Adorno, Slackers and Language Exchange

In both the excerpt from Adorno and the film Slackers, the idea of language as a commodity is explored and how valuable it actually is. Adorno writes “A word is seldom banal on it’s own…the most abominable cliches are combinations words…utterly and completely, for better or for worse, implemented and effected,” (85). If a word is never obvious by itself, then it holds a lot of value based on the many interpretations it could have as opposed to a word that is less valuable if it has only one interpretation. Additionally, words lose value when they’re commonly used with words they’re familiar with. Using multiple words to essential reach the same interpretation diminishes the product as a whole. This would make sense because Adorno reinforces the idea that the length of text doesn’t matter, specifically, “should the finish text, no matter of what length, arouse even the slightest misgivings, these should be taken inordinately seriously,” (86) Tying this back into the value of words, if you’re sentence is forcing an interpretation, that would be a “misgiving” and should be taken seriously because it’s hurting the value of your language.

In turn, this thinking would imply that speaking with fewer words is actually more valuable because the importance of finding the value in each word is even greater. A longer sentence with larger words doesn’t equate to knowledge even though we’re conditioned to believe that. If anything, repetitious words and phrases only attempt to qualify the interpretation one is trying to reach in their writing. Exchange of language (and any other sort of capital) is at it’s most effective when it’s efficient and dealing with the smallest representation of capital available.

So how does this apply to the language and conversation in Slackers? Well if we look at the film’s scenes collectively, a common plot device we see throughout would be the use of declarations through speech. For instance whether it’s the talkative taxi driver in the beginning who walks with the young man for several minutes sort of rambling or the waitress in the cafe who repeats the same general message, “you shouldn’t sexually traumatize women,” they’re both attempting to convince the individuals of some truth. Where we see the value of language is while the taxi driver talks for what seems like forever, you never really get substance in his message other than conspiracy theories and that somebody is always “watching” us. The young man appears very disinterested and doesn’t want to spend capital in the form of time listening to him. On the other side, we see the waitress utter one sentence composed of five words. The man reading the newspaper, becomes intrigued and only loses interest when the waitress becomes flustered. Two forms of exchange through language with the more successful one being the more efficient and concise.

However in that example we saw the variable of the man’s interest not only being effected by the content of the message but also how it was delivered. There’s something to be said of the value of language not only being placed in meaning but also delivery. Adorno writes, “The poor chew words to fill their bellies…they maim the body of language, and so repeat in the impotent strength the disfigurement inflicted upon them,” (102). If we look at the final scene of the movie we have a man with speakers attached to his car belting out what appears to be support for a purge. The first viewing his words sound like noise muffled in his make-shift microphone. The disfigurement inflicted upon this man stems from his being an outcast, driving aimlessly and never declaring a destination. However, even though we understand his message he has “maimed” language with talk of a “fucking mass gun give away.” The value in his language stems in his ability to have a mobile broadcast. I think this highlights the importance of not only the value of language, but how we assess that value when taking language in or receiving it.