Every Thursday in LOL Interwebz, Luke T. Harrington explores the quirks and foibles of Internet culture from a Gospel perspective.
If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Last week, I discovered that pixelated plumbers and hot pink tigers lead dark inner lives.
Digging through the pile of flash games littering the Internet, I came across a simple one called Ennuigi. It stars Mario’s perpetually ignored younger brother, and all he does is wander around an empty, crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, suck on a glowing cigarette, and brood. Every time you press the “up” key, you get a new depressing thought to consider:
I submit to you that the only difference between Ennuigi and, say, Michael Bay’s Transformers reboot, is one of honesty.Did I wake here? Am I awake? Am I here?
My lungs rise and fall, but am I breathing? Or am I just moving cigarette smoke around?
I’m afraid I might never leave this place. Afraid I might not have the strength to, if I could.
With every thought, you can hear the soul of my generation dying.
A stone’s throw away, over on Tumblr, is something very similar: a blog titled Nihilisa Frank. If you’re unfamiliar with Lisa Frank, she’s an artist who spent much of the ’90s designing school supplies that featured neon-colored and often anthropomorphized animals. Nihilisa Frank, on the other hand, takes her drawings and juxtaposes them with quotes from famous nihilists.
“The wasted world accelerates just before the final precipice!” reports a pink kitten who (appropriately) wears cat eye sunglasses and (inappropriately) drives a convertible. “To become a crowd is to keep out death!” moans a troupe of penguins dancing on a day-glo ice floe. These animals are all so, so happy to be marching toward the oblivion that waits for us all.
So this is what our childhoods have led to. Are you surprised?
My generation, popularly dubbed
“Millennials” “Snake People,” is hardly alone in this, but we seem incapable of letting go of our childhoods. We demand that every cartoon we once enjoyed be remade into a PG-13 film. We demand reboots of everything, up to and including ReBoot. We incessantly post graphics to social media that read “If you remember [significantly-less-than-obscure cartoon character], your childhood was awesome!” We’re unable to let go, even as bills and responsibilities pile up.
Thing is, Ennuigi and Nihilisa are just more honest reflections of that. We’ve been raised by the entertainment industry, so what respite do we have beyond self-amusement? If we’re demanding that our childhood be recycled over and over, perhaps it’s because adulthood as currently conceived of has very little to offer us.
It would be easy to stand up and yell something about the “infantilization” of American culture, and then tell everyone to “man up,” like some sort of soon-to-be-disgraced hipster pastor. I won’t do that, though, because ultimately, the deficiency here is a cultural one, isn’t it?
Beneath its smiling surface, the Mario series of games was always pure, terrifying insanity. You were this man with a pedo mustache trading self-inflicted brain damage for psychedelic mushrooms, all the while murdering the wildlife with feet and with fire. Lisa Frank was never much better, churning out mountains of candy-colored kitsch all built on the hopeless lie that animals will refrain from murdering each other long enough to share a neon-tinted milkshake.
Life is no different. Ever since Nietzsche killed God, it’s been obvious to us all that civilization is nothing more than a shared delusion, a march toward oblivion littered with hollow entertainments. If the grave waits for us, the only question is how much we’ll smile on the way there.
I submit to you that the only difference between Ennuigi and, say, Michael Bay’s Transformers reboot, is one of honesty. Both are desperate to resurrect the smiling nonsense that made our childhoods feel ever-so-slightly meaningful, but while the latter attempts to drown its hollow core in buttery sturm und drang, the former throws the lights on to lay bare how empty it always was.
That game you loved? It never meant anything. And some day, it will return to the dust. And so will you.