Recently, the President was impeached, raising us up to a respectable batting average of impeaching 1/3 of all presidents over the last 50 years.
Higher on the priority list of all well-ordered human beings, the last Star Wars movie of the current trilogy was released, the new television sequel to Watchmen has concluded, and the decade has come to a close.
It’s hard for any December not to have a sense of decrescendo, the long crossfade into a new (and different?) sound. Mugs of hot cocoa into champagne flutes. And then? Silence. “The party’s over,” and we head back to work, out of things to celebrate and the PTO to do so, at least for a little while. But it’s hard, with so much in the cultural ether coming to “an end,” not to feel this passing away with particular intensity this time around.
Or at least, I’ve been told it oughtta be hard. As a good subject of King Internet, I’ve been instructed that for every thing that is dearly departing, I’m supposed to have formed an opinion. Watchmen ended: did it end well? Was the new Star Wars a fitting conclusion?
I’m not against having opinions–no one who starts a blog, even a small one, can think that. But thanks to the fervor of review aggregators and online fandom discourse, I’m not only supposed to have an opinion: I’m increasingly encouraged to have an opinion before I’ve even seen the things. I avoided having anyone spoil Star Wars for me (narrowly), but I couldn’t avoid knowing what factions had what opinions about the film before it was even released.
Our opinions become the mirror image of memories we haven’t made yet.
It’s like casting our brains out on fishing line, toward a future that we know nothing about. We imagine that we’ve caught something we like–oh, I didn’t want to like Star Wars anyway, so I’m sure it’s bad, the Rotten Tomatoes scores say it is–and so we reel our imaginary future opinion back into the present. (The Pixies chime in: “Where is my mind / where is my mind / wheeeeeere is my mind / way out in the water / see it swimmin”).
We hold up our catch, this imaginary fish, to King Internet, and he approves. And so does everyone else, and so it feels very much like living in the moment, like my opinions are part of the zeitgeist, the cutting edge. But they aren’t. The cutting edge has passed, into something deeper. The Best of the Decade articles have already been written. Our opinions become the mirror image of memories we haven’t formed yet.
There’s nothing wrong with opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with the maudlin but seasonally-appropriate acknowledgment that “nothing gold can stay.” But if we so frequently cast our minds into the future, if that is where we live, then is anything “gold” ever really here, now, in the first place?
If all we can imagine are the utopias we’ve predetermined to be possible, it seems like our imaginations might be impoverished.
None of this is really that big of a deal, unless it is. I mean after all, we’re always projecting ourselves forward, at least a little. How else could we make decisions in the first place? And who cares if we get a little carried away in prejudging media–it’s just a consequence of the exuberance that comes with fandom, and I’ve got plenty of love for Watchmen and Star Wars myself (the 2010s, on the other hand, get mixed reviews). This is all just normal.
It could be that we’re subjects of King Internet in more ways than one. It could be that our subjectivities have spent so much time in the future that we’ve built our homes there. If we consume our media from the comfort of future couches, it could be that the future is where we do politics as well. If our political visions are predetermined by our imagination of the future, haven’t we deluded ourselves? If all we can imagine are the political futures we’ve predetermined to be possible, it seems like our imaginations might be impoverished.
To bring things back to the impeachment–which, as a subject of the internet, is never far away–isn’t this the mindless mindset of the present senate, which appears to have determined in advance the outcome of the forthcoming impeachment trial? The evidence has been weighed before it is offered.
And one reason (among many) why many people feel exhausted with the whole thing–why they might rightly care more about the most recent Star Wars–is that they know it’s been predetermined. Why keep your mind in the present when the future is already determined? The fact is, we are already past it. For the people who entertain themselves with politics more than HBO (an unforgivable mistake!), this season of the show is over. Fan theories already abound for the new one.
The new year is over, before it arrives. Did we miss the crossfade in a noisy time? Wasn’t this essay about Watchmen, once? We’re past it, the credits roll, and then the next thing, and the next, and maybe, finally, silence.