“Walter White is the Steve Jobs of meth,” writes James Howard Kunstler in “Like your hair’s on fire” at Clusterfuck Nation, making the connection between the TV series “Breaking Bad” and the sad state in which we find ourselves in America today. The real villain of the show (which I admit I haven’t seen), Kunstler argues, is an enemy that creates the whole plot but which is rarely if ever mentioned: our country’s health care system—or lack thereof. The end of the road is that, as Kunstler succinctly puts it, “money is everything and nothing.” Money is why we poison our watersheds and torture animals and sit in boxes all day, but there’s so much money generated from the conversion of life into death, and at the same time money has been pulled through so many iterations of abstraction (it’s a symbol of a symbol of a symbol… on a computer screen that would go dark without oil), that the almighty dollar might as well be worthless. We can’t eat money, as the saying goes.
Kunstler also points out the growing popularity of zombies in entertainment media, a popularity that might suggest a growing self-reflection—and blank-stared resignation, zombie-like—about our current predicament. We are all stumbling around in some somnambulant fog or another, aren’t we? And Kunstler is only writing here about the financial collapse; when delving into the ecological one, TV shows will be the least of our worries. Although, sticking with TV for a moment, I attribute the rise of zombie motifs (get it?) more to the fact that every story has already been done a thousand times than to a deep, underlying cultural consensus about just how badly we’re fucked. I can picture network executives saying to one another: “zombies worked in the past, so let’s bring ’em back—this time with the pretense of production value!” and then plugging zombies into the same old situational tropes (although, “I Am Legend” is also ultimately about the failure of the health care system, isn’t it?), which they know Americans will love to watch for their supposed verisimilitude. Maybe Andy Warhol was right, and in a few years people won’t watch “shows” anymore, but instead live feeds of other people’s parties. Can’t get much more real than that.
And speaking of other people’s parties, it looks like according to Oxfam about 85 people run the world at this point. But, nah—that’s probably sustainable.