Tag Archives: violence

Slavoj Žižek, Violence

I stopped reading a while ago and only started this because a student is using it for a project. Žižek is still ‘translating’ everything into Lacanian language. Hegel and Marx still seem to be the fount. He always states the unthinkable anti-thesis and brings out the synthesis from his hat as some form of a post-drum-roll surprise in a circus of binaries, i.e. what irritated is still there. However, I found this very funny, engaging, and truly insightful about so many things: the Paris race riots, the analysis of the cartoons of the Prophet in Denmark, Palestine, the charity of billionaires. It’s the work of someone fully engaged: he brings in movies, TV, Elton John along with all the philosophers you’d expect. It’s not everyone who could be so illuminating about complex issue whilst being so entertaining to read. Perhaps, my reading of his work previously was overly combative, expecting him to show me how he might be ‘right’. But if one lets go of this and merely reads to think, the work seems more valuable and more fun. This time, even his use of films to illustrate points without mentioning sights or sounds failed to annoy. Plus it’s short.

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 176 – Fight Club

A film that jogs memories for Mike, as in the process of revisiting Fight Club he realises what an impact it had on him as a teenager. David Fincher’s outrageously stylish and visceral story of a generation of dispossessed men finding purpose in violence has only increased in relevance in the twenty years since its release, drawing comparisons to incels and school shooters, but it also leads Mike to recall how it affected his interests and attitudes in his youth. José, who saw it on its release, was on the positive side of its mixed response and recalls trying to convince his friends of its greatness – and is proud to have been proven right in the years since, in which it rapidly became perhaps the defining cult hit.

Mike is surprised to discover a sexual dimension to it that he hadn’t quite realised was there – obviously, Tyler and Marla’s ceiling-shaking lovemaking sessions hadn’t escaped his attention, but it wasn’t until this screening that he saw Marla as desirable and human, rather than simply present and symbolic. She’s weary but hopeful, fiery and alive but constantly flirting with death, and with the benefit of knowing the film’s infamous twist, deeply sympathetic. Mike argues, too, for a strain of homoeroticism — Steve Erickson writes that Chuck Palahniuk came out as gay in 2004. The clues are everywhere both in his book and Fincher’s film — in the fighting and particularly in Brad Pitt’s appearance – more than powerful and intimidating, he’s attractive, the narrator’s ideal self (though we don’t, as José points out, see him topless and sweaty nearly as often as we might remember).

It’s not without its problems. The question of exactly what it says, and indeed how deliberately it says it, is dependant perhaps on the viewer’s mood and cultural context as much as anything. Fight Club wants to be thought of as a satire, that’s clear, but of what – and is it as much of a satire as it thinks it is? Mike suggests that much of what drives this problematic area of debate is the effectiveness with which the film brings us into the narrator’s mental state, conveying beautifully his attitudes, desires, repressions, regardless of whether we might think of them as positive or negative. Were the film more objective, more willing to offer judgement of its characters, these questions would be less troubling but the film would have none of its potency.

We agree that Fight Club is a considerable piece of work – José less enthusiastically, but it would be hard to be as turned on by it as Mike is. To have seen it on the big screen is a treat – every one of its compositions is electrifying, beautiful, considered and inventive – and the themes it explores have only grown in relevance since 1999. If it comes round, don’t hesitate to buy front row tickets. If it doesn’t, dig out the DVD, which you definitely own, and watch it again.

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With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.