“‘Nathan for You’ and the New Sincerity Aesthetic”

By Lucas Thompson

Excerpt: “Nathan for You repeatedly suggests that communication in the postmodern era is premised on manipulation and attempts to bypass reason in order to coerce, flatter, wheedle, or trick the consumer into buying particular products. Many of the small-business owners Nathan encounters are perfectly willing to employ such insidious methods to generate higher profits, but—crucially—they also seem willing to use these methods in other human interactions as well, thereby confirming Jameson’s claim that capitalism’s insatiable appetite for new objects, experiences, and bodies to commodify is at the heart of postmodernism. This transition, in which others come to be perceived as potential consumers, is often unconscious—as when a taxi cab driver tells Nathan that he values profits over customer safety. Nathan often draws such hidden and unacknowledged beliefs out of his subjects. A local car-wash owner, for instance, objects on decidedly odd grounds to the male stripper Nathan has brought in during a Punk’d-style prank. ‘A guy stripper, that’s not really going to be a cool thing to have,’ the owner Khalil says, stressing that his objections are solely due to his position as a ‘businessman.’ Similarly, a mild-mannered seniors’ travel agent agrees to what Nathan describes as ‘a last-ditch effort to squeeze out as much as you can from your customers before they’re gone for good.’”

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