What is Perhapses?
After reading Nihilism in Film and Television: A Critical Overview from Citizen Kane to the Sopranos by Kevin Stoehr, I realized that I was drawn to films that had aspects of nihilism to their characters or stories. I enjoy both the inherent contradictions in nihilism and the ability for it to be a catalyst for positive change. I’m also interested in tragedy, climate change, and destruction and how those elements are expressed in film.
“Is the destruction not, rather, irrefutable proof that the catastrophes which develop, so to speak, in our hands and seem to break out suddenly are a kind of experiment, anticipating the point at which we shall drop out of what we will have thought for so long to be our autonomous history and back into the history of nature?”
W.G. Sebald in On the Natural History of Destruction (p. 66)
I call what Sebald describes “the lure of devastation.” It is the name of the powerlessness in the face of impending doom. Whether it is the feelings of a child practicing duck and cover in the 1950s (in case of nuclear war) or of a family watching an approaching storm, the lure runs deep in the human psyche. Religions are based upon a time when everything will be destroyed. Popular culture thrives on the idea. Hollywood makes a fortune from it.
I will specifically explore these topics with eye cast toward America’s lack of urgency regarding global warming. From the end of World War II, with the introduction of the atomic bomb, to the present, we’ve become accustomed to living with the idea that it will all come crashing down any day. In our powerlessness, the only thing we can do is watch.
The subtitle for this site (The essence of tragedy is the expectation of catastrophe) is a quotation used in the book Mirrors of Destruction by Omer Bartov. He attributes the quotation to an Alain but it seems that the quotation may have been moved during editing because there is no reference to an Alain in the preceding pages. I assume the quotation is from Alain Brossat, although I haven’t been able to confirm it.
The name for my blog came from this quotation:
In spite of all the value which may belong to the true, the positive, and the unselfish, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life generally should be assigned to pretense, to the will to delusion, to selfishness, and cupidity. It might even be possible that what constitutes the value of those good and respected things, consists precisely in their being insidiously related, knotted, and crocheted to these evil and apparently opposed things—perhaps even in being essentially identical with them. Perhaps! But who wishes to concern himself with such dangerous Perhapses!
—Friedrich Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil)
The image at the top is Matt Dillon as Rusty-James in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish.