The Ancients and the Moderns

Every new age thinks it has invented the world.

So I have now finished watching the Amazon Prime Video series “Modern Love.”

All 8 episodes. And I beg your pardon, there are 8 episodes, not 7 as I said in my earlier post about this series. But then I’m so fuddy-duddy, so not in the right place at the right time.

But. Besides proof positive for my inkling that according to our culture’s Olympian law-givers in New York City “modern” love ONLY happens in New York City — the modern is always deja vu all over again only there — I noticed something more disturbing.

I have been given to understand that only middle-class white liberals can experience and enjoy “modern” love.


EVERY episode of “Modern Love” is about white, middle-class protagonists rooted in New York. Are there any people of color at all in the series?

Of course.

We are not stupid, you know.

There are the requisite, regulation magic black, brown and yellow people. But they are the mise-en-scene, the backdrop, the affirmative eyeline match. The people of color are the interestingly colorful people who intensify the feelings, crises and epiphanies of the white folks. You know what that means. They tell white people what their feelings mean.

But the central consciousness is that of the white, upper middle class New Yorker. A brief reprise of the episodes is in order.

Self-made Indo-British wiz kid discovered by journalists who write for the New York Times Sunday supplement magazine.

Sad white bipolar Vassar graduate with black female life coach, her ‘one’ true friend.

Dopey cute Trust Fund heiress looking for soulful writing career and wanting to really know how the common people live.

(Probably) midwesterner white dude (Ohio? Michigan?) transplant in The City dazzled by all that Nuevo Rican cute bod pizzazz.

Silver-haired runner who finds her soulmate at seventy in a perky and endlessly emotionally providing Asian widower.

Biracial gay or white ‘creative’ Manhattanites who eat out all the time and exercise hard.

White girl overcoming deprived childhood and daddy issues by easy, forgiven lying and a black roommate as witness and absolver.

Shame on you, Amazon.

You know, in the seventeenth century, European high culture staged what was called the Battle of the Ancients versus the Moderns. Put quite simply, it was an argument about whether the ancient Hellenic and Hellenistic cultural gurus had already got it all right, or if the emergent voices of the new post-Reformation bourgeoisie got to say a couple things too. Was it Homer, Aristotle and Virgil forever, or was it okay to see go see The Beggar’s Opera, a play about prostitutes, pimps and Mac the Knife?

Jury’s still split. Like that road above. (That’s the jury’s job; they’re like the bewildered chorus, all emotional and confused). Some think the ancient world with all its patrician certainties about power, privilege class, race, gender and culture was baloney. But “Modern Love,” whomever it represents, is all about status quo, about the dead old white guys. All the moderns are white and complicated and all their enabling friends are black, Asian, hispanic and nice.

But some of us are skeptical.

Last but not least, the concluding montage invokes the trendy literary genre of ‘linked stories.’ Linked stories are, I sometimes feel, great off the cuff rainbow nets flung by talented writers feeling too lazy and uninspired to write a whole novel. But in “Modern Love,” the final copout of the final montage sequence only cinches the lurking suspicion we’ve been having for a while. No spoiler here, though.

That, to be modern, to be worth talking about, to have relationships worth talking about, you gotta live in a West End high-rise with a doorman guarding the gate to the only world worth living in, with other white, liberal, well-groomed, articulate and affluent New Yorkers.

It’s Deja Vu all over again.

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