Yet today tragedy has, with few exceptions, dropped from popular entertainment. Whether it is the sentimentalism of the Hallmark Channel, the pyrotechnics of action movies, or the banal idiocy of reality TV, the tragic sensibility is all but lost. This is further compounded by the trivial way in which the language of tragedy is now used in popular parlance. As with defining moment and crisis, the words tragedy and tragic are now expected to perform Stakhanovite levels of linguistic labor. In a world where even sporting defeats can be described as tragedies, rarely do the terms speak of the catastrophic moral crises and heroic falls that lie at the heart of great tragic literature.
Last I checked Christopher Nolan's films have habitually ended with self-deluded men coming to terrible fates they bring upon themselves. James Harleman's Cinemagogue features a piece by Gareth Evans on damned protagonists in the films of Sam Raimi. Let's not forget that to pick a highly non-random example the end of Nolan's film The Dark Knight gives us a Batman who failed to save his childhood friend Rachel, barely managed to capture the Joker a second time after the Joker had coaxed district attorney Harvey Dent into going on a vengeance-fueled killing spree that gets covered up by Commissioner Gordon to create a peace based on a lie.
What if today's society does not believe in a Fall and so does not assent that there is a tragedy of descent, only a tragedy of discovering that as bad as this is, this is all there is? Normally I consider what Trueman writes to be thoughtful and helpful but as someone who's kept at least some moderate tabs on story-telling I wonder if tragedy is as low-profile as Trueman may sincerely think it is. Perhaps we can observe, however, that if a society has fallen so far under and within what Francis Schaeffer might have called the line of despair that Americans distrust both political parties there may yet be room for tragedy.
But it is something I can agree with that distraction or entertainment seems to be what defines the lives of many people. Story can be the real opiate of many people. There's more that could be said about that but not for this blog post.