I read Adam Robbert’s post on the noetic wonder of the world as seen through Uexküllian ontology and I exclaimed « But this is exactly what is good about AVATAR, despite the heroic wishfulfilmen fantasy! » Reflecting on why I liked the film and Zizek scorned it, I decided that I could explain the difference of approach to the film (and to many other things) in terms of Lacan’s graph of sexuation:Now Zizek likes to interpret films by subtracting out any noetic alterity and just seeing the oedipal drama. He stays for this sort of interpretation on the left side of the graph. He focuses on the heroic wishfulfilment in the case of AVATAR, but also the familial wishfulfilment in the case of WAR OF THE WORLDS:
“One can easily imagine the film without the bloodthirsty aliens so that
what remains is in a way “what it is really about,” the story of a divorced
working-class father who strives to regain the respect of his two children.
Therein resides the film’s ideology: with regard to the two levels of the
story (the Oedipal level of lost and regained paternal authority; the
spectacular level of the conflict with the invading aliens), there is a clear
dissymmetry, since the Oedipal level is what the story is “really about,”
while the external spectacular is merely its metaphoric extension.” (p57)
His monist reductive ontology can be seen in the assertion that the Oedipal level is what the story is really about, condemning the alterity to mere metaphoric gift-wrapping. One sees the absurdity of this approach very clearly in a film like AVATAR where the world-making is the main stuff of the film, especially as Pandora is a planet of noetic abundance. So in fact to appreciate AVATAR and many other science-fiction films and novels we must situate ourselves on the right side of the graph for more details see here). SF is defined as « the literature of cognitive estrangement » precisely because it explicitly constitues itself by means of alterity, and so dwells on the right side of the graph.
Imagine what Zizek would have to say about the novel DUNE (or the film). The oedipal drama is deliberately foregrounded as is the heroic wishfulfilment, but the aim in fact is to deconstruct the hero and the oedipal monomyth and to open us out onto a pluralist ontology as the later novels make even clearer:
« In his Golden Path, Leto sought a divergence of futures. Divergence is itself the grand theme of God Emperor of Dune. Leto is determined to smash the human psychological need for an illusory universe in which all tales converge on a final Big Message. This theme is the climax of Herbert’s original design from the early 1960s to obliterate the monolithic hero myth » , argues Bob Bogle.
So I can only conclude on a positive note: Let’s read more SF. Go read DUNE. Or as Levi Bryant advises, situating himself on the left side of the graph (transcendence) but giving useful advice to those on its right side (immanence): « Go watch Avatar ».