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Welcome to another Mindf*ck Monday. I’m sick, so I’m just going to send this thing and go back to bed. I hope you’ll forgive me. And if you don’t, well, who gives a fuck?
This week, 1) I’ve got a new article about psychological paradoxes and the impossibility of satisfaction, 2) I share my favorite films of the year and comment on some new trends, 3) I tease a big new post about news media coming soon, and you fucking like it. YOU LIKE IT!
Let’s dig in…
1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction: I’ve spent much of the year writing about how, as humans, a certain amount of dissatisfaction is inevitable in our lives, no matter how good or bad the things around us become. I wanted to write an article that looked at how this dissatisfaction occurs–what is it about our psyche that seems to always lack something and is there anything we can do about it?
Well, the article grew into a 20-page behemoth, complete with 80s music, Sherpa jokes, and an awkwardly long thermostat metaphor that will probably manage to offend you somehow. But fuck it. This one’s a bit more philosophical, but definitely worth the read:
2. Favorite 2019 Films: When I look back on the films that came out this year, what stands out to me is that the most interesting movies being produced right now are decidedly anti-left-wing movies.
Now, I don’t want to get into politics (trust me, that’s the last thing I want). This is simply an observation. Hollywood and the film industry, in general, have long been associated with left-wing politics, so I find this trend somewhat surprising. Yet, the most successful and critically acclaimed movies of this year all had decidedly anti-left wing bents (note: anti-left is not the same thing as pro-right).
Scorcese’s The Irishman revisits the classic mob movie with a long-overdue dose of realism. It points out that the nostalgia that we associate with these movies and their time-periods is heavily misplaced. Times of greater equality were not some worker’s paradise, but rather rife with corruption, fraud, and insane violence. Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood helps us sympathize with out-dated parts of our culture as they struggle to find their identity and uses the murderous (and completely incompetent) Manson family a brilliant caricature of today’s SJW culture. On behalf of all Mansons, I approve.
If you haven’t seen Parasite, you must. It was my favorite movie of the year. It manages to be both funny and horrific as it looks at the tension of class struggle through a decidedly Korean lens (look for the allusions to North Korea for some interesting political commentary). It is even-handed and fair in a way that few films are. It also has one of the best endings of any film in recent memory.
And then there’s Joker. A number of readers have emailed me over the months asking for my take on the film, since nobody seems to know what to make of it.
To me, Joker is a cautionary tale of what can happen when we have too much empathy. The film intentionally sets out to dupe its audience—spending the first half making you sympathize and feel pity for Arthur, and then gently lulling you into accepting or even applauding the maniacal violence that happens towards the end (people in the theatre here in NYC were clapping when he started senselessly murdering people). The fact that the film can seduce much of its audience so completely into becoming the exact thing that it warns against is a true sign of brilliant art.
What is perhaps more notable about all of these films is that none of them build their anti-left stances by demanding a return to “the good ole” days or with populism. In fact, they each do the opposite, in their own way. Each calls for a new way forward based on mutual understanding and demonstrates the dangers when we lose that understanding. You could say that 2019 was the year of the moderate/centrist film, which is all right by me.
3. Rebirth of Moderation?: The state of our culture today reminds me of the Eric Hoffer quote: “The game of history is played by the best and worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.” It’s not just film where I see a re-emergence of moderate views taking precedence. As the conventional media has rushed to the two extremes, a growing number of independent voices–podcasters, authors, and bloggers–have been emerging to fill the void lately. After the shitshow that was media in 2016-2018, I see this as a hopeful trend.
Speaking of which, the response to my question about news consumption last week was overwhelming. Over 800 people replied with their frustrations and stories of quitting news media. So, I’ve decided that the first thing I write in 2020 will be a big article about news, what constitutes useful information, and the best ways to go about getting it. Stay tuned for that.
Until next week,