Bits of Black Hat

Chuck Klosterman writes a lot of cultural essays, and I find myself underlining a lot of stuff in his books. Here are some of my favorite bits from I Wear the Black Hat.

His basic definition of a villain:

On the relationship between knowing and caring:

“If a villain is the person who knows the most and cares the least, then a hero is the person who cares too much without knowing anything. It makes every hero seems like Forrest Gump. But it’s not the intelligence that people dislike; it’s the dispassionate application of that intelligence. It’s the calculation. It’s someone who views life as a game where the rules are poorly written and designed for abuse.”

“I am a bad guy because I remember it (and because it informs how I think about everything else). I know it’s wrong and I do it anyway. I do it consciously. I have the ability to think about this person in a thousand different contexts, yet I prefer keeping my mind unchanged. I can see every alternate reality, but I prefer to arbitrarily create my own. I know the truth, but I just don’t care.”

On vigilantes and specifically Batman:

“When considering the vigilante, the way we think about fiction contradicts how we feel about reality. Which should not be unanticipated or confusing, yet somehow always is.”

“Yet Batman never tries to overcome this childhood event. It becomes the only meaningful moment of his entire history, and he doesn’t seem to question why this is the case. ‘I think the refusal to examine the insanity of what he’s doing is the whole point of Batman,’ argues culture writer Alex Pappadamas, paraphrasing the sentiments of Batman screenwriter Sam Hamm. ‘He’s a rich solipsist who can never beat up enough muggers to bring his dead parents back. But because he’s a billionaire, he can afford to keep trying forever. He’s never confronted with the futility of what he’s doing. Were he to examine and work past those motivations, you’d have no story. The guy has to stay broken.'”

“Batman is not a superhero because of his physical abilities and mental acuities; Batman is a superhero because he seems like a moral impossibility. No one believes a real human would live that far outside the law for the good of other people.”

On Seinfeld and satire:

“Most episosdes of Seinfeld circuitously forward two worldviews: The first is that most people are bad (and not very smart). The second is that caring about other people is absurd (and not very practical).”

“If you want to satirize the condition of a society, going after the apex of the pyramid is a waste of time. You need to attack the bottom. […] This requires the vilification of innocent, anonymous, working-class people.”


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