Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was a Czech-born German-language writer whose surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka’s work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening.Merriam Webster Online page for “Kafkaesque”
In Kafka’s “Amerika,” our hero is confronted by the wide open spaces and a constant sense of alienation as he tries to fit into one job to the next. A public or private sector job is still a job, and there is some level of accountability. A socialist approach which works tirelessly to democratize, automate, and to de-alienate is only possible through the Kafkaesque gaze. (We could say that Kafka may not have been possible without Marx, but we couldn’t be sure.) That is to say, the recognition of all that is alienating, pointlessly crushing, cruel, and unfair, can only be engaged with via the playful horror of Kafka, who was known to laugh maniacally while writing. Those who lack the eye to gaze simultaneously at the hilarious absurdities of the world spirit on horseback as they’re getting kicked in the face by it will undoubtedly identify with their injury itself. One can escape through isolation, but even then one must leave the house and confront humanity to get basic essentials. If you can sustenance-farm, keep yourself alive by yourself, you’re so off the grid of modern mental health that you keep doing what you’re doing, but society will be in waiting for your return.
Absurdity is not the same thing as irony. Irony suggests a sincerity which is not being grappled, which the person with the ironic gaze already has direct access to, outside of the symbolic order. The Absurd Gaze has a much more difficult task, which is to mediate and order the simultaneous necessity of what exists with what is contradictory. Mark Fisher’s critique of Noir could be given a child with something like Absurd Noir, although it would be a bastard child. Absurd Noir would actively point out contradictions between systemic processes and continue to work through them until they proved themselves too powerful to overcome or they collapsed in on themselves.
The Absurd Noir detective is an impossible figure. Normal Noir, or “Normie Noir,” takes on the evils of the world and provides themselves with an aesthetic backdrop that brings into use the libidinal forces of evil and repurposes them. Absurd Noir fundamentally brings into light that the forces of evil are president in the system, then enacts them.
“The Great Dictator” can be looked at as an example of the Absurd Noir genre. Charlie Chaplin embodies Adolf Hitler to destroy him by enacting a Hyperhitler, a Hitler whose most visible characteristic is his contradictions.
Hyperhitler versus Hitler
Hitler bursts onto the set of The Great Dictator and demands Charlie Chaplin to stop this at once. Charlie does not know what to do, he is an Actor, an Actor playing a Dictator with great success! The Dictator himself is unamused, as the Actor shows the Dictator all of his contradictions, not for the Dictator himself, but for a third party! The Oedipal Child of Hitler and Hyperhitler, the imaginary future audience of The Great Dictator.
Security guards from the studio simply grab Hitler, and take him off the set. Some people on the set were Nazi sympathizers, but they can’t make out what is happening. Why is their hero Mr. Hitler acting in such an undignified way? Charlie Chaplin as Hyperhitler is looking serious.
Hyperhitler’s flux capacitor is going off, it’s processing. Charlie’s hands begin to fade in and out of existence. He grabs his iodine and he throws it on himself and rubs it in. Charlie Chaplin stumbles out of the studio, he is nauseous as he repeats to himself, “I am Charlie, I am Charlie, I am Charlie, the Actor.”
Hysterics, Power, and the Idea
The hysteric position is the one that creates new knowledge in Lacanian theory. The new knowledge is subversive to what is already accepted in the discourse as knowledge. The agents of knowledge, the hysterics, sometimes are missing the point, sometimes are not.
Charlie Chaplin in embodying a Hitler which is not Hitler, a Hyperhitler, is able to maintain his identity to some extent, but brings into radical question his own identity. The discursive loop of Absurd Noir is authentically an infinite regression, and one gets to the fact that there is flux in identification. The Flux is authentically relegated into a conflict of Ideas, which is to say, it is a projection.
Hyperhitler aka Charlie Chaplin and Hitler have a categorical conflict, which is ultimately a conflict of Idea. Which is the better vessel for the Idea, the Dictator or the Hyperdictator? Only the system decides, but only the hysteric Hyperdictator has the flux capacitor working, and suffers its radiation poisoning. The power struggle continues, and the Idea vessels continue to bite each other.