22 Oct

Why Zizek refreshes the parts other theorists cannot reach.

Posted By Politybooks

 Paul Taylor, author of Zizek and the Media, blogs on an unlikely academic celebrity.

paultSlavoj Zizek is a discombobulating tour de force who, more than any other living intellectual, embodies “the Heineken effect” – he refreshes the parts other theorists cannot reach. Love him or loathe him, Zizek and the Media demonstrates that the surprising success of such an unlikely academic celebrity, is ironically due to the stubbornness with which he has kept faith with two deeply unfashionable influences – Marxism and psychoanalysis. Paradoxically, these approaches are profoundly out-of-favour at a time when they have never had so much diagnostic accuracy.

Addressing such suggestive Zizekian concepts as the chocolate laxative, this book shows how he exposes media cant by uncovering the miscellaneous forms of denial and repression that are used to avoid acknowledging a series of fundamental political contradictions at the heart of the capitalist project.

Zizek’s iconoclastic blend of high theory and filthy humour tends to produce polarized responses among his now huge international audience – either zealous admiration or po-faced distaste. To move beyond both these sorts of reaction, Zizek and the Media examines the underlying significance of his provocatively perverse humour by subscribing to Todd McGowan’s belief that, “the path to seriousness is strewn with jokes”. From the preface onwards, the theoretical importance of Zizek’s comic obscenity is tackled directly. There is a consistent focus upon the way in which his scholarly analysis and media performances combine form (provocation) and content (abstract theory) in order to uncover, with Zizek’s unique skill, the misleadingly obvious ways in which today’s media achieves its ideological effects. It is shown to be at its most ideologically dangerous when it appears to be functioning normally. From Kung Fu Panda  to Forrest Gump, Zizek and the Media  systematically exposes the darker side of the superficially benign to show that whatever life’s secret ingredient really is … it is definitely not a box of chocolates.

Notwithstanding “the Marx Brother” comedy he provides along the way, Zizek and the Media argues that he is a Hegelian jester with a deadly serious political point. Like the Joker from The Dark Knight, Zizek’s ultimate political point is no laughing matter. To quote the final chapter’s paraphrasing of that film’s police commissioner James Gordon: ‘Zizek is the theory-hero Gotham doesn’t deserve … but the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero … he’s a voluble guardian, a watchful provocateur … a dark knight of the dark night of the soul.’