Brief Interviews with Hideous Archetypes, or the Thing of Internets

Not to belabor a point, nor to turn this into some pretentious David Foster Wallace fan blog, but CBC’s Q featured a thoughtful and, at times, touching piece on the film adaptation (and cult of) the author. If, like me, you care little about the news that One Direction is disappearing up its own collective bottom, you can skip ahead to just after the minute mark in the segment.

‘Cause the technology is just gonna get better and better and it’s gonna get easier and easier and more and more convenient and more and more pleasurable to sit alone with images on a screen given to us by people who do not love us but want our money.

Did Wallace just describe every person with his or her nose buried in a social media app on the Metro, or while walking a dog, or while blithely pushing a baby stroller, virtually oblivious to its passenger? While that exchance with Lipsky referred to the rise of virtual reality porn, here’s another quote from the book about the despotization of the Internet,

If you go back to Hobbes, and why we ended up begging, why people in a state of nature end up begging for a ruler who has the power of life and death over them? We absolutely have to give our power away. The Internet is going to be exactly the same way.

Does anyone still believe in the democratizing power of media, given this (perhaps unintentional) nod to the McLuhanesque concept of the blurring of medium and message.

The discussion turns to Wallace’s attempt to rationalize the dissonance between how he lived his life with others’ perception of him, and of the mindfulness of that realization with respect to the commercialization of consumer culture. It also seques into the romanticization of the author’s image, and of his family’s opposition to his characterization in the movie.

I’m not as bullish on The End of the Tour as Stephen Marche, although like him I recognize the authenticity of the affection for the author in the movie and in Jason Segel’s portrayal. I can appreciate that the artifice of the central conceit of the movie might produce a characterization of Wallace that his family don’t care to or want to recognize. I also appreciate the fact that the script is largely comprised of dialogue taken from the recordings of the interviews taken over the course of the trip. What I am, how I portray myself, how I talk, act, and react around friends and loved ones can be a very different persona than how people perceive me at work or on social media. This gets to the fundamental question of how to define authenticity in a social order built around contrivance, and which of Baudrillard’s stages in his theory of simulacra we (and the screen version of DFW) inhabit.


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