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07 February 2015

Cover: Slavoj Žižek

Photography by Mariusz 
Kubik [Permission to use 
photograph granted]
For more info about the
photographer, click this
Slavoj Žižek is a very controversial figure in the field of philosophy. He has been called by the Chronicle of Higher Education as "the Elvis of cultural theory” because of his vociferous and entertaining way of speaking.  He often tells jokes and uses pop culture to explain his ideas. He also made several films namely “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” (2006) and “The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology,” (2012) both directed by Sophie Fiennes. These films help establish him as a cult figure or a philosophical pop icon if that is possible in philosophy. On the other hand, his critics dismissed him as a mere clown. Adam Kirsch writing for “The New Republic” calls him “the deadly jester."

Kirsch writes:

“Under the cover of comedy and hyperbole, in between allusions to movies and video games, he is engaged in the rehabilitation of many of the most evil ideas of the last century… Is Žižek's audience too busy laughing at him to hear him?”

Brun Philippines has chosen him as our cover for February primarily because of his contribution to film criticism. It is also quite appropriate that he is our cover for the love month of February because he is “an old romantic” as he claimed in some of his speeches.  He talks about the rarity of the “love event,” that moment when you encounter someone and that moment changes your life. Romantic comedies are full of many “love events,” most of which are already clichés.

To quote Zizek,

“You are not in love; you just make one night stands maybe here and there. You meet every evening with friends. You drink. You go to blah, blah. Then all of a sudden in a totally contingent way, let’s say you stumble on the street, somebody helps you to stand up. It’s a young girl or boy blah, blah. And, of course, it’s the love of your life. A totally contingent encounter but the result can be that your whole life changes. Nothing is the same as they say. You even spontaneously perceive your entire past life as leading towards this unique moment, you know, the illusion of love is ‘Oh my God, I was waiting all my life for you.’ This – something like this would have been the love event.” 

Whether you agree with Žižek’s ideas or not, he is undeniably one of the most fascinating thinkers of our time. He makes you laugh and perhaps, if you get past the giggles, he can actually make you think and then decide if Žižek’s ideas are valid. For me, that is better than being bored to death by critical theorists and Marvel superheroes. Bottom line, we should all do our own thinking. Žižek also says this in various ways. Think for yourself.

In a milieu bombarded by cacophony of many loud voices from every direction, and people “fighting to be relevant every single day” (to quote a line from “Birdman”), I think Žižek understands the nature of the capitalist beast. Get people’s attention first; entertain them, then deliver your message when they least expect it. That is ideology. Is he criticizing the way ideology operates by applying it to his audience? If so, to use Žižek’s own statement, “that is an obscenity.” No, no, but seriously...

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