We are Condemned to be Free
February 7, 2017 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Shows like Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman are explicitly existential in their philosophy and others such as Black Mirror and Westworld dip their toes in the water. Is it fair to say that society itself might be going through a kind of existential crisis?

Existentialism, the idea that existence proceeds essence and that each individual is responsible to develop themselves as they desire, sprang from the failure of institutions such as the state and church to give purpose and explanation to life. When people realize that the rocks of civilization, order, and stability are little more than constructs held up by weak and corrupt men, a deep sense of nihilism and meaninglessness sets in. Furthermore, in an infinite universe of both cosmic horrors and unthinkable delights, contemplating meaning and purpose generally lead to a greater understanding of how powerless we truly are. For many people the first "solution" to this problem is to seek out distractions, insignificant tasks, achievements, and interests that prevent us from truly considering the world around us. However, juggling the mental construct of self distraction with the knowledge of meaninglessness eventually becomes impossible and we fall into an "existential crisis."

This existential crisis forces people to accept responsibility for their own happiness and to find purpose and meaning on their own terms or face a lifetime of loneliness and despair. Sartre called it "radical freedom" in that you are 100% free to determine what is important to you, what is right and wrong, and what will make you happy. This freedom is both incredibly liberating and a terrifying responsibility.

Looking at recent history it is possible to draw the conclusion that society as a whole is living through the convulsions of an existential crisis. The triumph of the United States, and by extension, Western European values, in the Cold War led to the globalization of enlightenment values and the relatively quick destruction of more traditional ones. This meant that science replaced god as the ultimate arbiter of truth while simultaneously being unable to provide meaning or purpose. We have in many ways begun to define our society and culture as "existence before essence" in that we can define the rules however we want. Many taboos and traditions have been tossed aside in the last generation. Consider the traditional role of women, homosexuality, and racial status. The "essence" of these things had been set in stone for millennia and in one generation they all have been radically altered. We pushed at the boundaries of society only to discover there really was nothing there to push back.

But the nihilism only set in when people discovered that their power to affect change was limited to a few select areas. When activists attempted to get the global elite to hear their concerns about globalization, inequality and war their pleas fell on deaf ears. America's last three presidents saw a precipitous drop in public confidence in institutions and they responded by lying, bumbling, ignoring the will of the people, and using charisma to deflect criticism. Is it really a surprise that before the election 40% of Americans reported they had lost faith in Democracy? The neoliberal international consensus had reached its natural conclusion: existential nihilism.

Donald Trump and related movements around the world such as Brexit, the european neofascists, and Vladamir Putin are all attempts to restore a firmly defined sense of order, stability, control, and identity to their populations. While existentialism promises only the absurd responsibility of radical freedom, these essentialists caught onto the defining characteristics of human existence: laziness and fear. What Trump, Putin, and the rest offer (quite honestly at times) is not truth or understanding. In fact, they openly despise these values and instead offer untruths, falsehoods, and fairy tales. The population, desperate to avoid the responsibility and absurdity inherent to freedom, is instead knowingly choosing a false sense of purpose and meaning.
posted by Glibpaxman (60 comments total) 135 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm loving this, thank you for posting it.
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 3:00 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's going to die. Come watch TV.

The only answer I've got is that I'll take R+M & Bojack over Black Mirror and Westworld any day of the week. Is it free will if I prefer animated shows?
posted by lkc at 3:03 PM on February 7 [20 favorites]


I trace the beginning of my interests in existentialism to Serial Experiments Lain. RIP TechTV nvr4get
posted by yueliang at 3:10 PM on February 7 [10 favorites]


Oh Huckabee's, how I heart you.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:16 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


I think part of it is that R&M and Bojack offer a hope for eventually coming to terms with this existentialism instead of just an endless cavalcade of bleakbleakbleak, lkc
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:18 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Butter-passing robot is the true spirit of our age.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:22 PM on February 7 [28 favorites]


Is it 1939 or 1913?

