Dark City & Ideology

Essays on technology, psycho­analysis, philosophy, design, ideology & Slavoj Žižek


August 27, 2009

Dark City & Ideology

From Fighting Our Fantasies: Dark City and the Politics of Psychoanalysis:

The problem with this depiction of ideology in the form of the Strangers is, of course, that it represents–as is pervasive within science fiction–a paranoid conception of ideological control. It assumes that behind the false, ideological big Other, there lies a true Other, an Other of the Other. The Strangers play the part of this Other of the Other: they exist behind the scenes, manipulating ideology to advance their own interests. By assuming an Other of the Other, paranoia misses the essentially posited nature of ideology. Ideology is effective not because someone sits behind the scenes pulling the strings, but because subjects posit ideology as having an actual existence. Ideology works to control subjects because subjects believe in it as something substantive; this subjective investment keeps it working. Subjects under the sway of ideology believe that it is not just ideology but rather rooted in the exigencies of the real. They believe, for instance, that capitalism has its basis in the eternal laws of human nature. This belief on the part of subjects allows capitalist ideology to retain its hold over them. That is to say, the subject–and not an Other behind the scenes–provides the key to the functioning of ideology. By placing the Strangers in the position of the Other of the Other, by succumbing to paranoia, Dark City obscure the role of the subject in the perpetuation of ideology, which diffuses the film’s otherwise salient exposition of the way ideology functions.