Wait, That Quirky Philosopher From The Memes Was In An Owen Wilson Movie?
So rockstar philosopher Slavoj Žižek has been proving to be a major staple of pop culture for a while now. Just go ahead and Bing his videos or the words ‘Zizek memes.' What you will see is that despite his work involving thousands of pages of dense stuff we are not going to claim to understand because we make fart jokes, the quirky mess of a guy is both a highly respected intellectual and a living, breathing, twitching meme. Now, for the uninitiated, one of his most popular ideas is the notion that ideolog -- wait, don’t go. Okay, okay, here: we’ll just let him Žižek-pill you while in the friggin’ Matrix:
Also, here he is munching on some hot dogs like an absolute jackal.
Anyway, Žižek’s also been in plenty of other documentaries and TV interviews. But recently -- and in a moment that made us doubt whether reality is just God looking down at us and laughing at the nonsense -- he even made his Hollywood blockbuster debut -- by which we mean a 40-second cameo in an average, already-forgotten film.
Indeed, just like this cameo itself, Bliss -- a sci-fi drama with recent Marvel acquisitions Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek -- went pretty unnoticed. This is a good thing, as the movie is pretty meh. At best, it is a kinda competent reflection on suffering that ends up feeling like an anti-drug PSA. At worst, it is a movie still trying to surprise us with the whole ‘‘what if reality were a simulation" thing that was all the rage back in what historians call The Smash Mouth-Age -- you know, the trope uniting Existenz, The Thirteenth Floor, Abre Los Ojos (later Vanilla Sky), and of course, the best one of them all, Dark Cit-- erm, The Matrix.
And there’s Žižek’s cameo as a hologram, probably just enjoying the B-movie vibe while Salma Hayek fake-giggles, bless her heart.
Look, we’re absolutely not saying this movie is lame af. But still, we have to ask: what is Žižek even doing here? Because of course those hot dogs and weighty books on German Idealism won’t buy themselves, but did he really need to lend his academic street-cred to this? It would remind us of Cornel West’s participation in the Matrix sequels, if it were not because those movies (The Matrix 2: The Chase Scene Was Cool, and The Matrix 3: Gee, At Least Add A Chase Scene To It) were better than Bliss. Okay, granted: not by that much. But in this sense, Žižek’s Bliss cameo rather reminds us of the French sociologist Jean Baudrillard’s homage in -- and parallel criticism of -- The Matrix, an impasse that is explained very well here.
So yeah, we don’t know what to make of this cameo. We could go on a tangent and justify Žižek’s acceptance of this gig on the fact that although Bliss might not nearly be as cool as The Matrix, at least it does seem to fit his philosophy a bit better than The Matrix did Baudrillard. We could go on that tangent, but honestly, these people fry our fart-joking brains.
So let’s try something else. An indeed standard first step to get into pre-Bliss Žižek is his notion of ideology. For him, ideology is not what covers over a ‘true’ reality beneath (as common sense and you-know-what-movie have it), but instead the very idea of what this ‘true’ reality would be in the first place. Yeah, our brains hurt too, but bear with us for a bit. In this sense, ideology is constructed around an empty space, around what is rather a content-less ‘real.’ A good example of this is negation: saying something by announcing you’re not saying it, as in the classic line ‘I’m not racist, but….’
Look, we’re not saying you should pick up a book by this walking meme, it’s just that we can’t think of a final fart joke.
But the thing is, the power of negation is a common problem for some of Žižek’s favorite authors: the thesis-antithesis-synthesis guy, the ‘lol, your mom’ guy, and that other one that was, erm, introduced in Hollywood by Kevin Spacey? Anyway, with this we can end up with one of the undisputed heights of Žižek’s career, around the hour and 47-minute mark:
Yeah, he literally did say ‘this is not a rhetorical question for politely saying ‘you’re an idiot, you don’t know what you’re talking about’’ to Jordan Peterson, right to his face. Told you he’s a rockstar.
Top Image: Amrei-Marie