(Thank you to Candace Payne and Nathaniel McMahon for the inspiration that led to this article.) When I watch a movie, there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. POPCORN: Dude, why you wearing a Chewbacca mask? CINEMA: I’m pissed off. POPCORN: I’ll alert the media. CINEMA: What the hell do you mean by that? POPCORN: Nothin’ really. Other than you’re not, like, a laid-back kinda dude. I mean, sometimes it’s like you got a hive of bees up your ass. CINEMA: I’m just a very . . . passionate person, with strong beliefs and opinions, who sometimes gets caught up in his dismay at the way everything works. Sometimes things are just so unfair that you can’t help but feel the sting of that unfairness. So I call bullshit on your statement. There are no bees in my ass! POPCORN: Sure, dude. So why’s your passionate ass got a Chewbacca head? CINEMA: Well . . . you know, I’ve worked very hard at perfecting my art over the years – POPCORN: Uh-huh. Your art, yep. CINEMA: – and I toil – because that really is the word – toil . . . over everything I do, especially when it comes to my writing – POPCORN: Uh-huh. Your writing, yep. CINEMA: – and it’s work, you know? I mean, it’s something to be enjoyed, sure – maybe even a talent – but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t work, because it is. It’s work, and – POPCORN: Uh-huh. Work, yep. CINEMA: – I don’t expect the world to fall at my feet or anything, I really don’t. But I know how much I appreciate reading a solid article or a beautiful line, seeing an efficiently rendered drawing, some stunning work of art, or hearing an amazing piece of music – POPCORN: Uh-huh. Feet, yeah. CINEMA: – but when someone can just put on a plastic mask, laughing like an escapee from the psych ward, and have a hundred and fifty million people love them – for doing what exactly??? – while approximately four people give a shit about what someone else has actually worked and toiled over – POPCORN: Someone, meaning you. CINEMA: Damn right, I mean me! But I’m thinking of others too – POPCORN: Uh-huh. CINEMA: How many local bands have you heard and thought, hey, these guys are awesome – POPCORN: Lots, dude. CINEMA: – but you turn on the radio and there’s yet another auto-tuned little girl! Or you see a photograph which has been perfectly captured, like a visual dance between light and shadow – POPCORN: Yep, man. CINEMA: – but you look around to find nothing but memes on social media. Or that little film, which regular people – real men and women who live right in your own zip code! – have struggled and scraped – probably sold their plasma twice a week – and gone hopelessly into debt to create – POPCORN: Yep, yep. CINEMA: – but here comes another damn Michael Bay movie, larger than life up on every other screen in your cinemaplex. POPCORN: Michael Bay, dude. Yeah. CINEMA: But no one cares to look any deeper. No one can stop long enough to consider what else might be said out there in the whole wide world. No one bothers to take five minutes more and have a goddamn thought. They get in line with all the other sheep, get their tickets, and then turn off their brains. I mean, what the hell is wrong with people??? POPCORN: This, from a guy in a Chewbacca mask. Well, dude, it’s fun to see shit blow up. And everybody didn’t take, like, Art Appreciation classes. Know what I’m sayin’? CINEMA: Well, maybe they should. Maybe then we wouldn’t be living in the times of the lowest common denominator, where whatever someone thought must be right because they thought it. Maybe, if we all realized that we weren’t the center of the world, we could actually find a way to make a better one. POPCORN: Think I liked you better last week when you were high. CINEMA: I wasn’t high. Well, okay, I was, but . . . it wasn’t my fault. It was all a mean trick. POPCORN: No trick, dude. You ate the brownies, not me. So what’s the movie this week? CINEMA: Nihilistic cinema. POPCORN: Nile who? CINEMA: Nihilistic-damn-cinema. Nihilism, from the Latin, nihil, meaning nothing. The philosophical doctrine which argues that everything is without purpose, meaning, or value . . . that morality does not inherently exist because there are no real norms, rules, or laws but the ones we create. Kierkegaard. Nietzsche. Ivan Turgenev. Punk rock. The cinema of nihilism embraces this philosophy with films that just don’t give a shit. POPCORN: Like that Angry Birds movie? CINEMA: No, more like the Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT, when he sets that huge pile of money on fire – calling himself an agent of Chaos – because – POPCORN: Some men just want to watch the world burn. CINEMA: Something like that. Okay, I posted a video . . . POPCORN: Dude, the internet’s forever. CINEMA: Not that kind of video, pervert. Here, check it out. On the computer screen there is sudden static. A face appears, Cinema wearing the Chewbacca mask, but with sunglasses, bobbing wildly about. Behind him a sheet of corrugated metal tilts crazily to and fro. An eerie distortion pours from the speakers. The figure is spouting nonsense, moaning, screaming, laughing, all