Is Pop-culture having a ‘metaphysical moment’?
According to a study conducted on Americans, around 70% of them are likely to binge-watch a series – maybe even two – in holidays. With the overflowing collection of sci-fi or alternate reality shows, people are also more likely to prefer Westworld, Stranger Things or Mr Robot. As said by The Atlantic, pop-culture might be having their own ‘metaphysical moment’. However, according to Nathan Blake, Northeastern University’s cinephile professor, the collective cultural “suspicion that shadowy forces are shaping reality”, along with new streaming media platforms are making these shows popular.
Blake understands that all these pop-culture shows come in the same category, but labelling them as science fiction is not exactly right. He says, “International film historian, Thomas Elsaesser has recently noted the prevalence of “mind-game” films, which play games on the protagonist (is there a conspiracy or am I delusional?) as well as the audience (can we rely on the narrator?).” It is not exactly a genre – the mind- ‘game’ or ‘puzzle films’ or shows – however, it has become a popular and much-used mode of narrative and reception that these shows use.
Blake believes that what these shows are doing is continuing the tradition of Star Trek, The X-Files or even Lost. As compared to books, movies, and comics which have their own huge fan base, these shows have a relatively small group of audience. He agrees with Elsaesser when he argues, “the mind-game narrative is more akin to a database than to a literary work; viewers scan the text for codes and clues. If you search through Reddit you’ll find just how deep fans will dig into every aspect of a show.”
Blake then moves on to the role of politics in the production of science fiction. He believes that this genre can serve both the desires – as a form of escapism and also a concrete way of giving sense to things. There is a chance that Blake says, “Dystopian narratives can reflect our current situation in a manner that viewers can perceive and process.”
As Blake believes, technology is a restless field, changing oh-so-quickly in these times. It makes us imagine our future so that we can properly layout the foundation for the world we wish to live in.