Very Bad Wizards

Episode 246: Existential Poker-Face (David Foster Wallace's "E Unibus Pluram")

October 4th, 2022

We dive into David Foster Wallace’s sprawling 1993 essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction.” How do TV and new forms of media keep their hold on us when we know at some level that they’re reinforcing our loneliness and passivity? That’s easy, Wallace says, post-modern cool. Flatter me, let me think we’re all in the joke together, give me “an ironic permission-slip to do what I do best whenever I feel confused and guilty: assume, inside, a sort of fetal position, a pose of passive reception to comfort, escape, reassurance.” But in the years since this essay, the TV landscape has completely transformed. Has it transcended its function as a surrogate companion for lonely people, or has it just found new ways to keep us isolated and passive?

Plus, we talk about the recent new SPSP guidelines and Jon Haidt’s recent essay on why he’s resigning from the organization. (Sorry, Jon!)

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