Corey Robin (facebook) : "and then I start thinking about the seeming irrationality of it all, the way men and women allowed themselves to be led to their own destruction"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:24 PM on February 7 [7 favorites]


DoctorFedora: I'm not sure that Bojack's characters come to terms with much of anything. Except maybe Todd. The rest all seem to be at the mercy of their addictions or their egos.
posted by lkc at 3:26 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


Rick pretends to be a nihilist but the show makes it clear it's just a facade and that he actually cares about some things very deeply. I like that this post makes a distinction between existentialism and the different value systems that arise from it, I think that I've often conflated existentialism and nihilism. Rick is still probably an existentialist but he has built a framework of meaning and value into his life. His family is important to him, his work is important to him, his friends, and once upon a time: the resistance we don't know much about yet.

Bojack on the other hand is Sisyphus, constantly almost reaching a system of values but then falling back into the crisis of nihilism.

I do think something that ties the two shows together is that even though the main character espouses a purely selfish view of the world the show keeps putting them into situations where they realize that something else matters to them too.
posted by macrael at 3:33 PM on February 7 [11 favorites]


When talking animated existentialism, I always think of Owlman's defense of ultimate nihilism.

But, I think what the world is truly struggling with is how do we determine truth. It's a humanity-long struggle, but world-wide instant communication means we, every one of is, is part of the conversation now.

I hope in the long term that it will lead us to a better place. More communication always has, eventually. But the near term spasms are horrifying to live through.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:36 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


This is excellent. Thank you.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:43 PM on February 7


Later Adventure Time definitely plays around with existentialism.
posted by drezdn at 3:51 PM on February 7


Thanks for the links. I have to disagree with Vanity Fair's (surprise!) facile premise that Black Mirror is reassuring to us because we live in such a dystopia already. Well, not quite. Some of Black Mirror's episodes are pretty fucking disturbing. Bojack Horseman, though? Yep. Existentialist.
posted by kozad at 3:54 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: I'm not sure that Bojack's characters come to terms with much of anything. Except maybe Todd. The rest all seem to be at the mercy of their addictions or their egos.

They often, Bojack in particular, fail in their struggles for meaning, but I don't think that really invalidates the struggle?
posted by kafziel at 3:55 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]




This is precisely why we all need turn to Bravest Warriors: it's always been Wankershim.
posted by signal at 4:20 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Shows like Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman are explicitly existential in their philosophy and others such as Black Mirror and Westworld dip their toes in the water. Is it fair to say that society itself some TV watchers might be going through a kind of existential crisis?
posted by Going To Maine at 4:35 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say that the recent crop of TV shows that deal with some existential ideas is indicative of a larger existential crisis, but rather that the model of television is slowly allowing for shows that take on deeper themes than we're used to seeing on TV. I think that R+M and BoJack are at their respective worsts when dwelling too much in the existentialist mode. One reason that I don't particularly like either West World or Black Mirror that much is because that's the only mode they have - poe-faced meanderings on (frankly) pretty boring subject matter and philosophy that never goes very deep or asks any questions worth answering.

Baskets, however, does a pretty good job at thinking about existing in a modern society in a way that never feels too on the nose. My opinion is that it takes Chip's absurd character (a failed clown forced to leave his enlightened Parisian paradise and come back to the banal purgatory of Bakersville, CA) to really sell the existential pondering without getting too full of itself, or too aware. There aren't really any big stakes, it's just a group of people who are trying to live decent lives (and usually failing spectacularly at doing so).
posted by codacorolla at 4:49 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Bojack on the other hand is Sisyphus, constantly almost reaching a system of values but then falling back into the crisis of nihilism.

I think Bojack Horseman just needs to get out of LA. Do something else with his life. It is impossible for him to move forward because he is always trying to recapture the success of his past.
posted by My Dad at 4:51 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


i think this is why it feels like the golden age of television. many characters in many of the shows i've been keeping up with represents some aspect of existentialism that i've been trying to convey to myself. the tv is telling me things about myself, and i'm happily distracting myself with these thoughts and stories instead of facing the meaninglessness of my life.
posted by numaner at 4:52 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]




Similarly, how Rick & Morty shows a hopeful response to the essential meaninglessness of existence.

