Those movies aren't just wryly self-aware and laugh-out-loud funny, they have a lot of heart, but that element is often missing on "Last Man. The premise is pretty easy to figure out from the name of the show, which opens with Phil Miller Will Forte roaming the country looking for any other sign of human life.
With no loved ones or friends left, Phil devolves into a sad Everybro, a bearded schlump who uses the pool of his McMansion as a giant toilet.
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I might have found Phil's slob qualities funny or charming or something if he were even a little bit specific or compelling, but throughout the premiere and in next week's episode, he's little more than a sad sack with extensive facial hair. It's not a problem that Phil's pretty depressed about the end of the world though it's a weirdly tidy apocalypse -- there's no sign of the billions of bodies that you'd think would litter the uninhabited planet. But it is a problem that during the 66 minutes I spent watching this show, I never had much cause to vary my assessment of Phil, who is consistently a self-pitying, predictable bore.
You may have found his attempt to hit on a mannequin funny; I found it vaguely creepy and slightly boring. I should have cared that humanity would have died out if Phil kicked the bucket, but considering the sour impression he makes, I would have been at peace with that development. Occasionally Phil is reasonably interesting and isn't just a generic man-child, but even if I warmed up to the cranky beardo in a big way, the show is still an enormous bummer on the gender front.
If you want to spend some time watching a man roll his eyes and sigh and complain about a woman who's making demands on him, "Last Man on Earth" has got you covered. The last place I expected to find a narrow, nagging cable wife was on a broadcast network comedy made by the "Lego Movie" guys, but life is full of surprises, I guess. It makes me sad and angry to think about how Kristen Schaal's character, Carol, was introduced in the pilot: Phil regains consciousness after passing out and has an intense vision of the woman who is caring for him as he wakes up.
They end up kissing passionately. Then the vision of the first woman fades away and we see that Phil is getting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from Carol. He screams. Any comparison I make between the two actresses will just propagate troubling paradigms about conventional measures of attractiveness, and given how gross the sequence made me feel, I just don't want to go there.
The point is, it's hard for me to think of a reason for that sequence that is justifiable on a comedic or dramatic basis. It's hard to escape the implications of Phil's reaction to Carol in that moment, a reaction that is reinforced in later scenes. In general, "Last Man" appears to be pitying Phil for being stuck with the last woman on Earth -- with the kicker being the idea that he doesn't truly want to have sex with her.
Even after she cleans up his house.
The fact is, the writing for Carol is frequently awful and one-note and generally casts her into the thankless role of the hectoring woman who exists to remind a lead male character of rules, laws and social norms. Because the desire for recognition is what differentiates human and nonhuman animals—what defines the human qua human—and constitutes the motive force of history.
Much depends on the difference between animal and human desire. The animal—and the animal part of man—becomes aware of itself as it experiences a desire, such as the desire for food, which is the consequence of finding itself in a state of hunger. This experience of emptiness is, however, a positive force, for it rouses and disquiets being, moving it from passivity into action.
But whereas animal desire satisfies itself merely by consuming what is in the world, human desire looks beyond what is already at hand. It is awakened by the experience of a lack, but the form of satisfaction it seeks goes beyond the given world of things, forms, affects, and so forth. What might this nonexistent object of desire be?
I want to be what you want. You want me to do the same, and thus there is a battle over whose vision will prevail.
Are Liberals on the Wrong Side of History?
It is this duel between the ravenous empty dualities of desire that leads to the intensification of politics and is the motive force of human history. From this simple diagram of desire and recognition comes the material dialectical unfolding of the world of liberal democracy—or neoliberal capitalism—which begins in the confrontation that produces the master-slave relationship and ends in the universalization of equal recognition.
He put his theory into practice through specific bureaucratic battles to institutionally shape the political and economic world of Europe and the US. But if the dominant image of this theory of desire and democracy begins as a horizon, it ends as something very different. If liberal democracy is the horizon of desire already inscribed in the fight for recognition the orientation and end of human becoming, and thus the end of history itself , then when liberal democracy has been universally achieved, human historical becoming collapses into a satisfied human state of being.
The horizon then becomes what I will call a surround , a form of enclosure without a wall or gate. The surround is without an opening. It is an infinity of homogeneous space and time. To paraphrase Nietzsche, there is no shepherd or herd in the surround. Everyone wants the same because they are the same. Even the hope of the madhouse, as the place where difference is interned, is lost because difference no longer exists.
When humankind finally reaches the horizon it has been producing through the battle for recognition, the thing that emerges is not the same thing that had created it. What had distinguished humans from nonhuman animals changes. The thing that inhabits the surround is not an animal. But it is also not human. The Last Man is the end of Man. In losing the horizon of desire, man became a kind of post-man.
When the wall falls and the horizon collapses, man receives the package he had sent himself when first starting out on his journey.
But the recipient is as foreign to the human who sent the package as the human was from the animal. Raymond Queneau tried to capture the existential state of satisfaction in his novels, and Georges Bataille attempted to find some way of intensifying life in the surround of satisfaction through blood and sacrifice, entrails and excrement. And here I think we can see how a dominant image of human history, and human political intensification in particular, has come to dominate human becoming. It does not matter whether the horizon is out there in a reachable or unreachable form. It does not matter whether the horizon is there before we start our journey or is constituted from the activity of walking.
Will Forte explains what would've happened if The Last Man On Earth had continued
It does not matter whether the horizon is figured as a wall, a frontier, a checkpoint, or a fence. The human production of an image of human becoming and being as a future in which a limit—or condition—has been achieved has led to a reduction of our capacity to imagine alternative images of human becoming. Images of history have a habituated feeling to them. The habituated affects of the image of a horizon were on full display in two material collapses that occurred decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Perhaps universal recognition either had not arrived in the form of Western democracy, or this system had a radical new context in which to unfurl its form, meaning, and legitimacy.
After the Last Man: Images and Ethics of Becoming Otherwise
Maybe we were not in a surround but were instead surrounded by something that could be overcome. Maybe something could still be done. Note how these questions do not disturb the political imaginary of recognition so much as they merely change its clock. Being remains enclosed, if not by a political form of government democracy , then by an economic form of compulsion. Celebrations of democratic spring across the Arab world were soon followed by the installation of technocratic rulers in Italy and Greece, with global pundits celebrating the ability to bypass the democratic function.
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Rather than neoliberal finance unveiling its internal limits in a global market, democracy has all but given way throughout Europe and has never seemed to be needed in China. If democracy is the back of history, there seems to be no front to neoliberal being. How do we think about the sources of the political otherwise when being seems trapped in an enclosure rather than having a front or a back?
Where are the sensuous modes of becoming within the global circulations of being that have defined modern politics and markets, if not in a horizon? For some time now scholars have been thinking about the concept of circulation in relationship to the making and extinguishing of social worlds. Why do some forms move or get moved along? And finally, how is social space itself the effect of competing forms and formations of circulation? Given the profound influence of my indigenous colleagues and friends on my thinking, it is no surprise that the dominant image of circulation I have is of a stringbag, or wargarthi in Emiyenggel, an indigenous language of the northwest coast of Australia.
A stringbag is formed through a reflexive, dense to semi-dense weave.