I can pop open a copy of Slavoj Žižek’s Interrogating the Real to a random page and I am suddenly ping-ponging from critique of Kant, to a high-five for the “vulgar sentimental” literary kitsch of today, to “the tradition of amour courtois,” to “a completely unreadable” novel called Indecent Obsession, all within the space of four sentences. I may not have any earthly idea what to make of this connect-the-dots, but I want to know what it means. I can look over at the shelf and see on it a volume called The Monstrosity of Christ, a respectful yet tenacious dialogue-slash-debate on Christianity between dialectical materialist Žižek and “radical orthodox” theologian John Milbank. Just in this casual, cursory glance, I might conclude: this is no cranky village atheist (or Marxist as the case may be). This is a psychoanalytic Marxist theorist of breadth. And I haven’t even touched on his extensive engagement with Hollywood film.
It is this magnanimous, playful, and hyper-engaged side of Žižek—that and his unflagging sense of humor and highly visible public persona—that makes him seem approachable. Even if, as the interviewer in the Vice encounter with Žižek above says, “most of [his books] remain impenetrable” to many readers, he is undoubtedly “the most broadly popular anti-capitalist philosopher working today.” The occasion for the interview: a 2012 documentary film starring Žižek called The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, which opens November 1st in the U.S.. Directed by Sophie Fiennes and a follow-up to 2006’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, the film has Žižek deploy his rapid-fire referencing ability to “explain why the bulk of us remain enslaved to capitalist power structures.” His material, as with The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, is once again classic Hollywood films like Full Metal Jacket, The Searchers, Taxi Driver, The Sound of Music, and The Last Temptation of Christ. Žižek even takes on such recent, less classic, blockbusters as I Am Legend and The Dark Knight. (Something covered in our recent post.) In the interview above, staged in Žižek’s cozy Slovenian flat, see the philosopher in typically animated style poke fun at himself as he discusses the newest film’s intentions, expands on his revolutionary analyses, and gestures maniacally about the apartment while offering his guest a “f*cking fruit juice.”