On The Ricky Litany

I’m a huge fan of Trailer Park Boys, and I was rewatching the movie this afternoon while I was doing some writing. Being that I was writing about the weird things that I write about, the “Ricky says fuck a lot” scene at the very end of the film tricked an alarm in my mind. Here is the scene–it is very not safe for work.

A transcript that I’ve lifted from IMDB says that Ricky says something like this:

Fuck this court. Fuck Jim Lahey. Fuck Randy. Fuck those two idiot cops right there. Fuck suit dummies; as a matter of fact fuck legal aid. Fuck Danny and Terry’s Buffalo Chicken Wings. Fuck all the old wood in here. Fuck the moon, fuck corn on the cob, fuck squirrels. Fuck me, fuck you, fuck everything!

To me, this reads a lot like what Ian Bogost calls a “Latour Litany,” named after Bruno Latour and his writing tic of placing things that are seemingly unrelated in sequence to one another in order to point out connection and (maybe more important) apparent disconnection between those things. These litanies have been used as rhetorical “proof” of a number of things in the internet spheres of OOO and speculative realism–a list of random things (dumptruck, swallow, tearduct, wheat, walrus, photon) is a very on the nose demonstration of Delanda’s flat ontology, for example.

I want to position what I’m calling the “Ricky Litany” up against the much-loved Latour Litany as a way of being totally honest about the way that I see litanies existing in the world.

First, a Latour Litany is never totally random or totally arbitrary. There is always an intentional choice being made on the writing agent who is crafting the litany, and even in the case of Bogost’s “Latour Litanizer,” the possibility space of the litany is delimited by the pages that the human editors of Wikipedia have decided are “solo page worthy.” The Latour Litany always positions itself outside of easy selection or the proclivities of the human, as “revealing” something outside of regular human experience, but that’s merely a mask–it is really specific rhetorical choice inside of the possibility space of what is thinkable to the author at any given time.

Second, the Latour Litany is always political. It is always acting. A list is never merely a list–it is a hierarchy that positions some things in relation to others while purposefully drawing dis/connections between things in the world. “Wagon wheel, car wheel, skateboard wheel, hamster wheel, scooter wheel” meets all of the bare requirements to be a Latour Litany, but it isn’t flashy enough–it doesn’t catch the eye. The drive toward the spectacular litany means that the humdrum (rather than the ironically chosen humdrum) always fails to be included. There’s a lack of a lack of excitement in the Latour Litany, and those purposeful erasures and exclusions ground a politics where philosophy work outside the human takes the shape of the analysis of volcanoes, panda bears, and hot wings instead of blue pebble, red pebble, yellow pebble.

The Ricky Litany owns up to the political agenda that the Latour Litany is forced to disavow. The addition of the verb “fuck” before every object betrays the intentionality behind the act of choosing what is included in the litany. The act of inclusion in a set is never arbitrary. It is always targeted; it is always about rhetorical use value. In addition, the Ricky Litany points to the fact that it is impossible for the speaking subject to speak outside of that subject position. The choice of objects in the Ricky Litany are not chosen from the set of all possible thinkable discrete objects in the human lexicon. Instead, they are chosen from specific histories, from the space around the speaking body, spiraling outward into everything.




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2 Responses to On The Ricky Litany

  1. nickibchic says:

    “Reality” tv at it’s finest. I terribly miss new episodes of Trailer Park Boys!

  2. Black Steve says:

    This makes me think of that article you sent me on the history/practice of philosophy and its implied White male subject. The Ricky Litany highlights the intentionality of every choice and its relation to the speaker.

    Solid stuff, man.

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