Absurdist Art is Back? Not so Fast.

White Noise Netfish Family
White Noise film on Netflix. Click to visit.

Does 2022 culture even know what “absurdist art” is?

I’m reading Don DeLillo’s classic novel White Noise again. Why? Because I plan to see the film version produced by “Netfish.” I say “fish” because they force films to be made so fast that any film, especially one that takes on the penetrating wit and deep dives into U.S. cultural insanity that DeLillo’s work does, will come out looking like the proverbial camel that began as a horse.

As a college prof. for 25 years, I had my own David Foster Wallace problems teaching students in the U.S.A. about what absurdist humor is. They have been conditioned by a culture that only understands a kind of ribald “slapstick,” such as The Simpsons and South Park, among other cartoons aimed at the younger generation. But the satire I’m discussing plunges far more deeply into what makes the U.S. culture a quagmire of lies, deception, and distraction that defies any kind of logic, scientific or otherwise.

I actually feel sorry for the filmmaker (and I have yet to see the film), Noah Baumbach. I can imagine the pressure he was under while making this film. In fact, actor and director Ben Affleck recently slammed Netflix for their “assembly line” approach, so he and fellow wealthy creator, Matt Damon, are forming an “independent” film studio. Well, we shall see how that works out.

I’m just really sad about DeLillo’s 1985 novel that artists like David Foster Wallace cut their genius teeth on (and so did I). I suppose I could get zonked on maryjane while I watch the film version, but I’m 76, so I’ve done too much of that in the past (hello Boomer). Instead, I’ll listen to what my age group who understands folks like DeLillo, Camus, Kafka, and, to a certain extent, even Cormac McCarthy, writers who take pride and do tremendous amounts of research to show the U.S. in a different and much deeper light of insight. In fact, DeLillo, I’m certain, would have made something in his novel about the current “fast forward/backward” feature that Netfish is allowing users to implement on any film (go to the nude scenes faster?).

I don’t hold out much hope that White Noise will be any good, as the reviews are already abysmal. Well, at least I enjoyed the European version of Camus’ The Stranger, and Orson Welles in a pretty nicely done version of Kafka’s The Trial. Explaining it to modern college students, on the other hand, makes you want to put Joseph K. on South Park to be ridiculed as a “frustrated Goth kid.” Oh boy, I hope I didn’t give them any new ideas! Those Libertarians. They’ll ridicule anything, won’t they? 😍

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