then, is to be undefined, un-storied.
  • Metamodernism is the art of the exhausted, world-weary response to post-modernist subversions, ironies, deconstructionism, that also knows that you can’t simply go back to modernism without feeling corny. So it embraces the deconstruction with an affirming sentiment in the heart-felt chaos. "Cherish these moments" even though these moments are meaningless. It is an oscillation between the delight in narrative and the seriousness of deconstruction and self-reflection. Back and forth, generating moments of delight or fun, knowing all the while it is fake, false, and meaningless. (See "Babylon" or "The Fablemen" or "Nope" that tries to mock that which unabashedly is).

This video by Thomas Flight does a great job in tying together previous conversations we have had about David Foster Wallace’s talk on the usefulness of irony (1950s and 1960s America) and when it becomes a deeply disturbing problem as it becomes the norm (1980s onward). We now get what post-modern movies are trying to do because they've been doing it for decades now, only with bigger budgets and with superheroes: "Ok, I get it, you’ve subverted my expectations yet again. Wow. But only you didn’t, because I knew you would do exactly that. I saw it coming".

Gomer's example is Amazon’s newest season of the Jack Ryan series. When the selfless friend and philanthropist, the head of W.H.O., turned out to actually be an off-the-charts drug-dealing, torturing psychopath, my wife and I were like, “Yeah. Sure. Whatever.” It fell flat because it was more of the same plot-twisting nothing.

Another aspect of the rise of post-modernism and meta-modernism:
You know you're getting rich as an artist while real suffering is happening all around you and in the world, even in the lives of the people who love and watch your movies or enjoy your art. So, you draw attention to the process self-reflectively. You point out that, yeah, this is silly, but it’s fun. Maybe we can have fun together doing this. This is why there is a compulsion to stand up on stage at whatever awards ceremony and become an activist. You don't just thank your cast and crew, but must draw attention to the evils in the world around you and condemn them.

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Episode Links

  • Support Us on Patreon — You even get stuff for doing it, too!
  • Coleman Creates — Thanks to Joe Coleman at Coleman Creates for producing this episode!
  • Why Do Movies Feel So Different Now? - YouTube — In this video I dive into what Metamodernism is and what it looks like in film, and chart how the movies have evolved since their modernist origins.
  • What is Wrong With Everybody? (The Alienated Creative Hero in Metamodern Intersectional Television) | by Greg Dember | WiM on Med | Medium — These characters very typically find themselves in situations where they need to ask of the universe “what is wrong with everybody?” and yet, as the audience, we can see that they, themselves, have a sizable package of flaws. Although these protagonists and the storylines they inhabit do a great deal of work representing the marginalized communities they belong to, the protagonists also insist on expressing their own unique interiorities, thus evincing a sort of metamodern intersectionality of community-based identitarianism and individualist quirky-ism.
  • What is Metamodern? A Catalog of Cultural Exemplars of Metamodernism — About This Website (and about metamodernism) The central motivation of metamodernism is to protect interior, subjective felt experience from the ironic distance of postmodernism, the scientific reductionism of modernism, and the pre-personal inertia of tradition. Greg Dember, 2018 Metamodernism . . . allows for individuals to (re)claim ownership of a breadth of human vicissitudes experientially felt to be real, and more so when they stand messily entangled rather than tidily sorted out. Linda C. Ceriello, 2013 Metamodernism . . . oscillates between a modern enthusiasm and a postmodern irony, between hope and melancholy, between naïveté and knowingness, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality, totality and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity. Indeed, by oscillating to and fro or back and forth, the metamodern negotiates between the modern and the postmodern. Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker, 2010
  • Barbie’s surprising journey – Catholic World Report — A very flawed movie that begins with the sexless, over-sexualized, and impossibly perfect Barbie ends with that same Barbie making a perfect and unexpected visit.