(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 4: 2022 Cultural Year in Review

In episode four of (Pop) Cultural Marxism, Ajay, Isi, and Joseph review the year 2022 in pop culture via the prism of five topics and trends: “open world” (and cinematic universe) fatigue (for example, Assassin’s Creed: Vahalla, Sonic Frontiers); the plague of remakes and cultural nostalgia (Top Gun Maverick, Wednesday, Interview with the Vampire); cultural paranoia (true crime TV and paraphernalia, including the “In Case I Go Missing Binder,” Nextdoor, Tár); liberal fanfiction (Handmaid’s TaleBridgerton); and the substitution of moral judgement and “forensic judgement” for actual aesthetic analysis (explainers, the backlash to critique,, deciphering). Do open worlds lend gravitas to video games—or do they just create sameness? What are the pastoral impulses behind farming games? Is the mania for remakes confirmation of Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History”? Is Tár a product of cancel cultural panic? What is “plastic representation”; and how does representational fantasy like Bridgerton erase the very historical knowledge that makes social critique possible? And finally, what explains the urge to explain it all? How does ambiguity provide potency to art? The podcast closes with a discussion of Ajay’s, Isi’s, and Joseph’s favorite 2022 things (whether actually released in 2022 or just personally discovered): Elden RingYellowjacketsHadesAzor, The Banshees of Inisherin, Station 11, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. (Ajay’s 2022 GOTY and theorized allegory for communism.) 

You can download the episode by right-clicking here and selecting “save as.” Or, look us up on iTunes.

(Pop) Cultural Marxism is a monthly series of the Podcast for Social Research, produced by William R. Clark. If you like what you’ve heard, consider subscribing to Brooklyn Institute’s Patreon page, where you can enjoy access to all past and future episodes of the podcast.

(Pop) Cultural Marxism, Episode 4: 2022 Cultural Year in Review

Notations

Things we forgot to mention:

Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio set in Fascist Italy is “actually a great movie of 2022” (Ajay): “a very moving re-imagining both of what the story can be/mean (really stripping away the Disney-fication), and how it can formally interplay with animation. It’s also an interesting example of a clearly big-budget gargantuan undertaking (I think it took like 15 years and thousands of animators to produce) but which eschews nearly all digital technical whiz-bang in favor of close attention to what can be achieved in animation, in practical effects, and with the classic tools of cinema (framing, angles, lighting, long-shot punctuated by deliberate cuts/montage, etc.). It is not discussed much by the filmmakers or critics but it also captures well the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois class character of fascism, alongside its indeterminacy. At the same time, the filmic qualities successfully play off/critique the narrative emphasis on warfare and technology particular to Italian Fascism, drawn in part from Italian Futurism.”

The Infinite Conversation,” also from Ajay, but as “more of a gag,” is – prior to “the current wave of hype/hysteria/anxiety about AI” – “an AI generated infinite loop of an AI Žižek and an AI [Werner] Herzog just talking to each other forever. It’s both extremely funny and very uncanny.”

Commentary on our commentary:

From Ajay, regarding the closing conversation: “what we were calling forensic judgment and moral judgment can sometimes look or sound like some kind of social or political commentary, but in fact grounding those qualities in liberal moralizing or ‘trying to find the one true meaning’ obscures not only more enriching discussion of the substantive social content of media but, more importantly, the social and political possibilities in art and media in their formal qualities/effects à la the classic 20th century critics (Kracauer, Benjamin, Adorno, Bloch, Lukács, etc.).”

From Ajay, regarding Xenoblade Chronicles 3: “I want to emphasize that my endorsement of XC3 is not of the Xenoblade games in general. The first is a more or less standard JRPG coming-of-age (inoffensive, decent) kind of thing and the second is abysmal and discomfiting, particularly in its juvenile humor and extremely patriarchal story/game mechanic/visual design.” 

Games we discuss:

Elden Ring (FromSoftware)

Horizon Forbidden West (Guerrilla Games)

Sonic Frontiers (Sonic Team)

Assassins Creed: Valhalla (Ubisoft)

Trek to Yomi (Flying Wild Hog)

Stray (BlueTwelve Studio)

The Witcher 3 (CD Projekt, 2022 patched/remastered version)

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Monolith Soft)

God of War: Ragnarök (Santa Monica Studio)

Bayonetta 3 (PlatinumGames)

Neon White (Angel Matrix)

Citizen Sleeper (Jump Over the Age)

OlliOlli World (Role7)

Vampire Survivors (Luca Galante)

Metal Hellsinger (The Outsiders)

Harvestella (Square Enix)

Cult of the Lamb (Massive Monster)

Bear and Breakfast (Gummy Cat)

Disney Dreamlight Valley (Gameloft)

The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, remake)

Hades (Supergiant Games)

Films we discuss:

Todd Field, Tár (2022)

Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

James Cameron, Avatar: the Way of Water (2022)

Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic World Dominion (2022)

Angus MacLane, Lightyear (2022)

Matthew Warchus, Matilda the Musical (2022)

David Bruckner, Hellraiser (2022) 

Edward Berger, All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Kenneth Branagh, Death on the Nile (2022)

Gary Alazraki, Father of the Bride (2022)

Guillermo del Toro, Nightmare Alley (2021)

Keith Thomas, Firestarter (2022)

Don Hall, Strange World (2022)

Andreas Fontana, Azor (2021)

Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

TV we discuss:

Interview with the Vampire (2022, TV adaptation)

Wednesday (2022)

The Umbrella Academy (2019-2022, 3 seasons)

Kindred (2022, TV adaptation)

The Time Traveler’s Wife (2022, TV adaptation)

Yellowjackets (2021) 

Station Eleven (2022)

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-2022)

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018-2022)

Other cultural objects we reference:

In Case I Go Missing” binder

Critical literature we reference:

György Lukács, “Realism in the Balance” 

Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Francis Fukayama, The End of History and the Last Man

Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

Hiroki Azuma, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals

Fernanda Melchor, Hurricane Season

Kristen J. Warner, “Plastic Representation”

Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak”

Nancy Fraser, “Feminism, Capitalism and the Cunning of History”

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