Slavoj Žižek’s Pervert’s Guide to Ideology Decodes The Dark Knight and They Live

Do we have a more ener­getic com­men­ta­tor on pop­u­lar cul­ture than Slavoj Žižek, the Sloven­ian phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor who has risen to the role the Chron­i­cle of High­er Edu­ca­tion calls “the Elvis of cul­tur­al the­o­ry”? In the 2006 essay film The Per­vert’s Guide to Cin­e­ma, Žižek offered psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic read­ings of such pic­tures as The Red ShoesAlien, and The Matrix. (See him take on Ver­ti­go in a clip fea­tured here before.) Now he returns with a sequel, The Per­vert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy. At the top, you can see him expound upon the role of ide­ol­o­gy in They Live, John Car­pen­ter’s 1988 sci­ence-fic­tion semi-com­e­dy in which wrestler “Row­dy” Rod­dy Piper hap­pens upon a pair of sun­glass­es that, when worn, reveal a host of sin­is­ter alien com­mand­ments behind adver­tis­ing and the media. “These glass­es func­tion like cri­tique-of-ide­ol­o­gy glass­es,” Žižek asserts.“We live, so we are told, in a post-ide­o­log­i­cal soci­ety. We are addressed by social author­i­ty not as sub­jects who should do their duty, but sub­jects of plea­sures: ‘Real­ize your true poten­tial,’ ‘Be your­self,’ ‘Lead a sat­is­fy­ing life.’ When you put the glass­es on, you see dic­ta­tor­ship in democ­ra­cy.”

Just above, Žižek looks into the ide­ol­o­gy of The Dark Knight, Christo­pher Nolan’s sec­ond Bat­man movie. “Who is Jok­er?” he asks. “Which is the lie he is oppos­ing? The tru­ly dis­turb­ing thing about The Dark Knight is that it ele­vates a lie into a gen­er­al social prin­ci­ple: the prin­ci­ple of orga­ni­za­tion of our social, polit­i­cal life, as if our soci­eties can remain sta­ble, can func­tion, only if based on a lie, as if the truth — and this telling the truth is embod­ied in Jok­er — means destruc­tion.” Last year at the Toron­to Inter­na­tion­al Film fes­ti­val, Žižek par­tic­i­pat­ed in an on-stage con­ver­sa­tion about the project (intro­duc­tion, part one, two), “explain­ing” in his inim­itably round­about fash­ion some of the think­ing behind these cin­e­mat­ic cul­tur­al analy­ses. The Per­vert’s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy also uses oth­er big-name movies like Taxi Dri­ver, Titan­icWest Side Sto­ry (and Jaws, some of which you can see him com­ment briefly upon in the trail­er) as jump­ing off points for extend­ed mono­logues on the unseen forces that he finds shape our beliefs and behav­ior. Unseen, of course, unless you’ve got those super­pow­ered sun­glass­es — or unless, even more uncon­ven­tion­al­ly, you’ve got a mind like Slavoj Žižek’s.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Žižek!: 2005 Doc­u­men­tary Reveals the “Aca­d­e­m­ic Rock Star” and “Mon­ster” of a Man

Good Cap­i­tal­ist Kar­ma: Zizek Ani­mat­ed

Slavoj Žižek: How the Marx Broth­ers Embody Freud’s Id, Ego & Super-Ego

A Shirt­less Slavoj Žižek Explains the Pur­pose of Phi­los­o­phy from the Com­fort of His Bed

After a Tour of Slavoj Žižek’s Pad, You’ll Nev­er See Inte­ri­or Design in the Same Way

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (3)
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  • Louis Goldworm says:

    many mes­sage’s sent to us to try to con­trol peo­ple’s thought’s.

  • Louis Goldworm says:

    Slavoj u017diu017eeku2019s Pervertu2019s Guide to Ide­ol­o­gy Decodes The Dark Knight and They Live Wow !!! Human nature to con­trol, or the illu­sion of con­trol: Moth­er, and Father pro­vid­ing for their chil­dren, Gov­ern­ment look­ing out for the good of the peo­ple, the prob­lem with this is it requires some faith by the child, or the peo­ple. Faith involves trust, and trust makes you open, enters our bad guy, The stab in the back, the old dou­ble cross.…too easy, almost as if it were writ­ten in the script …

  • elgado says:

    I was very sur­prised to see how much Zizek’s thought shares with that of Rene Girard, despite Girard’s high­ly ambiva­lent atti­tude towards Freud. Indeed, Zizek’s take on scape­goat­ing in the Dark Knight, and, more impor­tant­ly, the athe­ist import of Jesus’ death on the cross, makes this film very well worth com­par­ing with Girard’s “Things Hid­den Since the Foun­da­tion of the World.” Great film.

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