Horizons Worth Pursuing: A Discussion on Metamodernism and its Applicability in Activist Discourse

Metamodernism, in the article “Notes on Metamodernism” by authors Timotheus Velmeulen and Robin van den Akker, is the title given to the post-postmodern view of the current generation. It is based on a concept of calculated idealism which shifts between, at times combines, and thereby diverges from modern pragmatism and utopism and postmodern nostalgia and skepticism of grand truths. Modern reason is juxtaposed with postmodern sentiment to engender an optimistic view of the future that is motivating but unattainable. The works resulting from the metamodern perspective reflect upon the history and state of the world and rediscover new possibilities within it. These possibilities are expressed in the portrayal of the ordinary and familiar world as something that is implausibly striking but is thought-provoking or hopeful nevertheless.

While Velmeulen and van den Akker describe these portrayals through examples in architecture, art, and film, I want to explore how metamodernism can function as a tool for social activism through literature. An example that comes to mind is the children’s book “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads” by Johnny Valentine in which two kids, one from a more traditional family and the other having blue dads, realize that their families are more similar than they first expected.

In this story, the ordinariness and familiarity of parents are infused with mystery and unfamiliarity by the added characteristic of blue skin. However, through the emphasis on blue skin and a simultaneous lack of emphasis on the parents’ homosexuality, same-sex parents are underlined as commonplace and familiar. However, as same-sex parents often receive little representation in the media, in real life they are frequently seen as more mysterious and unfamiliar than how the book presents them. Therefore, countering this reality, “One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads” uses the fantastical to suggest a metamodern possibility wherein, ideally, heteronormativity does not exist. However, in realistically considering the long history of homophobia in society, this possibility, as Velmeulen and van den Akker would put it, is “a [pursued] horizon that is forever receding.” Nonetheless, it is my argument that this horizon, and others like it, is worth the trouble of the chase; despite its unattainability, it reminds us of the world we ought to shape ours to be.

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