I watched the movie The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology for a second time tonight with my brother. Wanting to learn a little about the film’s star, philosopher and narrator Slavoj Zizek, I read several articles about him. This is one that appears in The Guardian:
I am linking to this one not because it is the best, I am just discovering this subject, but I really like the last paragraph. Here it is quoted in full:
It is time for him to leave. “My son and I are going to see Transformers.” He means the third and final installment of the dismal film franchise. It’s apparently terrible, I warn him. “I have been to terrible films before. There is always something worth seeing.”
There are good and bad movies. However, all movies say something about the society in which they are created in. This is not to say that I don’t personally try to avoid bad movies, but that in seeing them, if I get stuck in a theater watching something I realize I shouldn’t have gone to, there is usually some idea to be gained from watching them. Although movies might have several layers to them, the explicit and the implicit, they usually either champion or subvert the dominant culture in some way. It may be scene by scene even, but there is something to take away from every film experience.
The last movie I saw in the theater was Godzilla. (Spoilers to follow.) I didn’t enjoy this movie in any kind of entertainment way. I kept remembering I was in a theater watching a movie instead of getting lost in the world the film created. On a level of entertainment it failed for me. However, it had much to say about the culture we live in. It was a technical marvel that also seemed to me to be largely empty and meaningless. So much of the modern world is like that. We can be wowed by our technical achievements, but also feel spiritually empty much of the time.
The movie was also a piece of military propaganda in some ways. It did acknowledge our mistake of dropping a bomb on Hiroshima, but it seemed to say that the new military establishment had corrected its ways and that our commanders, represented by David Straithairn, would do the right thing when necessary. It also painted the average soldier as always being brave and intelligent, when we know better from incidents like Abu Ghraib to not always be the case.
The movie also had a very slim environmental message, although one that was diluted by Godzilla saving our civilization at the end. The movie contained the idea that nature is larger than us and that we were arrogant to think we could control it.
Both of these themes, a sort of subtle catering to both the right and the left, take place while untold carnage and destruction happens, because of the monsters that have been released. However, even this destruction is rendered largely meaningless as there is great amount of destruction and death without there being any real carnage. The violence is never made horrifying or visceral. Our government does its best to prevent images of the violence that we perpetuate from reaching the general public. We may see a building exploding, but true human destruction is often kept slightly out of the frame. The movie did this to earn a PG-13 rating so that it can gross as much money as possible, but it is telling of our times that we cannot confront violence head on in any realistic way. If we were to do so in reality we would surely not let the military industrial complex get away with as many of it’s recent past and current sins as we do, at least I hope so.
Anyway, I’m not telling you to seek out bad movies looking for meaning. I am only hoping that if you do find yourself in a movie that you are not enjoying, it may be worth more of your time than you realize. Often low brow movies can reflect who we are as much as high brow movies. Keep your eyes open.