Does it, though? Rick & Morty revels, constantly, in showing the senseless awfulness of existence. The idea that, heck, it’s actually worth it is the chaser added on to the episode, the tiny bit of relief at the end. If anything, that chaser comes across to me, more and more, as a vacuous follow-up - like Dan Harmon et al. want us to pretend that the rest of the episode didn’t just happen. That flippant little reversal is just as insipid as the end of a standard weekly sitcom, but with the bleakness cranked up exponentially. It’s quite pat and mundane.

(Okay, now I will actually watch that video. But the idea that somehow Rick & Morty is dealing with the anxiety of enduring the present in a way that is deeper or smarter as opposed to, say, blunter or more directly, seems flawed.)
posted by Going To Maine at 5:10 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


I tend to think the "existentialism" of Rick & Morty is more of a narrative tool. The thing that makes the show so awesome is the mind-bending multiverse aspect of it. But, at the end of the day, the show is a formulaic sitcom. Beth and Jerry fight, and make up.

Although I suppose the plots demonstrate their unhappiness is situational--remove Jerry from his troubled trajectory in life, and then suddenly new opportunities arise. And he becomes happy. Any adult can relate, I think.

But Rick & Morty can't be an existential show because, by their very nature, the characters, just like their counterparts in the Simpsons, cannot ever change, and do not have the possibility to change. Except for, perhaps, Morty.
posted by My Dad at 5:22 PM on February 7


by their very nature, the characters, just like their counterparts in the Simpsons, cannot ever change

That's funny. I've noticed that the Simpsons seem to be losing brain cells and actual insight across the years. Perhaps there's lead in the paint on their orange house.
posted by hippybear at 5:24 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Rick and Morty, we might say, is essentially a wildly creative lecture. But it is a lecture about a subject, not a performative proof of the subject. (As a contrast, consider The Wire as a performed proof of the flaws of the systems that control modern society.)
posted by Going To Maine at 5:25 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Having listened to the entire 20ish hours of Dan Carlin's Blueprint for Armageddon recently, I think we are en route to that crisis, but not quite there yet. Instead, white supremacy is about to spend their "century of middle class love" in service of overwhelming tragedy. We'll have our crisis if we're still alive when white supremacists have spent their love in blood.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:28 PM on February 7


Also why the fuck did I choose to listen to 20 hours on WW1 right now, everything is terrible and we're all going to die. I think I'll go watch tv play some games.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:30 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]


What’s also funny about this idea of media as proof of existential crisis is that there’s no mention whatsoever of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, the whole series of grim-dark superhero movies (if we want to go to theaters), Arrested Development, or the nihilistic king of the nineties that was Seinfeld: a show that is still still in syndication and surely crushed all of these other programs in terms of pure popularity. The assumption that somehow, existential grimness is new just seems weirdly short-sighted.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:30 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


but rather that the model of television is slowly allowing for shows that take on deeper themes than we're used to seeing on TV.

Yeah, this is an excellent point. Well before the animated shows, things like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and even BSG (if you forget the ending and oh god, you should) embraced, or at least grappled with, themes of existentialism.

It's part of a greater move of interesting content moving by and large from movies to tv. Television series now are doing the work of cinema auteurs of the 70's. And movies are more carnival rides than ever before.

Of course none of this is 100%, but it's a trend.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:37 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]




I figured out what I needed to make meaning and feel satisfied in life, very much consciously adopting existentialism as a personal philosophy and I guess I came out on the side of facing a lifetime of loneliness and despair because I can't have what makes me happy and gives my life meaning anymore. I wasn't able to save my kids from having irresponsible assholes who don't take responsibility for providing security and stability for their children seriously enough.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:49 PM on February 7


I failed them and myself and I'll never forgive myself for it. That's the downside to existentialism: very high stakes.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:51 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Grim & my condolences. That sounds like a failing of the philosophy. If it’s a system for evaluating the universe in order to better provide for humans, it should be robust enough to care for us in both strength and weakness.
posted by Going To Maine at 5:54 PM on February 7


the nihilistic king of the nineties that was Seinfeld: a show that is still still in syndication and surely crushed all of these other programs in terms of pure popularity

With that popularity lining Steve Bannon's pockets. So how much more nihilistic existentialist can reality possibly get?
posted by hippybear at 5:55 PM on February 7


I think every 20 something since Nietzsche has been convinced his/her generation is experiencing an unprecedented existential crisis.
posted by lastobelus at 6:05 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


the nihilistic king of the nineties that was Seinfeld: a show that is still still in syndication and surely crushed all of these other programs in terms of pure popularity

With that popularity lining Steve Bannon's pockets. So how much more nihilistic existentialist can reality possibly get?

