Can We Take Existentialism Seriously? Tony Hancock and The Rebel (1961)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Abstract Existentialism fell out of academic fashion in the 1970s, arguably due to the sense that this philosophy encouraged a crass individualism that could be mobilised to support the introduction of neoliberal economic and political models around the world. Film theory was taking its ideological and neo-Marxist turn around the same time and its roots in Existentialist thought became increasingly embarrassing. At least, that's part of the hypothesis that I am developing in a new project on film and Existentialism. In this talk, I will consider the parodic presentation of Existentialism in Robert Day's 1961 comedy The Rebel, starring the radio star Tony Hancock (perhaps now best remembered for Hancock's Half Hour and committing suicide in 1968). I would like to explore here what we might be able to find of value in Existentialism and to begin to uncover a hidden history of film theory and film-philosophy that might be coming back into style once
Period2 Nov 2022
Held atEdinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Existentialism
  • Film-Philosophy
  • Film Theory
  • Comedy
  • Suicide
  • Television