Cover image for Shows about nothing : nihilism in popular culture from the Exorcist to Seinfeld
Shows about nothing : nihilism in popular culture from the Exorcist to Seinfeld
Hibbs, Thomas S.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Dallas, Tex. : Spence Pub. Co., 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 192 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


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PN1995.9.N55 H53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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Hibbs (philosophy, Boston College) argues that portrayal of evil in American television and film can be linked to the spread of nihilism in reaction to the apathy and conformity of American life. Examining such films as and both versions of he explores how a growing number of characters in film can be seen as "beyond good and evil" in a Nietzschian sense. He finds the ultimate nihilistic viewpoint exemplified by television shows and which treat evil as banal and humorous, but sees a recent resurgence in classical ideals in such movies as and Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Hibbs (Boston College) contends that nihilism has become pervasive in popular culture. This thesis is banal, and he adds no new insights that would make it provocative. After summarizing discussions of nihilism by Nietzsche, Tocqueville, and Arendt, Hibbs elicits nihilistic themes in popular film and television programming. His observations have less to do with nihilism per se than with popular culture's failure to offer an alternative to evil. Hibbs does not argue directly for any such alternative, although he frequently refers to "natural" moral values, the Judeo-Christian deity, and "family" as if they are understood and accepted by all right thinking people. His contentions are often simplistic and flawed generalizations without any supporting evidence, and his terms are too frequently used without definition or explanation. For example, he regards "behaviorist psychology" as having contributed to nihilistic popular culture, but he never explains this term or how it is corrup ting US culture. Underlying Hibbs's criticism of popular culture is an assumed hierarchy of moral values and social structures. If Hibbs would provide an argument for his presumed alternative, then his book might be interesting. Accessible to all college level readers, but not recommended. D. M. Maier Plattsburgh SUNY