Given that Bannon didn’t know much about the show, thought it would be a failure, and learns towards a strain of conservative Catholicism, I’d say it’s more absurdist than anything.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:19 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


> I think every 20 something since Nietzsche has been convinced his/her generation is experiencing an unprecedented existential crisis.

Maybe every generation since Nietzsche did experience (or is experiencing) an unprecedented existential crisis. Are generational existential crises not stackable?
posted by Spathe Cadet at 6:29 PM on February 7 [8 favorites]


I would say that dealing with the meaning of existence is a somewhat universal experience. The quality and characteristics of generational crises are likely unique. A lot of the shows mentioned so far in this thread deal specifically with the nature of what it means to be a good person, and usually, a good man. BoJack, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, R+M: they all definitely operate from the perspective of a deeply flawed (but usually supremely powerful) male figure who struggles to figure out whether or not they can possibly be a good person. Oddly, the case of all of the above is "no, not really, you can't change yourself." It's gotten to the point where this unrelentingly bleak masculine viewpoint is a mockable characteristic of so-called "prestige TV."

I like R+M a lot, but I agree with what someone upthread said about Harmon's sneering contempt for... everything. It's fun, and there's a nice little frisson to it, but it gets frustrating to watch. Especially the later seasons of Community, which seemed extremely bitter about the meta-commentary of how Harmon was treated by network TV.
posted by codacorolla at 6:37 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


Nietzsche... hmm, late 19th century, that seems about right for when the world started getting increasingly crazy at a pace notably more rapid than before. Most of the world was getting to be controlled and subdued around then. The industrial revolution was on, with wild new inventions like steam ships, power looms, and telegraphs making the world seem smaller at the same time as rapid global population growth really got going. Then of course the Great War and from then on it was pretty much nonstop unprecedented existential crisis for everyone.
posted by sfenders at 6:38 PM on February 7


Also, if you want an uniquely nihilistic modern TV show, then the dreck that they label The Walking Dead is the best bet. There's a show that truly has no moral center.
posted by codacorolla at 6:39 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Rick pretends to be a nihilist but the show makes it clear it's just a facade

Of course when he does show a little concern for the well-being of his family the result is that he quickly ends up strapped to a confinement slab in galactic federal prison, so maybe it's more his writers who are pretending to be nihilist.
posted by sfenders at 6:42 PM on February 7


I would say that dealing with the meaning of existence is a somewhat universal experience.

Right on! I wonder about where people go today—in the wake of secularism—with their questions about why they're alive, how to live well, and how to endure life's suffering. This post reminds me of the Brothers Karamozov's Grand Inquisitor. In the story, Jesus comes back to Earth during the Inquisition, and the Church tells him, you're messing up our mission. They say, you want people to be free, but people can't handle their freedom. They need our oppression to structure their lives. Rick & Morty seems like a good modern-day counterpart. I think the Inquisitor's full of shit, and Rick, too.

It's gotten to the point where this unrelentingly bleak masculine viewpoint is a mockable characteristic of so-called "prestige TV."

I wish we were more interested in stories of men becoming better people and feeling satisfied by their own betterment.
posted by materialgirl at 7:49 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


I wonder about where people go today—in the wake of secularism—with their questions about why they're alive, how to live well, and how to endure life's suffering.

I remain convinced that if we can get enough of the planet's humans all on LSD and dancing to the same music at the same time, these questions will disappear. But then, I'm a hippie.
posted by hippybear at 8:03 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


In the meantime, I'm down to keep asking the questions!
posted by materialgirl at 8:09 PM on February 7


1) Fucking caused this. That and exploding stars.
2) Be nice to others and do your part.
3) Dance. Dance frequently.
posted by hippybear at 8:11 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Rick pretends to be a nihilist but the show makes it clear it's just a facade and that he actually cares about some things very deeply.

