Nihilism is prevalent in our modern media. Sometimes it’s not that obvious, sometimes it’s only one person in a multi-character TV show/ movie, but most shows have it tucked away somewhere. I made a list of my top five nihilistic TV shows/ movies. I’m sure there’s more and multiple more qualified, however these are the most obvious being some that I’ve watched and/ or have friends that watch. My qualifications for a nihilistic TV show/ movie is a show with a major character or plot element (meaning an event or the entire storyline) that exhibited a refusal to assign significance to core human issues such as A) religious expression, B) sexuality or C) death. Most shows and movies these days exhibit letter B more so than the rest, however there are plenty of options exhibiting all three; I found B and C mainly in the shows that I am exposed to.
The first show is How I Met Your Mother. In How I Met Your Mother the character Barney Stinson fits the criteria for nihilism with his extreme disregard for sexuality and the feelings of others. He has an entire book of “plays” to con and woo women into his one night stands. His life seems to revolve around getting women to have sex with him, then finding a way to get rid of them in the morning once he had been satisfied. He places no significance on these relationships.
The second is Sex and the City. I’ll admit that I have not seen it, I have friends who love the show and I’ve done some research on it and that is how it came to my attention. It seems to be a show focused on sex, much like Barney’s life in How I Met Your Mother. Wikipedia says the following about the tone of the show: “At a birthday party for Miranda, Carrie and her friends decide to start having sex ‘like men’, meaning without all the emotional attachment, which sets the tone for the series.” Sex and the City is yet another sex focused show, adhering to the nihilistic “B” quality.
The third show is Arrow. Arrow takes a different turn than Sex and the City or How I Met Your Mother. Arrow’s main character Oliver moonlights as the masked vigilante known as “the Hood.” Oliver fights to avenge his father’s death using a list of ‘one-percenters’ given to him by his father. He threatens or kills these one-percenters, killing countless guards and innocents that get in his way. This is a clear example of “C” a disregard and lack of significance given toward death.
Number four is Nikita (the CW show). Although the main character, Nikita, has noble intentions and tries to avoid unnecessary killing or promiscuity, another character by the name of Percy has no such intentions. Percy sacrificed people to promiscuity, death and any other service he could sell to in order to get money and high-end clients. His utter disregard for people fulfils both B and C. If he has to send one of his recruits undercover as a prostitute he will, if the recruit refuses or does a poor job, he’ll kill them. He is clearly living like a nihilist.
The fifth and final example is a movie, The Expendables. The Expendables doesn’t need to have much said about it to show its nihilistic properties, the entire thing is. A Group goes on a mission and kills everything and everyone in its way in the most graphic way they can. The example of lack of significance assigned to death was so extreme I nearly turned it off, I didn’t, but looking back I wouldn’t have missed anything if I had.
Those are my five examples of nihilism, many of them especially Nikita ignore religion; however they don’t disregard, mock or challenge others based on religion. It seems that I watch few shows with an example of letter A.