... and so on and so on: Slavoj Žižek

Posted by Charles Reece, September 6, 2008 06:04pm | Post a Comment

Since I used Slavoj Žižek's latest book, Violence, in my discussion of the latest Batman flick, I figured why not link to this recent interview Michael Krasny conducted with the man himself. Just push 'play' for the best stand-up comedian of today:

Therein you will hear Žižek discuss, among other things, The Dark Knight (ideology at its purest), violent video games (he lets his 7 year old play Grand Theft Auto, but is wary of Disney films), rape (why masochists would be the most traumatized), Hugo Chavez (how authoritarians are as pragmatic as everyone else), the mystery of Stalinism (why Stalinists terrorized themselves), the honesty of fascism (it kept its promise to kill minorities), and so on and so on. Theory comes out as flakes on the corners of his mouth -- philosophy as a 3-day meth binge.

While I'm at it, here's some more fun stuff:

From his
Q&A with the Guardian:

Cultural criticism is now second only to being in a rock band as the great
equalizer: Žižek with fourth wife, Analio Hounie, an Argentinian
model who just happens to like reading Lacan.

What makes you depressed?

Seeing stupid people happy.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

That it makes me appear the way I really am.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Standing naked in front of a woman before making love.

What does love feel like?

Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.

What or who is the love of your life?

Philosophy. I secretly think reality exists so we can speculate about it.

DVDs about and/or by him:

Regarding The Pervert's Guide: "The project came about when the British filmmaker Sophie Fiennes (sister of the actors Ralph and Joseph) proposed a documentary structured around film clips, one that would allow Mr. Žižek to riff on a pet topic: the workings of cinematic fantasy. He eagerly agreed to conduct what is in essence an illustrated film-studies lecture. The title springs from his assertion that cinema is 'the ultimate pervert art.' As he puts it: 'It doesn’t give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire.'"

Regarding Žižek!: "Never ceasing to observe the paradoxes that underpin our perception of reality, little goes untheorized over the course of the film, particularly Žižek's recurring themes -- ideology, belief, revolution, and love. But Žižek is also unafraid to turn his critical gaze on himself, astutely analyzing his private life for the camera and contemplating on his conflicted relationship to his growing celebrity."

Regarding The Reality of the Virtual: "In this tour de force filmed lecture, he lucidly and compellingly reflects on belief -- which takes him from Father Christmas to democracy -- and on the various forms that belief takes, drawing on Lacanian categories of thought."

From the Children of Men DVD:


Finally, the premier film scholar, David Bordwell, is not a fan:

"At some point someone is likely to say that Žižek is elusive because he’s playful. His flights of fancy try to get you to think outside the box; he’s a provocateur. I suppose this comes down to taste, but I find Žižek not provocative at all. Praising Lacan, Lenin, and Mao seems to me not rebellion but a retread. And we come at some point to a matter of sincerity. When is he not being playful? When is he putting forth a claim he’s committed to? [...]

'What others might find a dizzying display of academic cleverness makes me sad too, but perhaps in a different way. Are we wasting our time in expecting Žižek to offer reasonable arguments? Fundamental questions of responsibility arise here, especially in relation to a writer not hesitant to condemn the beliefs and actions of others. It’s tedious to be lectured on morality and ethics from someone who casually announces petty acts of deceit, like sneaking out of office hours or fooling gullible academics who are eager to take a master’s every word as a revelation. [...]

'As with many contemporary theorists, Žižek’s dominant register is what Frederick Crews has called ponderous coyness. His humor is academic, and academic humor is to humor as military intelligence is to intelligence. [...]

'Cutely illustrating an ontological concept through mundane instances seems to make for a user-friendly approach. In every appreciation of Žižek, there is a sentence somewhere marveling at how his vision sweeps from lofty abstraction to pop-culture examples. “He takes in subjects including national cuisines, the Cathar heresy and the literature and film of the GDR, citing Plato, Hegel, Derrida, Heidegger and more” (Monroe, “Fright of Real Theory”). But such potshot erudition is in fact quite easily achieved, as Umberto Eco showed long ago. If academics are this easily impressed by name-dropping, no wonder Žižek’s bluffs find success. And from this standpoint, Žižek’s claim that correct thought moves from universal concepts to singular manifestations can be seen to serve the strategic purpose of justifying his grandiloquent rhetorical leaps from the sublime to the ridiculous, from Leninist strictures on violence to anti-smoking legislation. [...]"

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Dvd Criticism (26), Slavoj Žižek (5)