Slavoj Zizek Talks About The Dark Knight RisesPosted: July 20, 2012
[A guest post by Robert Kutz — and now with audio!]
Slavoj is wearing mostly fur. To his right, on the floor, is the headpiece of a dog costume, which is upturned and rather pungent.
Slavoj’s face is a blinking slab of clay looking out through thickets of drenched grey hair. His mouth is moving rapidly, but he has not spoken in several minutes. His immense mind is swelling palpably.
At some point, a sound like a stalled car engine echoes through the elevator, and the whole scene slips down several feet. One of the men in the corner screams. Slavoj, in a kind of perversely hygienic zen state, is unperturbed. The intercom crackles and buzzes, then clicks off. A set of emergency strip lights perks up.
One of the smartly dressed people steps cautiously toward the center of the elevator to try and peer through the doors. Slavoj quickly grabs the man with one paw and his own nose with the other. “Birds,” he spits.
The man gasps and slaps hysterically at Zizek’s thick fur arm.
“We say, you know, like animals, like this, birds,” Zizek says. His grip is jaw-like. “Oh we are animals, we are animals. We are birds trapped. This is vulgar.”
Zizek lets go in order to swat at his own eyeball and tug his own nose simultaneously. The liberated man tumbles backward into his smartly-dressed fellows, who are now stacked more tightly than before. “Obscene,” Zizek notes, squinting at the carpet.
“Of course in this film, the Dark Knight Ascending or whatever, you know, you have this wealthy industrialist, stockholder, whatever, who dresses up in an obscene costume, to look like a bat. And then you have a cat woman, and so on, and so on.” Zizek is interrupted by a pen that somebody has thrown at his face.
“Don’t, no,” one of the persons whispers.
“Violence,” Zizek conjectures. He is gathering fresh thoughts and chewing on them.
“Is he talking about the new Batman movie?” one of them asks. Nobody answers.
“But the mainstream you know critical response is that this is a very serious film. It is such bull shit. But this, I claim, is ideology. That we do not notice that our characters are dressed like animals, doing, you know, insane things, with violence and technology and so forth, and we applaud, say, yes, this is real, this is the real world, finally, thank god.”
Zizek is creeping toward the corner. The three smartly-dressed persons are keeping pace, sliding across the elevator wall to another corner. One of the persons stretches out and slaps the emergency alarm bell one more time, just before it is out of reach.
“Why not? Why do we not see it? The world that Christopher Nolan, who has made this film, wants to paint for us, he does not hide it at all. The background is the centerpiece, you know, the lower classes and criminals and so on, fighting the plutocracy, this is not simply the world that the animal people live in. It is actually their story, they talk about it, so we cannot see it except as they do. Very stupid.”
Zizek’s head suddenly shakes left and right very rapidly. Swarms of baby sweat beads burst off his facial hair and float away.
“I think that, you know,” Zizek continues, excitedly plucking at his nose, “a tension between the characters, you know, living their own lives, and so on, and the world that they do not notice. This is the world as it really is, you know, these are stories that happen. The stories about us cannot exist without the world we live in, but we don’t worry about so much. We worry about, my god, my wife, you know, she cheats on me with the senator, or whatever.” Zizek laughs.
“Is he… married?” one of the smartly-dressed persons asks, their hand raised to their mouth.
“So this grand operatic play, drama, film, where the hero is one society and the villain is another society, you know, but really they are a bat person and some kind of robot man, my god, give me a break. It is disgusting. But there is another irony, you know. This Bruce Wayne, the philanthropist playboy et cetera with such business acumen, he is not real to the film. He is like a ruse. And really it is when he is unmasked, when you know the situation gets bad, that he puts on a simple physical mask but becomes what we really already know of ourselves. He is then this violent,” Zizek pauses here to ruffle his own hair madly, “insensate, raving lunatic who climbs buildings and frightens criminals and whatever. This I claim. Let me start, with, an example, which may surprise you.”
But Zizek is interrupted as the elevator creaks again and seems to very slowly lurch sideways. Then, with a terrible whipcrack, everything drops another ten feet or so. The elevator stops again with a deafening clang, then settles, groaning. Zizek has lost his balance while the three smartly-dressed persons lean on one another for theirs. Seeing an opportunity, one of the smartly dressed persons kicks Zizek squarely in his tan dog belly, and Zizek tumbles backward, yelling “barbarians!”
“Quick!” yells one of the smartly dressed persons. “The maintenance hatch!” And they point to the hatch which, indeed, seems to have come loose.With frankly impressive unspoken coordination, they hoist one another up through the new aperture and on top of the elevator. Two of them make it out. The third man, left in the elevator, is beaten senseless by the force of Zizek’s random kicks and flails. His suit wrecked and ruined, the man collapses backwards, mumbling about indecency. After the other two have reached the top, they spot a ladder that runs some endless length up the shaft.
