Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Different Role Produces Different Fears and Loathings

Background Information:
1. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of my favorite books and one of my favorite movies.

2. I recently started a job in retail.

I wanted to enjoy a story, but did not feel that I had the mental energy to focus on reading a book. So, instead, I turned on an old favorite: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And I found something disturbing inside of me while I was watching it.

I did not particularly like what I was seeing.

Do not misunderstand, it had occurred to me long ago that Duke and Gonzo were running in fear of threats that did not exist. They represented the burnt out psyches that the failed drug generation produced: they certainly were not to be emulated. And yet, prior to this viewing I always found something beautiful in their anarchic approach to the world. They knew how to ride chaos – society be damned.

When I watched them this time, though, it was not Duke and Gonzo that I was rooting for. It was the people around them. Decent people trying to do their jobs and earn their wage. The people that Duke and Gonzo carelessly insulted, degraded, and disregarded. I could no longer get on board with the anarchy; I knew that these people had games and goals that they loved and pursued genuinely and passionately. Why should Gonzo and Duke be allowed to run roughshod over people who are just trying to make their living?

When the film ended, I could still consider it a movie I liked, but something had changed in me. Not just in a moral or evaluative sense – my tastes had changed. The movie did not appeal to me as it once did. I felt as though I were just watching nonsense. It is all nonsense, of course, nonsense that tried to embody the mindset of failed revolutionaries who carried on their revolution through the use of self-inflicted intoxication rather than anything that might have proved effective; this time, though, it just seemed like nonsense. I didn't have the old sympathy for Dr. Thompson that I once had, and without that sympathy you're less willing to look deeper into the nonsense.

What happens to your literary tastes when you officially become one of society's participants rather than a self-important outlying masturbator? I used to love books from an outsiders point of view: Notes from Underground, Fight Club, The Stranger. Is it possible that playing the role of a responsible member of society could end up choking that part of me off?

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