Perhaps it would be accurate to call Rick a hypocrite then.

*I think every 20 something since Nietzsche has been convinced his/her generation is experiencing an unprecedented existential crisis.

Maybe every generation since Nietzsche did experience (or is experiencing) an unprecedented existential crisis. Are generational existential crises not stackable?

A “crisis” would seem to be definitionally different from the norm. If every generation is in crisis, then perhaps we are simply mislabeling what is ordinary and would do better trying to be comfortable in our own skins.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:33 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Is there even such a thing as a generational existential crisis? Isn't experiencing the blank face of the Existential and the subsequent dread and despair arising from that a solitary, singular, personal experience?

I mean, maybe the opposite of what I said above is also true. Maybe if we can get enough of the world's humanity to experience total existential despair and bottom-out at the same time, we'd stop asking questions, too.
posted by hippybear at 8:59 PM on February 7


Bojack Horseman. The analysis is flawed. The series is good, because Todd and Princess Caroline and Mr. Peanutbutter and Dianne continually set themselves up for sabotage, and that's why they will continue to be around Bojack. He's the easy excuse for their failures, the convenient source of their depression and failure.

Bojack is already convinced he's the worst person ever and the biggest failure ever. He knows it. Tries to forget it with self-destructive behavior that destroys his connections with people around him.

He is constantly validated by those around him suffering. Not realizing they're around him because they need an excuse to suffer.

At one point, Todd demands he be a better person. Todd doesn't realize how awful he is himself, he has an excuse to be oblivious and immune to his decisions - Bojack. So it goes with Bojack's circle of friends.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:02 PM on February 7 [5 favorites]


And this is why marijuana and animation continues to be popular.
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on February 7


LieBot called it ages ago.

The end! No moral.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:07 PM on February 7 [6 favorites]


Is there even such a thing as a generational existential crisis? Isn't experiencing the blank face of the Existential and the subsequent dread and despair arising from that a solitary, singular, personal experience?

I would say that there are generational factors that influence how individuals experience existential crises. The way that you perceive the emptiness of an industrial society in the 50s is very different from how you perceive the emptiness of a post-industrial society in the 2010s. Those differences become further reified with trends in popular media. I don't believe it's a coincidence that so much prestige TV deals with what are essentially the same set of concerns.
posted by codacorolla at 9:12 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]


Butter-passing robot is the true spirit of our age.

Oh my God.
posted by loquacious at 3:13 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


the best philosophy put forth by Rick and Morty is that of Mister Meeseeks:

identify your task, execute it well, then cease to exist.
posted by murphy slaw at 4:08 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Seinfeld and a lot of 90s counterculture was pretty nihilistic. The values of the past were found meaningless but nothing much was offered up as an alternative. Mostly a lot of joking and pointing out the problems without taking ownership of the responsibility that follows.

Shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad were very existential in their form. The main character refuses to accept the man he is and instead remakes himself as he wishes to be. But they were both antiheros and we know that their quest is tragically doomed to failure. Walter White and Don Draper are grand morality myths to teach a lesson: reinventing yourself is a dangerous path that easily leads to losing whoever you wanted to be in the first place. In Breaking Bad the characters who stayed true to themselves (Hank), or their essential nature, are the true heroes that we are meant to emulate. Mad Men only contains failed reinventions and is pretty explicit about their failures and reasons for them. Sometimes a character will enjoy a "success" but is quickly followed by an even greater tragedy.

Bojack Horseman isn't done yet, so I'm not sure how the characters will progress. But I think it is something different because of why these characters fail to radically reinvent who they are. It's like how Diane says she doesn't believe in the deep down, we are all just the things we do. Bojack Horseman is exploring this thought but hasn't answered it conclusively yet. Many characters try to change their behaviors to make them feel differently. Bojack listens to those tapes and exercises, Princess Caroline tries to quit her job and start a relationship, and Diane goes to Cordovia. But so far no one has managed to really change themselves. Bojack and Mr Peanutbutter are actors who only play versions of themselves! Is it possible that they keep trying to change who they are but because there actually isn't anything there to change they keep failing? They all lack the resolve and desire to, as the exercising monkey says "do it everyday. It gets easier, but you gotta do it everyday."
posted by Glibpaxman at 8:38 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


This is a thoughtful post, and I thank you for it, Glibpaxman.

