As in so many of Allen’s movies, Irrational Man is the kind of film where academics pompously toss around names like Kierkegaard and Heidegger and De Beauvoir the way we all did when we were 19, until our dads said they would smack us if we mentioned Camus one more time at the dinner table.
Academics have been popping up on the silver screen an awful lot lately and nobody is entirely sure why.
Why are these women attracted to these bloviating nebbishes? Why do they put up with all this gasbagging about Nietzsche and quarks and black holes and Nazi algorithms? Because smart is sexy. Very, very sexy.
Why are movies about academics so popular? Theories on this subject abound. For starters, contemporary literary fiction is filled with academics, because most fiction writers are academics. Observing Ernest Hemingway’s dictum to write about what they know, they write about themselves. They do not write about pediatricians or chartered accountants or goalkeepers for Derby County or tough customers who work on oil rigs in the North Sea, because those professions lack glitz and panache. Chartered accountants never talk about Heidegger and Kierkegaard. Oil-rig employees never mention Simone de Beauvoir. The crew would toss them overboard if they did.
But in the end, the real reason for the continued veneration of academics by film-makers may be purely economic: films about academics rarely have scenes where Death Stars explode or planets implode or helicopters crash into the sides of mountains, so they’re cheap and easy to make.