[Marxism] How to read Zizek

Nick Fredman nick.fredman at optusnet.com.au
Fri Sep 14 17:49:32 MDT 2012

On 15/09/12 6:03 AM, "Lenin's Tomb" <leninstombblog at googlemail.com> wrote:

> Regarding the scene from Apocalypse Now, I believe John Pilger's book "Distant
> Voices" relates an attempt to get the writer and director to cough up about
> the factual basis for the limb amputations.  As I recall, the reply from the
> screenwriter consisted of a series of staccato anti communist statements in
> block capitals.

Thanks for that choice Pilger tidbit which I'd forgotten. I suppose in the
context of the movie the ravings of Colonel Kurtz won't necessarily be taken
as true, and like Conrad's original novel the 'heart of darkness' might be
variously read by readers/viewers as located in western imperialism, savage
natives and/or human nature generally. But presumably some viewers will take
the story as true.

The Pilger bit is on pp. 89-90 of the 1992 edition of Distant Voices:

"That Coppola had reduced the Vietnamese and Montenard peoples to
stereotypes of Oriental viciousness was generally passed over by the
admiring critics. The film claimed that Vietcong soldiers had hacked off the
arms of children to discourage a vaccination program, implying this was one
of the reasons the United States had invaded Vietnam. When an American
journalist wrote to the screenwriter, John Milius, asking where the severed
arms story had originated, Milius returned her letter with a US Special
Forces death's head drawing on it, together with the words:

"We must burn them,
We must incinerate them,
Press after press,
Pen after pen, Pencil after pencil,
No dialogue with communist criminals"

That Zizek blithely and without attribution refers to some shit from a movie
as not only true but exemplary of revolutionary strategy seems sadly
typical. I'll all for "ideology critique" and in this taking media and
culture seriously and in a dialectical rather than reductionist way but find
that Zizek too often plays empty deconstructionist and contrarian games
rather than do this.

By the way on "Vietnam" movies (i.e. movies by Americans agonising about
themselves with some reference to their near obliteration of Vietnam), the
first one that seemed to give any real voice to the Vietnamese revolution,
or to any Vietnamese characters at all probably, seems to be the mid-80s
comedy Good Morning Vietnam (and perhaps it was the only such movie to do
this until Philip Noyce's brilliant adaptation of The Quiet American,
delayed as it was by 9/11 until 2004).

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