Director: Sophie Fiennes
Cast: Slavoj Žižek
Running time: 136 minutes
Release: 4th October
Feeling in a light-hearted mood? Or feeling delicate and in need of some comfort film-watching? In either case, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is not the film for you. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling slightly brain-numbed and eager for intellectual stimulation, then strap yourself in for an exhilarating ride through the world of cinema, 20th century history and popular culture as interpreted by Slavoj Žižek, the manic Mad Hatter of modern academia.
The movie is a sort-of sequel to Sophie Fiennes and Slavoj Žižek 2006 collaboration, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. It follows much the same format, as in the previous work Žižek uses popular cinema to illustrate his philosophical and Freudian interpretations of the world. In The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Žižek uses films, from Hollywood blockbusters to Nazi propaganda, to convey different aspects of dominant ideology. Nothing is as it seems to the keen eye of Žižek and he relishes the paradoxes that can be read into modern social life. For example, he points out that in a society obsessed with pleasure and enjoyment, psychiatrists are now seeing a rise in people who are overwhelmed with a sense of guilt; not from having too much pleasure, but from feeling as though they are not having enough.
Think Titanic is a romantic movie? Think again. The iceberg hits the ship just after Rose tells Jack she will get off the boat with him. Really, there would have been no happy-ever-after for them; after three weeks in a roach-filled apartment with Jack, she would have been running back home. According to Žižek, the iceberg’s destruction of the ship at this moment allows for the illusion of romantic, eternal love to be maintained. This is just one of many enjoyable Žižekian snippets that help make academic theory more fun and accessible.
Žižek, with his Daffy Duck-esque lisp, spits out bite-size chunks of social theory at the pace of Eminem spitting out rhymes. Tune out for a minute and you could easily find yourself lost. To offer some respite, more difficult aspects are interspersed with clips from films like Jaws, Taxi Driver and the 1980’s classic They Live. Also, to make Žižek monologues more palatable, he is often inserted into scenes from these films. In They Live, he narrates from the alley beside the dumpster for that famous, lengthy fight scene. Žižek interprets this fight between the hero Nada (Roddy Piper) and his friend Frank (Keith David) as the struggle we all have to face up to the ideological forces which control our world and keep us as consumerist slaves. However, another interpretation could be that “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a famous wrestler at the time and the director probably felt some cinema-goers would want to see him in action.
This is not to detract from Žižek theories, but to illustrate how everything can be interpreted in multiple ways. If you follow Žižek down the rabbit hole with his particular brand of popular cultural analysis, you’ll emerge viewing the world anew. I’m feeling smarter already.