Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rowdy Roddy Piper and Ideology Critique

From Zizek's lecture at Historical Materialism:
John Carpenter’s They Live (1988) is one of the neglected masterpieces of the Hollywood Left. In its most memorable scene, the hero, an unemployed construction-worker who lives in an LA shanty-town, puts on a pair of glasses he found in an abandoned church, and notices that a billboard in front of him now simply displays the word "OBEY," while another billboard urges the viewer to "MARRY AND REPRODUCE." He also sees that paper money bears the words "THIS IS YOUR GOD," etc.- a beautifully-naïve mise-en-scene of ideology: through the critico-ideological glasses, we directly see the Master-Signifier beneath the chain of knowledge – we learn to see dictatorship IN democracy. When the hero tries to convince his friend to put the glasses on, the friend resists, and a long violent fight follows, worthy of Fight Club (another masterpiece of the Hollywood Left). The violence staged here is a positive violence, a condition of liberation – the lesson is that our liberation from ideology is not a spontaneous act, an act of discovering our true Self. We learn in the film that, when one looks for too long at reality through critico-ideological glasses, one gets a strong headache: it is very painful to be deprived of the ideological surplus-enjoyment. To see the true nature of things, we need the glasses: it is not that we should put ideological glasses off to see directly reality as it is”: we are “naturally” in ideology, our natural sight is ideological.

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