Extract from Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $34.99. Hear Cathy speak at the upcoming Antidote talk #StopAsianHate.
The legacy of Holden Caulfield’s arrested development has dominated the American culture industry, from the films of Steven Spielberg and Wes Anderson to the fiction of Jonathan Safran Foer. In the mid-aughts, there was even a short-lived movement called New Sincerity, where artists and writers thought that it would be a radical idea to feel. “To feel” entailed regressing to one’s own childhood, when there was no Internet and life was much purer and realer. Though they prized authenticity above all else, they stylized their work in a vaguely repellent faux-naïf aesthetic that dismissed politics for shoe-gazing self-interest.
Wes Anderson was once classified as a New Sincerity filmmaker. I recently rewatched his Moonrise Kingdom, which, as one blogger noted, is as pleasurable and light as a macaron. Filtered through aging-postcard lighting, Moonrise Kingdom is as much an exhibition of found nostalgic souvenirs as it is a story, with memorable curios like a sky-blue portable record player and a Wilson tennis ball canister of nickels. Anderson’s fastidious Etsy auteurship is to be admired, but Anderson is a collector, and a collector’s taste is notable for what he leaves out. Sometimes nonwhite characters, mostly quiet Indian actors decked out in the elaborate livery of the help, have appeared in Anderson’s other films. But in the safe insulated palette of Moonrise Kingdom, there is no hint of the Other. The characters are all mid-century white, the scrubbed white of Life magazine ads.