What connects seemingly disparate works such as The Silence of the Lambs, Cape Fear, Mad Men, and Seinfeld? It is the philosophy of nihilism, first popularized by Friedrich Nietzsche in the late 19th century. But in the last few decades, how did it become the dominant worldview of Hollywood? In 1999, Dr. Thomas S. Hibbs, currently the Distinguished Professor of Ethics & Culture and Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University, wrote the original version of Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture. Last month, Baylor University released an updated version of the book, which explores shows and films that have debuted since Hibbs’ original work was published. In this half-hour interview, Hibbs discusses:
- How post-WWII Hollywood originally explicitly rejected Nietzsche and nihilism, before ultimately embracing him with open arms.
- Why horror movies eventually eradicated God for charming nihilists who fashion their morality as “beyond good and evil,” such as Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
- Seinfeld: the sunny side of nihilism.
- How man successfully threw off the encumbrances of authority and tradition only to find himself subject to new, more devious, and more intractable forms of tyranny.
- How aesthetics came to usurp morality.
- Mad Men’s Don Draper: the man in the gray nihilistic suit.
- Can Hollywood move beyond nihilism?
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