Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061



The Psychoanalysis of Satire:

A Short Paper about Aphanisis in

A Short Film about Disappointment


Joshua Mattson's A Short Film about Disappointment (2018) at first appears to be a Pynchonesque, dystopian satire of contemporary American technological distractions, socioeconomic inequality, corporate and governmental propaganda, and geopolitical leadership abdication. An overt critique of the Trump Era's cultural techno-narcissism, aristocratic class divide, and immigration politics, the novel takes place after the Crisis of Confidence that results in the United States being renamed the Underunited States and its major cities being divided up into Safe Zones—where those with high social media status and chip implants that connect them to surveillance satellites live—and ghettos—where those unchipped immigrants from such ruinous places such as Aleppo, Syria live in squalor as indentured servants on semipermanant visas. The acerbic narrator, Noah Body, writes sardonic and ironic film reviews ("watch, seethe, pan") for a barely read news aggregator site called The Central Hub Slaw; and the narrative unfolds over the course of 80 film reviews. Beneath the satirical setting exists a psychological and philosophical novel about identity and art in the mode of Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea, with Roquentin's anguished nausea replaced by Body's bitter wit. An absurd and violent feud over the artistic quality of a Michael Bay-like director covers over the disappointment and despair regarding a melancholic life spent watching commercial media, as Noah Body contends with the loss of desire for his wife, the loss of his wife to his best friend, the loss of bodily control (supposedly to said friend, but really due to an hysterical condition), and ultimately the loss of self as he fades behind the films he reviews in what psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan calls aphanisis. He seeks to refind and reclaim himself through therapy, dating, and directing a capital-A art film. While the novel does not indicate that Noah's film will actually embody art, it does suggest that the act of collaborating on the project, with a friend and a girlfriend, allows the dream of art to counter the pernicious cynicism and nugatory irony of wholesale and generic existence.


This abstract summarizes my presentation, "The Psychoanalysis of Satire: A Short Paper about Aphanisis in A Short Film about Disappointment." Southeast Coastal Conference on Languages & Literatures. Georgia Tech Savannah Campus, Savannah, GA. 11 Apr. 2019.