Horsehair Worm: The Epic

fish under ice.

From Kentucky Meat Shower #18.

I started seeing people about five years younger than me make fun of people my age overusing the word epic. Then I saw Will Menaker claim that people sold people on Parasite as an “epic guillotine” movie. It made me begin to consider the possible effects of the hollow victory proclaimed in epic, and how in many ways it was another form of social media breeding interpassivity. I was influenced by Jodi Dean’s “Communicative Capitalism: Circulation and the Foreclosure of Politics” and by my own contrary nature. At the time, I felt I needed to push the bounds of my own voice as much as possible. I was trained in the stuffy E.B. White and Strunkian English, and the absolute opposite of that was my entrancement with Walter Benjamin and Mark Fisher. Under that influence, I began to see epic as a sort dominant mode in our capitalist realist culture, and with that, I felt that there was a political dimension to attacking it.

Since then, I’ve continued reading the Marxist catalogue, with about four months last year spent deeply reading Antonio Gramsci’s The Prison Notebooks. A lot of hash has been made of Gramsci’s turn towards cultural critique while in prison, which is an overall an argument about how socialist politics should proceed towards culture. Some people view this as a retreat from politics. These people are, of course, dipshits. Is the creation of culture not material? This does not mean you have to write sub-Jacobin dreck about Hazbin Hotel being about restorative justice or Stalin “engineers of the human soul” rhetoric. But considering Engels considered Balzac a great materialist, just a monarchist one, I know who would have my back and who wouldn’t.


To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a daemoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons—the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.– HP Lovecraft, “Nyarlathotep”

There is no ideology on its face safe from this. Though it’s aesthetic burrowing, it supersedes and vulgarizes the thought and leaves it a husk. It most resembles a horsehair worm, but beneath that, we’re talking about the spectacle. But just as the Godhead and its parts must be delineated, we must do the same to the spectacle.

So let’s name it. We are talking about “the epic”, which we will differentiate from “epics”. Beowulf, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms are epics. They are not the epic. An example of the epic will be linked.


Here’s the tweet. The context we need is this: for liberals, the battle between Jen Psaki and Pete Doocy, with Pete Doocy often being made a fool of (give me a quarter and his ear and I could do it too), has been turned into an inexorable pun: a Psaki Bomb. What we see here is that the play fighting of two ideologies, centrist liberalism and modern American conservatism, despite combat that often shapes the tenor of American life for decades, has been reduced into a concentrated and cheap form like crack cocaine, with heels and faces readymade and the pops built in, applause piped in from prior successes and stars. But what is most unique about this is the air of self-congratulation. In accepting the existence of the Psaki bomb, Dave Bautista is congratulating himself for accepting by calling upon the authority of Jen Psaki’s divine smiting of Pete Doocy and feels like he, too, is dropping a Psaki bomb on Pete Doocy. Because Dave Bautista is on the winner’s team, he has the ability to congratulate himself. This is the epic: the exaltation of a subject so as to celebrate ourselves.

Now, on the other side of the aisle. The dawn of the Age of the Epic (which can only dawn during the society of the spectacle) may have been Donald Trump’s proclamation: “we’re going to win so much you’re going to be sick of winning.” In this statement, Trump declared that victory was inevitable, that those exalting him would win to the point they’d be sick of it. The goal was to make everyone sick: its final victory was boredom. What he imagined as a boredom was instead a soul sickness. Trump’s election was, via exaltation, a celebration of the emptiest urges in American society. The epic, in its elevation of acts not worthy of the tag, puts us into a constant soul-sickness and an aesthetic dyspepsia brought on by looking beyond the horizon and only seeing our faces, looking back dumb. It is this dumbness that the epic aspires to, a narcotized refractory period. Barack Obama had epic moments. Trump was a President of the Epic.

There is no moral belief to the epic. It merely asks for puppets. From a vantage point Jen Psaki is epic, as is Donald Trump, as is Ryan Reynolds, as is Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, as is Vladimir Lenin, as is Francisco Franco, Pinochet, Gonzalo, Marcos, Obama, Palin, Gritty.  The epic asks to assume victories not yet won. It feels so good it feels bad.  It seeks to eradicate materialism to create the perfect subject, a narcotized consumer purchasing only images.  The epic is not Che Guevara or a Che Guevara t-shirt. But put sunglasses on Che and a blunt in his mouth  and you have the epic.

The apotheosis of the epic is the gigachad meme. If you feel like you’re having a stroke reading the sentence “the apoethesis of the epic is the gigachad meme”, you’re healthier than I am, but allow me to introduce you to how much worse your life can get. The gigachad meme is a meme where a yoked man grins and captioned something to the effect of “why yes, I am x, how could you tell.” (He is named chad because of some unfuckable twit crying about women wanting to fuck Chad Thundercocks or some stupidity). The point to the joke is put something true about yourself in the place of the x. How blunt of an exaltation can you get, and by that exaltation, how much of a celebration of the self there is? You can put anything in the x. “Why, yes, I’m a welder.” “Why, yes, I am a Broncos fan.” “Why yes, I have a diaper fetish.” The image is not arbitrary, but the caption is. All that matters is that image and the feeling and the temporary feeling of superiority. And in an age of image, a yoked man who enjoys everything from the history of the Fourth International to hot sauce is a God.


God this shit sucks so much. Imagine thinking you’re cool posting this. Really. Imagine living your entire fucking life on the computer and whenever somebody says you’re stupid for liking Xbox you say “Why yes, I enjoy Xbox. Why do you ask.” And post this. If you haven’t punched somebody in the last five years you’re not allowed to post this. No fucking tolerance for this blight of a meme.

It even has a way of dealing with its opposites. When “epic” as an interjection was coined, it came with it an interjection for what ever was not epic: “fail”. These are not opposites, these are the side of each coin. Fail carries within its failure a vision of success. In fact, the straining for the epic creates fail. And as the epic exalts the subject that we celebrate ourselves through, fail damns the subject we put ourselves against. Our litany above of Lenin, Franco, etc, too can all be deemed with fail depending on the vantage point. Context is jettisoned and we only have vulgar and dumb tribalism adhering to image like baboons to the herd mate with the reddest ass. The differences of Lenin and Franco are not differences under the gaze of the epic. Through its flattening that becomes flattery of those who take on the victories  there is not actual principle beyond the all American urge to feel good all the time by both casting “epic” for what we love and “fail” for what we hate.

Fail, in its stuffy schoolmarm tone registers disapproval of the venture. Urban Dictionary, really as good as any dictionary in this sphere, nails the definition to the wall. Fail is “either an interjection used when one disapproves of something, or a verb meaning approximately the same thing as the slang form of suck.” The word we should key in on is disapproval. If epic is the approval, fail is the disapproval. Its connotations have been recorded, and can be called upon if there’s doubt. Interjecting “bad” does not equal interjecting “fail”, as fail is already tinged with disapproval, just as epic is tinged with approval. But there are times when interjecting “bad” can count as another mask of the epic.

We must go back to Donald Trump. Witness how Donald Trump saying “wrong” into a mic during a debate with Hilary Clinton became an infamous gif. But in the sphincter like o of his face as he speaks that simple word what comes through him is the epic. It’s not hard to imagine, were Trump a more culturally savvy presence, that instead he would say “fail”. And where we find that fail could be said, we find the epic not far off. This even extends to its newest form: cringe versus based. To interject either, we are again in the same thing, parasitic forms zombified by their infection.

In an age of image, there is nothing that can fight it off other than a destruction of that age. Until then, everything solid will turn epic. The goal, amongst others, is to lick shots at the grand image. It is webs of context. From here to eternity.

I will never be epic.