Thursday, May 25 • – 6
In this paper, I argue for a critical repositioning of the marginalized cinematic narrative that explores the everyday experience within what philosopher Jussi Parikka has named the “Anthrobscene,” along with its underlying theoretical framework of echoism.
Over the past few decades, cinema has been saturated with an incessant stream of doomsday climate stories. Narratives of geoengineering have become commonplace in popular culture, giving birth to a new genre known as “Cli-fi,” which envisions futures of techno-fixation, from The Day After Tomorrow to Geostorm, from Tomorrowland to Downsizing. We have also grown quite accustomed to stories portraying Earth as a posthuman planet, exemplified by films such as What Happened to Monday, Blade Runner 2049, and the recently released TV series The Last of Us, to name but a few.
There have been films, however, that have endeavored to grapple with the philosophical and psychological nuances of the so-called Anthropocene. In my view, the main protagonist in Melancholia is indeed what contemporary psychoanalysts Jukka Välimäki and Johannes Lehtonen have fittingly termed “annihilation anxiety” (Weintrobe, 41-2). I contend that such a collective, yet predominantly unconscious, anxiety is deeply ingrained in the Anthrobscene, namely the Anthroposcene, which with “the addition of the obscene [becomes] self-explanatory when one starts to consider the unsustainable, politically dubious, and ethically suspicious practices that maintain technological culture and its corporate networks” (Parrika, 17).
Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up (2021) demonstrates that the Anthrobscene, in its mundane daily existence, primarily operates through the coupling of narcissism/echoism, thus silencing any inconvenient truths under the excuse of political correctness, or as the film phrases it, because “we keep the bad news light.” However, if it is indeed true that echoists represent “the literal and symbolic embodiment of the completely marginalized and/or silenced voices” (Savery, 4), I would conclude by asserting that Don’t Look Up, as a work of philosophy, compels us to listen attentively to those background voices while simultaneously disengaging from our black screens, in order to truly look up at each other IRL—in real life.
- Savery, Donna Chrisitina (2018). Echoism. The Silent Response to Narcissism. London; New York: Routledge.
- Weintrobe, Sally (2013). “The Difficult Problem of Anxiety in Thinking About Climate Change,” Engaging With Climate Change. Sally Weintrobe, ed. Sussex; New York: Routledge, pp. 33-47.
- Parrika, Jussi (2014). The Anthrobscene. The University of Minnesota Press.
Gabriella Calchi Novati (MA, MPhil, PhD) is a cultural philosopher and a psychoanalyst based in Zürich, Switzerland. Her academic research lies at the intersections of performance studies, biopolitics, Anthropocene studies and psychoanalytic theory.