Wow, the TV show Jericho just got really good. It is worth watching the first 15 episodes just to get to the 16th. Finally the contingencies being encountered are completely produced within the post-apocalyptic universe of the show rather than a fantastic projection of the pre-nuclear-war world into the post-. This transforms the action and events of the show from being a warped or wierd normality to becoming the manfest normality of the wierd.
Am I just getting really excited because one of the cool characters cynically described what I called the melodramatic dimension of the show using the word “existential”? (Doctor is one of the refugees from another town or airplane crash or something. Jake is one of the sons of the old mayor. He is the ‘war machine’ son. The ‘she’ is the estranged doctor-wife of the other son.)
Doctor: I became a plastic surgeon to have a nice and simple life. There are other men for this…
Jake: Not in this town.
Doctor: I don’t care! I am not going through with this; it is madness!
Jake: Then everyone else can just go to hell? huh?
Doctor: … [silent]
Jake: If you stop trying then I stop, and they see that, and this whole thing falls apart. We’re all leaning on each other here whether you like it or not.
Doctor: Promise me that you are not saying that we are all connected! That this is not some existential web of life BS. That’s not what I am hearing, is it Jake?!?
Jake: …[pause] Then tell me what you want to hear? Cause I’ll say anything, if you’ll just go back in there and keep trying.
Doctor: …[pause] She’s going to die.
Jake: (nodding, tearing up, and then shaking his head) I know.
Why? Because he was ready to quit! Fantastic! To ‘quit’ is a prominent institution of US culture: “don’t quit on me” “quitter” “quitting time” “you are not giving up on her!” or variants that reference this quitting-singularity, such as George W Bush’s “stay the course” etc. The symbolic interactionist nature of a notion of ‘leaning’ on each other or everything will fall apart does not make much sense in the actual real world, but in the Jericho universe in makes perfect sense. It is the phantasmatic neoliberal survivalist fantasy of quitting=dieing and the complement of maximum productivity not for a better world (like in Jericho) but for maximising someone else’s profit. It continues to reinforce my opinion that Jericho is a show for the post-welfare world.
The quitting-singularity occupies the edge of the neoliberal social; the exact location of the early- to mid-1990s ‘slacker’. The ‘slacker’ (or variations from ‘stoner’ to perhaps even into clinical depression and obesity) is the individual embodiment of what it means to ‘quit’. Couldn’t the slacker subjectivity be understood along classic subcultural theory lines? As one resolution (out of a multiplicity of resolutions) to an instrinsic contradiction (maybe of class but not necessarily and along a mulitiplcity of cultural determinants) of forming a life in a world that literally punishes anything other than ‘living’? I don’t mean death as the opposite of life but an enaction of a refusal when every life becomes commodified and disciplined as a lifestyle. To live a lifestyle demands enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the fuel of lifestyles. The ‘slacker’ subjectivity as a lifestyle requires a kind of anti-enthusiasm. The contradiction is a kind of forced insertion into the neoliberal survivalist fantasy of post-welfare state sociality. This comes after the 1980s ‘even nerds and cops can party’ subjectivity, which has re-emerged, and perhaps explains much of my present romantic life.
Anyway, there are no ‘slackers’ on Jericho. The only person who could ostensibly occupy the ‘slacker’ subjectivity is a good bad-boy-brooding teenager that now runs a shop, threatens business partners with guns and actually shoots petty criminals that double-cross him, and has implied under-age sex with his live-in and equally parentless girlfriend!! Rock and roll! He should so go on that Trump show The Apprentice, because clearly he has what it takes to survive in neoliberal fantasy land.