The Pervert's Guide to Ideology | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Pervert's Guide to Ideology

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek examines various ideologies using popular films as texts

In search of meanings: Slavoj Zizek
In search of meanings: Slavoj Zizek

The film essay The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, directed by Sophie Fiennes, opens with a scene from the futuristic actioner They Live. Our narrator and pontificator, Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic Slavoj Zizek, declares this 1988 film as "a forgotten masterpiece of Hollywood," and particularly notable for its explicit critique of ideology.

From this easily decoded work, Zizek winds his way through a dozen other popular films, unpacking: how drinking Coca-Cola both creates and destroys desire; how Taxi Driver can help us understand the 2011 killings in Oslo; what the shark from Jaws has in common with Nazis; and how Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" defines groups as disparate as whites in Rhodesia and the Shining Path guerillas. Fiennes employs ample film clips, and Zizek speaks conversationally from recreated sets such as Travis Bickle's room and Titanic's lifeboat.

You can agree or disagree: Zizek picks movies to prove his points, while perhaps many other films would just as easily disprove them. (Also, huge spoiler alert from Zizek: "There is ... no point of reference which guarantees meaning.") It's all rambling and fairly dense, though not difficult to follow. If you enjoy this sort of deconstructing, it's provocative fun. If you'd prefer your Batman without the Platonic digressions, this probably isn't for you. But just like comic-book movies, there is a bonus scene after the credits roll.

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