The late comedian Rodney Dangerfield was famous for quipping, “I get no respect.” That line showed up in some way, shape, or form in most of the films he was famous for. Dangerfield typically played the role of bumbling but loveable idiot, who somehow managed to come out on top. But even though he came out on top, he still “got no respect.”

Jack Donovan in his book Becoming a Barbarian has a chapter titled “The Empire of Nothing.” In it he offers a compelling critique of our current political and cultural milieu. In fact, he argues that it isn’t so much a culture that is being forwarded but an anticulture where there is no “Emperor, no center and no people.” Instead, the Empire of Nothing is a collection of businesses and institutions that have aligned against identity in some vague hope of “progress.”

In 1985, one year after the year in which the all-encompassing State of Orwell is set, Terry Gilliam released Brazil (on the Criterion Channel until October 31 or for rent on Amazon Prime). It is all the dread and paranoia of Nineteen Eighty-four superimposed with the absurdity of Monty Python. The world of Brazil is ridiculous and absurd. There are large air ducts running through even the nicest houses, and small ducts and tubes everywhere. Everything depends on the ant-like bustle of transferring paperwork from one bin to another, and from that department to this. The Ministry’s SWAT-like apparatus is always ready to execute some arrest order or another, making the next of kin sign receipts, in duplicate at least.