very reminiscent of the Max Headroom broadcast intrusion. The scene calms, and the Chewbacca head begins to speak. “Nietzsche warned us that, when we gaze long into the abyss, the abyss looks also into us. The abyssal cinema of nihilism, however, peers out at the world and urges us to look inward. Like Nietzsche, it dares us not merely to reject the principles that are thrust upon us by society and religion, but to lower a pail into the furthest depths of our personal well and raise up our own conception of what the world should mean.” A badly edited montage begins to play across the screen as he speaks. Images flash, fade, and cut into each other from a variety of violent and bleak-looking films. Most of them are quite obscure, but there are some recognizable scenes as well. Christian Bale appears, naked, toting a chainsaw. Jack Nicholson pokes his crazed face through the jagged hole in a door. Malcolm McDowell sings a happy song while he and his crew brutally beat and rape a couple in their home. With fog closing in around his car, a man shoots his son and his friends, believing it to be a merciful end. But that end is suddenly not so immediate. “Stanley Kubrick. David Lynch. Lars von Trier. Michael Haneke. Gaspar Noe. Ingmar Bergman. Occasionally the Coen Brothers. These are but a few of the authors of our most easily consumed cinema of nihilism. This nihilism is a rejection of all moral and religious principles, typically in the belief that life is meaningless. In the fear that what we do doesn’t matter, that this existence is merely a series of traumas linked together only by vast emptiness and hopelessness. The kind of emptiness captured so well by Kubrick in the snowy expanse, seen here, outside of the Overlook . . .” Images of Jack Torrance bouncing a ball appear onscreen. “. . . or here, in Joel and Ethan Coen’s BARTON FINK, as the lead character makes his way down a long and desolate hallway of the hotel where he is staying . . .” The image of a duck appears. “Nietzsche also said that, in the end, one experiences only oneself. The internet and social media have virtually eliminated the need for the evening news and made each one of us the stars in our own universe. It’s very democratizing, this forum for us to self-actualize and self-express, but not everyone is star-worthy. Everyone does matter equally, in that none of us really matters.” An image flashes of Nicole Kidman in TO DIE FOR, in which she portrays a newscaster prepared to do anything to be famous. “We live in a culture where there’s a strong need to be known, but also one in which we choose to be known in a particular way. There’s rarely much honesty about how we present ourselves. Therefore, when we choose to base our opinions of the world around us on tweets, memes, and the shortest attention-span possible, we are in danger of basing everything we know on lies . . . and in danger of being the most ignorant that we’ve ever been.” A scene from IDIOCRACY comes up, with the future president talking about burritos as he addresses Congress. “I know shit’s bad right now,” he says. “Self-actualization and self-expression are good things, without which we would have none of our art forms. Growth as individuals is a good thing, but so is a healthy dose of reality (and I don’t mean the kind that’s found on REAL HOUSEWIVES). Did this all start with 1960s individualism, or with 1980s greed-is-good material pursuits?” Michael Douglas in WALL STREET, followed by a grainy video of someone blowing a horse. “Does it even matter where or when it began? We have come to a society where the service industry is king, because everyone thinks they should be treated like royalty. We are living in a world where everyone you interact with at a cash register acts like they are your long-lost friend, because the company they work for knows that it’s the best way to get your money. Popular culture rules, and if you can’t say it in a sound-bite, no one wants to hear it.” Steve Carrell to Paul Rudd: “Shut up, Dave.” George Bush to Harold and Kumar: “So shut the fuck up.” Jeff Anderson in CLERKS II: “Shut the fuck up, Gobot.” Dustin Hoffman: “It wasn’t until I was eight years old that I figured out my name wasn’t Shut-up.” Christopher Lloyd to all the other cuckoos who flew over the nest: “Shut up!” Clint Eastwood: “Shut your fucking face.” Al Pacino: “WOULD YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN TO ME!!!” “Does all of this mean that we’ve reached the end of Western society? Not necessarily. If we can just find a way to get past this self-gratification, there may be hope for everyone. But I truly believe that we all have to embrace the philosophy of nihilism, just a little bit – to get a taste of the end of everything – before we can find a way to move on. Most people tend to find their personal philosophy through the arts, and the easiest art form to appreciate is film. You could say that most movies either support or attack a particular worldview. But the Angry Birds movie isn’t going to do it.” Image of a bird splatting into a window. “Might I suggest, instead, that