The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology: Culture Theory’s Elvis, Critiquin’ Capitalism. Again.

10/23/2013 4:00 AM |

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
Directed by Sophie Fiennes

Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher frequently referred to as the “Elvis of cultural theory,” returns to the screen—and in a sequel, no less! Director Fiennes’s film quickly establishes that it will be working within the same aesthetic parameters as its precursor, 2006’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema. Žižek explicates his Lacanian-Marxist perspectives on a host of topics pertaining to ideology (here understood in its Marxist formulation as what people don’t know they’re doing but are nevertheless doing) by commenting on clips from films while also appearing as a figure in various tableaux styled to replicate sets from the films being discussed.

As with the Cinema guide, Ideology aggregates many of Žižek’s favored examples of pop-cultural phenomena that evidence his critique of capitalism—Coca-Cola as the commodity par excellence, John Carpenter’s They Live as illustrative of what happens when someone comes to see the world along Althusserian lines—in an effort to somehow make it more accessible to the non-grad-student public than his hilarious lectures already do. Rehash is the name of the game: if you’re familiar with Žižek’s spiel, Ideology likely won’t advance any arguments you haven’t already heard. Žižek wearing a priest’s habit and pontificating within a re-creation of the convent from The Sound of Music is doubtlessly amusing, but some of his claims, like the one about Rammstein’s allegedly successful transformation of aspects of Nazi aesthetics into “pure elements of libidinal investment” to be enjoyed in their “pre-ideological state,” remain as unpersuasive as the first 10 times he made them.

But hey, he mostly hits the theoretical nail squarely on the head, and anyone who calls a Carpenter film a “forgotten masterpiece of the Hollywood Left” or convincingly links Lindsay Anderson’s if… to atrocities at Abu Ghraib deserves a couple hours of any self-respecting, desiring subject’s time.

Opens November 1