In the o.p., you call Trump, Brexit and Putin essentialists, presumably in a way meant to disparage essentialism; and then in your most recent post you point to Hank as an essentialist, this time apparently in a positive sense. Is there some confusion here? Also the o.p. should read “existence precedes essence,” and not “existence proceeds essence.”

Essentialism is indeed, ahem, of the essence in any meaningful discussion of contemporary thought. The denial of essence is a necessary step in the development of human thought, but this denial must in turn be denied in order for human thought to attain maturity.
posted by No Robots at 1:40 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


In the o.p., you call Trump, Brexit and Putin essentialists, presumably in a way meant to disparage essentialism; and then in your most recent post you point to Hank as an essentialist, this time apparently in a positive sense. Is there some confusion here?

Its complicated. First of all I don't want to disparage essentialism in general. If someone has considered the situation and that's what they decide then cool. I'm more against blind ignorant faith.

When I referenced Hank I meant to draw attention to what the writers wanted the audience to feel about Hank. I feel like he is Walter's foil and the show utilized him to draw sharp contrasts with Walter and further the plot.

Trump and Putin are different. Maybe I should rephrase and call it "weaponized essentialism" because I think they are both in on the joke. That is, they know that everything is meaningless and there are no absolute rules outside what we determine. But crucially they have realized that they can take advantage of the situation by playing on other peoples' refusal to accept responsibility for their own freedom, what Sartre called "bad faith." Trump and Putin give people their comforting fairy tales in exchange for power but that doesn't mean they believe any of it.
posted by Glibpaxman at 2:31 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


Epic response, Glibpaxman. Thanks.
posted by No Robots at 2:37 PM on February 8


"Bojack is already convinced he's the worst person ever and the biggest failure ever."

Part of the reason I think Bojack keeps failing is because he's trying to chase goals someone else has set for him, not goals he actually wants for himself. Most people in this world only know what they DON'T want, not what they do want. And because it's hard to really nail down what we *do* want, we tend to follow other peoples' leads on this. For example, if your parents want you to become a doctor that's one less choice in life you don't really have to think about. And that's one of the problems with existentialism — unlimited choice is overwhelming. Do you think Bojack really cares about or wants to win that Oscar? That's why the second half of season 3 seemed to bittersweet — it's Bojack realizing there are whole other lives out there he could be leading.

Re: that narartive of sad depressed men going through existential crises — this goes back to emotional labor, but I kind of feel like the vast majority of women in the world have neither the time nor the luxury to get into those kind of wallowing crises themselves. Maybe I'm waaaaay off-base here, since I am not a mother, but because I am not a parent I have the free time to do things like study yoga and read a lot of novels as a way to deal with that "who am I why am I here" anxiety. Not that women don't HAVE that anxiety — just that a lot of them don't have the freedom to go on visionquests or whatever as a way to soothe it.
posted by Brittanie at 7:00 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Re: that narartive of sad depressed men going through existential crises — this goes back to emotional labor, but I kind of feel like the vast majority of women in the world have neither the time nor the luxury to get into those kind of wallowing crises themselves.

One thing that I like about Baskets is that Chip isn't a powerful person. He is having an existential crisis (how can he live an honest and full life in a world that doesn't seem to need or want him?), but he is also living a day-to-day life. The other side of the "wallowing crisis" (I like the term) is also a power fantasy, because in many cases you need to take away material need in order to really play out these stories. The alternate reality where Dick Whitman remains a depressed car salesman scraping by from sale to sale isn't a story that's likely to be told. Your brooding male lead often needs freedom to brood without worrying about his next meal, and I think your point about emotional labor is well taken.
posted by codacorolla at 9:28 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Re: that narartive of sad depressed men going through existential crises — this goes back to emotional labor, but I kind of feel like the vast majority of women in the world have neither the time nor the luxury to get into those kind of wallowing crises themselves.

This is 100% not my own experience - maybe some (most?) men are so up their own fundament so deeply that they don't notice what's going on around them, but, yeah. Utterly untrue.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:49 AM on February 9


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