SNP’s word of the day: Anodyne

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Anodyne

Meaning: Inoffensive, deliberately bland (adj.); pain or distress-easing medication (n.)

Usage: “I see the awful hands of faith, the credulous and worn hands of believers; the humble and beseeching hands of the millions and millions who have only the anodyne of credulity.” — Katherine Anne Porter, a Depression-era writer

You should know it because: I was thinking about this year’s Oscar nominations, and for weeks—well, for however long it’s been since they were announced—I couldn’t figure out why they bothered me so much. It wasn’t just because I didn’t think they were the best films (um, Melancholia), or because they were too “mainstream,” because I find that as senseless a clichéd jab as “pretentious.” No, it’s because the films don’t say anything. The Artist was heralded as a triumph of cinema, but all it did was glory in a facile, frankly ahistorical pastiche of prologue. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close deals with 9/11 in an incredibly light-handed way; even thinking about watching it I feel sick. And I’m not even a New Yorker. The Tree of Life is a Malick film, a slow-gaze sensory epic on the scale of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I have to wonder how many of the Oscar voters got through it. That would be my pick for the win, because it was the only film that asked questions of its audience and did not provide necessarily happy answers. Still, I found it bizarrely religious, and if you (like me) left Tree of Life feeling high, it’s because religion is the opiate of the masses.

To use a lovelier word, religion is anodyne. As a noun it means medicine, or more specifically, painkiller. As an adjective it means inoffensive, intended not to shock. Consider the recent surge in chill-wave music, consider the success of the blandest politician ever, Mitt Romney, consider the Oscar noms: equivalents of painkillers, all. That’s why I hate The Artist more than I could hate even the shlockiest horror film starring Ashton Kutcher and a zombie Tara Reid: it’s good only by avoiding bad taste. It succeeds only because we don’t want to like anything difficult. We don’t want the headache of thinking about something; we vote for anodynes.