No sooner have they all begun to climb the ladder, however, when they hear a tremendous bang behind them. The elevator has not started to fall again. But, looking back, they see a horrifying dog head peeking out from the top of the elevator, one terrible dog eye fixed on them, the other staring wildly into the dark. Zizek has begun to extricate himself with awful strength.
Transfixed, the two smartly dressed persons watch as Zizek pulls himself fully upward, stands triumphantly atop the elevator, and places the dog head over his own shoulders. Now fully costumed, he shakes his entire body. His tail whips at his legs and he begins coughing.
“It’s not possible,” one of the smartly dressed persons gasps.
Zizek resumes speaking, but his voice is transformed by the dog head. What comes out instead is an absurd, menacing growl, made louder by his desperation to be heard. His hands shoot out from him like the snapping mouths of blind coyotes. “RAGGH BAGGHH GAGHHH,” he bellows. The two smartly dressed persons nearly kick one another in their desperation to climb away.
Zizek too leaps onto the ladder, and not a moment too soon. As soon as he bounds off of it, the elevator finally gives way, scraping down the seemingly infinite shaft and screaming the entire way. Zizek is kicked in the face, and his dog head flies off. Its gaze does not relent as it disappears into the shaft’s inscrutable pit.
“I think I cannot imagine a better example of ideology,” Zizek explains, completely undeterred. The two smartly-dressed persons are nearly choked by the toxic odor that rises from Zizek. “Rise, rise,” Zizek mimics, “and so on. But what does this mean, rise.”
Somewhere far up the ladder, a short burst of light cracks the tunnel.
“So when the film presents its own ideology, and of course, is so awful that it makes a mockery of itself and of the audience, we are most noble as animals, and so on, how do you stand even further back and say, what is the real ideology that the film is based on. And I say then, look at how the characters are rewarded for their actions, the archetypes they embody, and so on.”
The smartly dressed person at the top stops and clutches his stomach. “I can’t breathe,” he says. “I can’t breathe. We’ve got to slow down.” Zizek refuses to stop, although he does not address the complaint. When he meets the second person down, who has also stopped, he simply reaches out and grasps the person’s ankle with his terrible dog hand. Then he yanks hard on it, and the second person’s trousers are ripped off. “Degenerates,” Zizek belches. The second man, now pantsed, pauses to examine himself. In his embarrassment, he loses his grip on the ladder and falls, tumbling down the naked pit, still horrified by the loss of his trousers.
The remaining smartly dressed person redoubles their efforts and climbs ever harder. Zizek’s pace remains constant, and with a dancer’s grace, he has incorporated nose tugs and beard slaps into the spaces between steps.
“Nolan tries to do something that I think he cannot do, which is to say something by remaining silent. There are a lot of arguments on these degenerate websites you know, newspapers and Huffington Post and so on, about whether the villain is the Occupy Wall Street or the, my god, Mitt Romney’s old company, I mean. Who thinks of these things, I don’t know. But in the film, Nolan leaves it open, what he thinks, he does not say it explicitly, so you know we are left thinking that maybe he is saying something through the story itself, instead of having Batman stand up at the end and say ‘OK, I believe this and this and so on and so on.’”
“Have you even seen the movie yet?” asks the smartly-dressed person. “I don’t think it’s been released.”
“Vulgar,” Zizek remarks.
He continues: “But it is precisely because everything in the film has already been recognized, given significance, by the moral actors in the film, that he cannot do this, because their judgments must then be his, which he hands to us. So either he is saying the obvious, you know, that it is necessary to dress like an animal and beat back the savages, my god, for Nolan, these poor and imprisoned or whatever. Or he is trying to distance himself from that statement by remaining ambiguous, but then only saying nothing.”
“My god,” Zizek laughs. “Either it is a disgusting film or it is a very bad film.”
The smartly-dressed person pauses to argue with him. “You haven’t seen the fucking movie,” he shouts, turning around and hanging onto the ladder with one hand. But Zizek merely tugs at the person’s tie, pulling their face down to Zizek’s. An enormous furry paw caps the man’s head and pulls down what appears to be a toupee until it is obscuring the man’s eyes. Blind, flailing, the man drops off the ladder and hurtles into the pitch-black abyss, still complaining that nobody has seen the movie.
“Idiots,” Zizek explains.
As he continues to climb the ladder, he speaks at length about the stupidity of Commissioner Gordon, the feminist inversion of the Catwoman, and so on, and so on. Some untold distance down the pit, a dog’s head with long powerful ears nods and blinks and sniffs at the impenetrable air.