Feeling nihilistic? Check out these shows

Do you ever feel like nothing matters? Do you feel like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of work and sleep, celebrating insignificant achievements, although your very existence seems pointless?

If you have, welcome to the Nihilists club! The dictionary defines nihilism as “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless.” The true spirit of nihilism is a bit more complex, but I’m sure most of you have felt a little bit nihilistic at least once in your life.

So, how do you deal with nihilistic moments? Dive head first into some nihilistic shows, of course! I’ve rounded up some of my favourite nihilistic shows below, so take my hand and let’s dive in!

Bojack Horseman

Available to stream on Netflix

 

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Elené has written about her love for Bojack Horseman before, which convinced me to give the show a go as well. After the first few episodes, I was completely hooked!

The premise is simple; back in the ‘90s, Bojack was in a very famous TV show. Now he’s a washed-up sitcom star, trying to hold on to his past. The show is characterised by its social criticism of the entertainment industry and Hollywoo(d) in general. And with big-name stars such as Will Arnett, Aaron Paul, Amy Sedaris and Alison Brie, who better to raise this commentary?

This show was my first foray into nihilism and I could somehow see myself in some of the characters. Bojack tackles failure, fear, fame, popularity, deep-seated issues (and much more) head-on, without seeming pretentious. The titular Bojack has very deep-seated personality issues, and definitely crawls into a nihilistic hole when things don’t go the way he expected. In one episode, he even spends a full weekend bingeing his old show, Horsin’ Around, which holds up a mirror to the viewer, who is probably sitting in the exact same position watching a show about a horse who is watching a show about a horse.

What can be more meaningless than that?

Flaked

Available to stream on Netflix

 

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Flaked, co-created by Will Arnett, has been compared to a live-action remake of Bojack Horseman — which it kind of is, but also kind of isn’t. Arnett might have typecast himself as the ageing alcoholic, but he knows how to play it and does it well.

The show centres around Chip (Arnett), a recovering alcoholic and his furniture store that seems to be mysteriously devoid of furniture, except for a few stools. It starts off a bit slow, with no high stakes anywhere to be seen, but isn’t that just how life is? The show does amp up a bit after a few episodes, with ghosts from the past coming out of the woodwork to haunt Chip.

Throughout, Chip tries to play therapist to many of the members of his AA meetings, but a lot of what he has to say comes across as insincere to the viewer, especially later on once we catch more glimpses of his nihilistic soul and the emotional darkness that follows him around.

As is the central premise of nihilism, don’t expect a happy ending, but rather a more true-to-life depiction of events.

After Life

Available to stream on Netflix

 

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Ricky Gervais’ latest offering to our screens centres around Tony, a recent widower and mid-level reporter at a mid-level local newspaper in a small English town in the countryside. His wife has recently passed away from cancer, and he’s using this as an excuse to be an unfiltered asshole and all-round bummer.

When he’s not calling children c*nts, he’s prancing around town being better and smarter and sadder than anyone else has ever been. He wallows in sadness and self pity, with seemingly no prospects of trying to get better. Through video messages left for him by his dead wife, we see that he wasn’t always such a nihilistic dick. He used to laugh, joke and play practical jokes on his wife, before he became barely human, unable to do even the most basic chores like grocery shopping.

With the help of a sweet little old lady, his dad (hilariously played by David Bradley, the actor who plays Walder Frey in Game of Thrones), a prostitute with a heart of gold, and a heroin addict, he starts to dig himself free of his depression and nihilism.

Get ready to feel depressed with Tony, as well as frustrated together with his colleagues, and to be completely invested in the lives of a heroin addict and a kind-hearted prostitute once you start watching.

Mr. Robot

Available to stream on Showmax

 

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Mr. Robot can be seen as this generation’s Fight Club. It centres around Elliot Alderson, a morphine-addicted cybersecurity engineer for Allsafe, a security systems company. He lives in a bleak, colourless, modern-day New York, and his outlook on life is just as bleak as the world around him.

Even though Elliot and his friends work together to take down Evil Corp, a stand-in for the tech giants that basically rule the world, he’s still very apathetic and nihilistic. This generation isn’t satisfied with working in a bleak and dreary office, spending most of their waking hours working to make money to pay for things they don’t want or need. The world around them has made them nihilistic, and try as they might, they can’t escape the impending sense of doom.

Elliot uses drugs, in part to feel normal, but also in part to just feel something, unfortunately to no avail. Through his victories and losses, he still lives in a bleak world with muted colours and nothing he does truly means anything.

Rick and Morty

Available to stream on Netflix and Showmax

 

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Rick and Morty is one of those shows that you either love or hate. The show thrives on in-jokes and meta-references, as well as graphic bodily functions and fart jokes, which can get a bit much after a few episodes (or just a few minutes of Rick).

However, this show portrays nihilism perfectly — not as a character flaw, but rather as a philosophy to live by. For example, in the episode Rixty Minutes, Summer, Morty’s older sister, finds out that her birth was an accident which changed her parents’ lives for the worse.

In an attempt to console her, Morty confides in her that he’s actually a different Morty from another dimension, and the Morty she loved and grew up with actually died a while ago. And instead of trying to force a happy ending into the episode, showing Summer that she was actually meant to be alive and have a higher purpose, the episode just ends with Morty saying “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s going to die. Come watch TV.”

Instead of trying to make sense of a senseless world, Rick and Morty relishes in the senselessness of life, and embraces the fact that nothing is meant to happen. They don’t try to shy away from nihilism or demonise nihilistic characters. Rick and Morty knows that life is pointless and that’s OK.

Black Mirror

Available to stream on Netflix

 

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Black Mirror is the epitome of bleakness and nihilism in modern-day television. For those of you who don’t know the premise, Black Mirror is an anthology series where each episode features new characters in different settings, with each episode examining modern society and the consequences of new technologies.

Each episode explores extraordinary technological advances, and how these advances can go very, very wrong. Though there are one or two episodes with happy endings — I’m looking at you San Junipero and Hang the DJ — most of the episodes leave viewers with an impending sense of dread.

Maybe the nihilistic emotions arise from its characters or the stories, but for me, at least, it’s the fact that some of the tech they showcase can’t be too far off in the future. Most of what the show explores could conceivably be a reality very soon, and some of the episodes are even set in something resembling the world we live in now.

Heads up, just don’t binge too hard on Black Mirror if you’re feeling nihilistic already, the show might just suck you into its world completely.

 

Featured image courtesy of Variety.

1 Comment

  1. Gandré May 15, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Thanks for telling me not to binge all of black mirror, now I’m compelled to do it

    Reply

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