you take another look at A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, THE KILLING, or almost anything Kubrick did. Might I suggest FUNNY GAMES, ANGST, or COME AND SEE. Maybe you want to check out some film noir, anything from DETOUR to KISS ME DEADLY. Take a look at the hilarious nihilism of AMERICAN PSYCHO, or the quietly, depressingly mundane futility of GUMMO. Try watching THE ROAD to really understand what desolation means . . .” Viggo Mortensen sad face. “. . . and, in this understanding of desolation, you might see the precarious nature of humanity. You might see that our little lives don’t matter very much in the end. You might see that you, me, none of us are really the center of the universe.” An image of stars, moving, a tense violin string. William Shatner’s voice says, “Space -” “The cinema of nihilism is not depressing. It does not deny life, freedom, or happiness. In fact, nihilism offers the most freedom that any of us can ever hope to achieve. Because when you can finally, truly say -” Close-up of Chewbacca mask, eyes glaring angrily from the holes in the plastic. ” – when you can say – I DON’T GIVE A SHIT! – then, my friends, you are truly free. Man killed God because he could not bear to have anyone looking at his ugliest side, but we are the most courageous animal. We will be able to survive even the death of our gods.” Hands reach up to remove the Chewbacca mask, though we never see Cinema’s face. Instead, we see the mask placed on the floor. There is a moment of silence. Then a foot stomps all over Chewbacca’s face, again and again. In the background, cursing and mumbled words can be heard intermittently. “. . . lady . . . my work . . . son-of-a-bitch . . . and toil . . . four damn likes . . . shit . . .” The screen fades to black. POPCORN: Dude. CINEMA: It’s a little rough, I understand. But it’s good – POPCORN: Yeah, that’s gonna attract the feds, man. CINEMA: Well, you know, it doesn’t even matter! Do you want to know why??? POPCORN: No. CINEMA: Because, since I posted this video – which I toiled and worked over – I’ve had a total of twelve views. Twelve views!! And six of those were me!!! And do you want to know what people are looking at instead?? POPCORN: Uh . . . Chewbacca lady? CINEMA: Chewbacca lady! And this stupid son-of-a-bitch – In security camera footage, someone in a terribly homemade Deadpool costume, carrying a huge bag of pennies, walks up to a mechanical horse in a grocery store. The horse’s name is Sandy. Deadpool looks left and right, then climbs up on Sandy. He reaches into the bag of pennies, drops one into the horse, and begins to ride. Anderson Cooper appears now, standing in front of the horse and its strange rider. A huge crowd of mostly children has gathered around Deadpool, the air abuzz with excited voices. “This is the scene here in a local Midwestern grocery store, where a man dressed as the popular Marvel superhero Deadpool started riding that store’s iconic mechanical horse Sandy . . . for three long days. According to employees, he was on the horse for several hours, dropping penny after penny into its slot, before a small group of children began to gather.” Cut to a young woman in a red Meijer vest. “At first I think they were just sick of waiting. Sandy is a very popular attraction for kids at our stores. But then they started gathering because they wanted to see Deadpool. At some point, this guy – he said . . . um, well, he shouted ‘Deadpool fuckin’ rules’, and it kind of became a chant among the kids. By this time, there must have been, oh, thirty kids, and all of them were chanting ‘Deadpool fuckin’ rules’. It was really surreal.” Anderson Cooper: “Surreal, indeed. In the time that I was here, the crowd never dispersed, and they would often start their chant anew. By this time, there were children and adults both, and no one seemed at all bothered by the profanity. It was a scene of what I could only call utter comic book nihilism. “By the end of the third day, the huge bag of pennies that Deadpool had brought had come down to only one. When little kids reached up to offer pennies of their own, in hopes that Deadpool would keep riding, he quietly declined. He also declined any kind of interview, offering no explanation for the ride which has earned him the attention of millions of Americans. It was, I suppose, his way of keeping them honest. In departing, he merely curtsied to the wildly applauding crowd, and then said this . . .” Deadpool gives a huge thumbs up, looks at the camera, and says, “Dude.” Somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, the Wookie known as Chewbacca sits in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, recording a selfie video. We can’t understand what he says, though it sounds like “Roooarrgh ur roo.” After speaking for a few minutes, he reaches into what appears to be a shopping bag to pull out a human face. It does not appear to be a mask. Chewbacca puts the human face over his own and says, “Huuguughghgh raaaaahhgh uughghhhgh.” At this point he begins to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.