Zizek: film reviewer

kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca kenneth.mackendrick at utoronto.ca
Fri Apr 21 07:15:23 PDT 2000

On Fri, 21 Apr 2000 19:55:21 +0930 Catherine Driscoll <catherine.driscoll at adelaide.edu.au> wrote:

> Isn't the ethical extreme appearing in less mainstream film while 'popular'
film presents the simplification into moral poles only what people generally expect from these film genres? I wish he'd actually discussed how the overlapping of the transgressive and the normal is an ethical paradox. That would have been interesting.

True to Zizekian form, I haven't read the film reviews, but... I have an opinion anyway. Contemporary film, mainstream of course, is for Zizek postmodern, which basically means that it has mass appeal and a comforting quality (you can *see* the f/x and therefore don't need to be afraid or anxiety about whatever goes bump in the night)(BTW - the postmodernizing attitude is, strictly speaking, psychotic according to Zizek - the fusion of the Real and the Symbolic - which is the logic of late capitalism). I'm not sure what Zizek means by an ethical extreme (this is where I need to have read the article). Ethics, for Zizek, is a viewpoint from the perspective of radical evil, stemming from the anxiety of guilt imposed on the psyche by the superego (the transgression of an unknown and unknownable law). This isn't a typical way of talking about ethics. Ethics is always in relation to the object of desire, from which notions of good and evil are derived and relative to. I think Fredric Jameson sums it up pretty well: [Lacan's] "Kant avec Sade" transforms the very project of a moral philosohpy into an insoluble intellectual paradox by rotating it in such a way that the implicit gap in it between subject and law catches the light" (Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory, Vol 1, "Imaginary and Symbolic in Lacan" 96).

The ethical paradox: the Real qua traumatic antagonism is the objective factor of subjectivization itself; it is the object which accounts for the failure of every neutral-objective representation, the object which 'pathologizes' the subject's gaze or approach, makes it biased, pulls it askew... the Real qua trauma is not the ultimate 'unspeakable' truth which the subject can approach only asymptomatically, but that which makes every articulated symbolic truth forever 'not-all,' failed, a bone stuck in the throat of the speaking being which makes it impossible to 'tell everything' (probably from Zizek, Plague of Fantasies, Ap. III).

> And there are things I don't think are at all clear in this piece -- what is
our age here?, the ref to postmodern art just confused me given that what he's discussing can't possibly be confined to post 80s culture; and who is we here -- Bosnian nuns and visitors to the Tate gallery are all 'we'? Oh well...

"Our age" would be a flux of premodernizing, modernizing and postmodernizing... Zizek approaches "our age" through the study of philosophical attitudes (ie. mapping ideology) (ie. symptoms) - hysteria and paranoia for the modern, psychosis for the postmodern. The we is stylistic, since the "I" does not exist. "I think."

Basically, "we" and "our" mean nothing. He articulates them as empty signifiers. In Tarrying With the Negative he talks about the revolutionary difference between "We are a people" and "We are THE people." One is relativistic, fragmented, and substantial (and psychotic), the other empty, universal, and meaningless.

Not just a guess, ken

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