Adorno’s marriage to the idea that whole series of closed systems are doomed to fail due to the inherent illusion that must take place in order for a closed system to exist is pounded out in a pointed and often contradictory fashion, if not convoluted. In this Adorn-ian way that he goes about making his point(s) the use of language is and can be at times unclear which in a way is “showing” us his point as much, maybe more, than actually “telling” his point. The idea that the more he explains a point the further he actually gets away from it, is a perfect example of the representation of language as a commodity, in that words no longer hold a valued meaning unless tied to the predominant enclosed system to which everyone is tied. In his words, “A writer will find that the more precisely, conscientiously, appropriately he expresses himself, the more obscure the literary result is though, whereas a loose and irresponsible formulation is at once rewarded with certain understanding,” (101).
Much like Adorno in the ways of attacking this issue, Linklater takes another, “outside” mode to the conventional way of making film to illustrate the issue of letting the points make themselves within the viewer and not making the point as writer/creator/artist. Not having a finely etched narrative to hang its coat on, so to speak, allows the film to follow the currents of discourse, that while having a very familiar casualness to them in tone or inception of how they come about, are nevertheless not conventional conversations to the majority in the predominant capitalist system in which we, in the U.S. are so prevalently tied to. The casualness that pervades throughout Slacker is an interesting device that allows the mostly unreferenced conversations or even monologues to have a thread running through them that keeps the narrative-starving audience at bay. Though not the conversations themselves, the “flow” of the film is similar to the Adorno notion of, “Shoddiness that drifts with the flow of familiar speech is taken as a sign of relevance and contact,” (101), replace “familiar speech” with just the word “familiarity” and you get my point hopefully.
Adorno goes on in the same passage under Morality and style, “anything specific, not taken from pre-existent patterns, appears inconsiderate, a symptom of eccentricity, almost of confusion” (101). The scene in the restaurant/café when the woman is directly addressing the coffee-drinker guy, there is no reference to what she is speaking about or to, although addressing him. There is no “pre-existent” pattern or reason for her speech and is therefore deemed or taken by the guy, if not the viewer/audience, as “inconsiderate” as he shuffles off in whatever form of irritation (buzz word) or confusion he feels. The same could be said of the “conspiracy” guy (Batman T-shirt guy) who follows, almost badgering, another guy who is listening but surely intent upon his destination to politely shake the guy. The conversation (or more accurately, monologue) is one of subversive content, seemingly, and is lost in the verboseness with which the “conspiracy” guy speaks. One can pick up on what he saying, but the friendly yet badgering manner “symptom of eccentricity” is more memorable than the specific, out of context speech he leaves behind. Once again asserting that, “Vague expression permits the hearer to imagine whatever suits him and what he already thinks in any case” (101).
The continuing point of the commodification, or the lack of value of words in a systemic context, is prevalent and poignant in the ritual scenes of Slacker. As an audience, we do not know the purpose of these rituals; is the son trying to have a remembrance of his mother by burning the pictures, or is he celebrating her departure/death. What do we make of the menstrual cycle demonstration? We never get to hear the point of such a ritualistic display. We as an audience, follow the more important and familiar path of the journey than the words or dialogue themselves. These rituals are deemed important in themselves and are a symbol of de-commodified language in that their mode is singular and unexplained.
In speaking of language, Adorno says, “It turns against the masters who misuse it to command, by seeking to command them, and refuses to serve their interests,” and Linklater’s Slacker is the manifestation of that refusal “to serve their [the masters] interests,” (102). It is filled with characters (if one can call them that) that are independently doing things outside of the commodified structure of their “masters” world. Whether by ritual (and why not keep the typewriter?) or the importance of the conventionally devoid of structure, non-narrative path, atmospheric river, or “bunny paths” over the words used to describe each individual path (Adorno is really getting to me now) the “how” is being shown to the audience, more than being told.