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Celebrating Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture as the New Millennial Anthem

A critique on the criticisms of memes, shows and books about nothing.

In his widely renowned book ‘Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture’, Thomas Hibbis talks about how nihilism: an absence of belief in anything, has seeped into popular culture. Shows like Rick and Morty, movies like Fight Club and Pulp Fiction, suicide memes or people eating Tide Pods: all have an underlying intersectionality that says God isn’t real and life is meaningless. Not to be confused with atheism, nihilists believe that we are just spiritless inhabitants of a purposeless world.

People have tried to label this as something extremely regrettable, and blame the glamourisation of popular culture of a growing sense of disconnect and absurd existentialism among young people. Then again, most people who think so are also writing articles about how millennials are killing the movie business.

The truth is that at a point in time where education is rising, and students aren’t just passive absorbers of static knowledge, we are thinking about things. Most of us live privileged lives, and when we don’t have to worry about having a roof over our head or 4 square meals a day, existentialism creeps up. Why am I here? What can I do to make in impact? How do I ensure people remember me?For so long religion and philosophy have tried to answer these questions, and failed. Religion is riddled with dogma and restriction, Philosophy offers no solace simply because it’s too time consuming and needs in depth knowledge.

But why has this curiosity converted into a lack thereof: an acceptance that there are no answers? This is where I tell you that nihilism isn’t necessarily stagnating or negative. There have been a range of Ted Talks on a school of thought called Optimistic Nihilism recently, allow me to simplify. Understanding that the universe is too big to care about whether or not you eat that sugar loaded pastry, bunk that lecture, or finally confess to your crush, can be a good thing. If we have no predetermined purpose, if God doesn’t have a naughty and nice list, it means that we get to dictate our purpose. In other words, if life means nothing, I get to decide what MY life will mean. When I realize that I am responsible for everything I do, and am in control of what I do and why I do it, I live by certain guiding principles and I value my morality.

As millennials and Generation Z, the system has failed us. The American Dream is a lie, and we know that most of us are going to end up average, even our class topper with a perfect 10 CGPA. But average isn’t all that bad when you stop comparing yourself to Gandhi and take control of your thoughts. If you’re reading this article on your phone, you’re educated, you have basic facilities and life is good. You don’t have to be stuck in planning for the future, you can value your education, obsess about the perfect cup of Chai and cherish your student days. More so, keep up the meme making and pick shows like Rick and Morty over the same old uni dimensional F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

Feature Image Credits – Twitter

Nikita Bhatia
nikitab@dubeat.com




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