Hal Incandenza’s First Extant Written Comment on Anything Even Remotely Filmic, Submitted in Mr. Ogilvie’s Seventh-Grade ‘Introduction to Entertainment Studies’ (2 Terms, Required), Enfield Tennis Academy, 21 February in the Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken, @ Four Years After the Demise of Broadcast Television, One Year after Dr. James O. Incandenza Passed from this Life, a Submission Receiving Just a B/B+, Despite Overall Positive Feedback, Mostly Because its Concluding ¶ was Neither Set Up by the Essay’s Body nor Supported, Ogilvie Pointed Out, by Anything More than Subjective Intuition and Rhetorical Flourish. This chapter takes the form of Hal’s essay described in the chapter title. Hal discusses the changing concept of the “hero” in North American culture of the 1970s-80s. He compares the “classic” hero of Chief Steve McGarrett in Hawaii 5-0 to the “postmodern” hero of Captain Frank Furillo in Hill Street Blues. Hal discusses both the character traits of the two figures and the technical dimensions of how they are filmed. He notes that class discussions have established that North American audiences prefer the postmodern version of the hero, and predicts that following this archetype there will arise “the hero of non-action.”
There are several metafictional elements to this chapter. Firstly, including the essay is itself a postmodern technique, which links the ideas that Hal is discussing to Infinite Jest itself. Furthermore, Hal himself is something of a postmodern hero. He is certainly a “hero of non-action,” and also subverts the usual status of a hero by the fact that the story isn’t overly focused on him. Rather, he is just one of an enormous ensemble of characters.