By Serdar Yegulalp on 2018-05-29 22:00:00 No comments

Here is about a perfect a pairing as you could imagine: Zack Snyder is attempting to helm a movie adaptation of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. They deserve each other. The rest of us, though, deserve better.

Most people reading this probably know by now I think of Rand as -- how would Pink Floyd have put it? Nearly a laugh, but really a cry. A bad joke, albeit one that gets taken way too seriously, mainly by folks who don't have the capacity to laugh at themselves. If you're lucky, you outgrow her work; if not, you turn into Paul Ryan.

I got lucky, I guess. I never grew into her work to begin with, but I hung around some of its fans long enough to understand how it filled their need to be thought of as special, at the expense of nearly every other human quality.

I encountered both Rand and an antidote to her at around the same time most people encounter her: in college. Atlas Shrugged was in the library, and I slogged through about half of it before realizing I could read about one sentence out of every ten and miss nothing. Then in my philosophy course, I mentioned Rand after class to my professor, and his response was a sigh and eye-roll that by then I knew well enough was a lead-in to a line like, "Let me tell you a story ... " The parts of her thought that were good were not original, and the parts of her thought that were original were not good -- and a great deal of it wasn't thought at all.

As explained well by Greg Nyquist and other folks, Objectivism is not so much a philosophy as a motivational psychology, or perhaps an apologia -- a way for the members of the Me First And The Gimme Gimmes Fanclub to justify and morally elevate their decisions in a way that sounds superficially like intellectual work. I found the philosophy itself far less interesting than the crazy lengths people would go to to stump for it. That told me they were less interested in the quest for the truth than they were in the need to be right.

It's not that I have a problem with people who want to be Their Own Person. It's when they can't be bothered to extend the same courtesy to others that I get testy. Or when the only way they do so is by way of a system of thought that requires you to do so much mental yoga to keep consistent that you're likely to sprain something.

Some people I bumped into had a mild version of this flu, but they never completely shook it off, and its debilitating effects were pretty obvious. One of the symptoms was the view of the artist as an absolute source of creation, rather than as a channel through which many things -- the times and the manners, most significantly -- pass and are transmuted. I used to be more or less in the first camp, in big part because I couldn't stand the idea that my creations weren't entirely 100% totally trippin' balls MINE, but were the end result of a process that I was simply participating in. If Rand has a bad influence on many people, it's artists who seem to be influenced for the worst. (Okay: Rush were/are fine. But that's the exception, not the rule.)

So, Snyder. I'd known casually about his Objecti-ffection, and while I wouldn't say it was why it made a good deal of his work pompous and insufferable (I still like 4/5ths of Man Of Steel), it seemed clear that it permitted him to continue making the same kinds of mistakes. He's always struck me as someone who has a great sense of how to visualize things, but is not a storyteller. But even when someone else was doing the writing duties, it was clear he was drawn to the kinds of things that allowed him to indulge in his worst excesses again and again. And so here we are.

I don't think Snyder is the worst role model to follow as a creator, as long as you look at the aspects of his work that are actually worth emulating. The same cannot be said of Ayn Rand in any dimension.

Tags: Zack Snyder philosophy