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FIRST THOUGHT BEST THOUGHT

OK, I'm going to say just what I am thinking about that Zizek prog last night while I am still half asleep and not really censoring myself; you know, say what you really think, as if your analyst just said, oh, drop the college professor bullshit, what did it make you feel...?

Well, my first thought is: I can remember both too much and too little about it.
On the one hand, in comparison with something like Lacan's Television (and a couple of other lectures, which I was somehow awake and canny enough to VHS in the mid 80s when C4 used to show stuff like that where now it'd be a ha-ha panel game with Jimmy Carr) or the couple of Derrida 'appearances' I have on tape ("so I say 'vivre les phantoms!'") it struck me as Fast Food Theory; it went down without touching the sides. It snagged no part of me. Whereas I have spent 20 years returning to L & D, returning, working out, being haunted by, I had forgotten SZ in 12 hours. Well, apart from the zingy two-liners I wish I could forget but can't, like that closing comparison of the cinema screen to a toilet bowl, which wasn't the first time in the programme I started to wonder if the real Zizek that everyone worships was tied up in a basement (or, 'abasement'?) somewhere and this whole Perverts Guide To Cinema was a Paul Whitehouse piss-take. (Like some of those wonderfully accurate "Mmmm: nice" Jazz Club skits.) I know we are supposed to be above such things and shouldnt mention it, but what's with the cheap false teeth or whatever it is causes him to pronounce all his Sz as SH's? ("Show we sheee clearly wish SHyco...") and means that he comes across as even more of a cliche Whacky Euro Prof than he would anyway? I might not have mentioned it if he himself hadnt spent so much time talking about how we get hung up on voices etc as bloody 'partial autonomous objects'... and boy, but his own deeply distracting voice had the most schpittily autonomous life of its own...

I guess what really ticks me off, the real difference, is that Lacan and Derrida seem to speak from somewhere else, an elsewhere they give no easy map directions for you to uncover, but which you want to spend time getting to. Whereas Zizek says all those things that academics say that IMMEDIATELY put me on my gaurd as a non-academic: he uses "we" and "us" all the time, without ever specifying who this might be, until you start to suspect that the sole use of the "we/us" module in academic discourse is plainly to make sound reasonable postulations that if uttered as "I believe..." - as in "I clearly believe that we're talking about a toilet bowl here..." or, "I will now use the word 'netherworld' for the fourth time in 10 minutes..." - would seem as fundamentally daft or give-away as they in fact are. And even tho his whole discourse is supposed to be about destabilising mainstream certainty about taken-for-granted things in our life, if you listen or read carefully, the texture of his discourse is made up of hundreds of unproven assertions, a constant mantra in fact, a cross between a crooning seduction and a would be Authoritarian master. "We are clearly in Hitchock territory here..." "We immediately see here..." Hundreds of 'em, on and on and on and on.

But most of all, I have a block. I just cannot get past - fundamentally - the way Zizek and the whole post-Lacanian pro-Zizekian estate, the way they talk about movie characters as if they were real autonmous beings. I dont know what this shift - from talking about psychoanalysis in terms of case studies, in terms of real messy troubled pain filled human subjects and their illogical ways; to talking about Psychoanalysis in terms of the most obvious groovy movies you happened to see lately, as if they were illustrations of real life - signifies, but it makes me deeply suspicious.

(It's at points like this I truly wish I could take the next obvious catty step, like my old colleague Julie Burchill... A step that is at once chastening and bitchy and somehow 99.9% logical, and say something like - and I can just hear her beautiful voice, here, now - "He's just a stupid old man with a beard Penman, who's too scared of women and how messy and illogical they are to deal with them in real life so he becomes a fetishising old movie queen like all the other creepy hobbyhorse bores ... They get into this S&M relationship with American culture and can't admit they just LOVE this OTT sexy stuff like the rest of us old perverts, so they have to draw all these academic castles in the air around it - like you said about Zappa in that brilliant peice, Penman. You're right to have a go at his lisp Penman - no one forced him to neglect the revolution and go on TV with his sexy young go ahead director and her team. Probably thought it'd get him laid - AS IF!!! [Throaty gurgle of JB laughter here.] He's unbelievable, Penman, like a Steve Coogan joke. The Saxondale of Sex/Cult studies! Camille Paglia's BEARDY BEARD...!" and then a wonderful wonderful peal of liberating out-loud laughter.... )

I just can't picture Lacan, somehow, spending an hour of his (and our) time pretending that he knows whats going on in Norman Bates head - or rather, pretending that pretending to know what's going on in Norman Bates head is the mark of a what passes for genius and insight in 2006. Lacan had a word for people who thought they knew what was going on in Movie Characters heads (but probably not their own): they were called PSYCHOTICS (not the much sexier and pitch-selling "PERVERT", oh no) and they never stop PROJECTING. Zizek is a bit like Hitchcock, a bit disappointed by the shabbiness of (his own) Real Life, so tying up all these sexy unreal reel-life blondes in endless loops and bonds and bindings ... except SZ does it with the etiolated lingo of post-Lacanian studies. (I can't help but think he's some kind of unreconstucted Cold War nostalgic, somehow, too, always reading messages for double meanings, on one side sexy blondes with tits like zeppelins in angora jumpers who might be a bit, you know, dominatrixy with you Behind Closed Doors, and on the other a world of Lenin and the sexiness of SamiZdat imports in brown paper covers, always a double meaning to eveything, always a shadow or a code or a clue. And "we" in Zizek are always sitting together in the dark, waiting for the slapstick or sexy Godot of film to appear out of a redemptive Nowhere. Somehow, I always feel as if Zizek is sitting in a Drive In Theater somewhere ... in a car with improbably big, uh, tail fins... (this might be complete bullshit, this lazily 'speculative' line of thought. But N.B. how I preface it not with "We see clearly that Zizek..." but "I..." )

More anon., maybe.
{But Christ if I have to read or hear that beating-yourself-up-before-the-Other-as-liberating-paradigm example from The Fight Club ONE MORE TIME I'll tear his bloody beard out by the roots...

posted by Ian 7/04/2006 09:54:00 AM

Comments:
Could this imagining what JB might say become a regular feature in your blog?
 
A case of the Emperor's new clothes, perhaps?
Thanks for this post. I read Zizek in the LRB from time to time, and always have the uneasy sense of wondering if he really said anything, and if so, what it was.
 
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