As I plan my submission for Albecracky, I keep running through iterations of my obsession with the Ancient in science fiction, and as so often happens when I’m in this frame of mind everything comes up Ancient…sometimes it’s obvious (the trailer for Halo 4 – “An ancient Evil arises”) and sometimes it’s not (raking leaves is Ancient with a capital ‘a’?), but the cultural thread seems to be everywhere.
I’m well aware that anything that seems to be, when talking about Lacan or any of those who argue with him, is somewhat problematic, but I have trouble (or am not smart enough) avoiding that construction: a failure, perhaps, in my own sense of the Symbolic vs. my knowledge of the Real.
Still, despite my obsession, Zizek seems particularly appropriate here (despite his defense of Lacan’s misogyny, which I’ll need to deal with seriously at some point). He argues that the interplay between the Real and the Imaginary (and the way that interplay affects our concept of the Other) is critical for understanding our own identities:
of ‘reality’ as opposed to the play of my imagination – Lacan’s point is not that, behind the multiplicity of phantasmatic identities, there is a hard core of some “real Self”, we are dealing with a symbolic fiction, but a fiction which, for contingent reasons that have nothing to do with its inherent structure, possesses performative power – is socially operative, structures the socio-symbolic reality in which I participate. The status of the same person, inclusive of his/her very “real” features, can appear in an entirely different light the moment the modality of his/her relationship to the big Other changes. (The Ticklish Subject: the Absent Center of Political Ideology)
Zizek has introduced the concept of the big Other elsewhere – in the situation that I’m trying to understand he’s using the term as a grand narrative of sorts, something used to explain all kinds of contradictions in ways that might be better understood as making an apology for the realm rather than for describing a real subject – and this emphasis on little Others, I think, and their ‘performative power’ explains the resonance of the Ancient in science fiction, a place where it really shouldn’t be.
Zizek’s reformulation of Lacan powerfully explains this fascination with the Ancient in another way, methinks:
When faced with such a paranoid construction, we must not forget Freud’s warning and mistake it for the “illness” itself: the paranoid construction is, on the contrary, an attempt to heal ourselves, to pull ourselves out of the real “illness”, the “end of the world”, the breakdown of the symbolic universe, by means of this substitute formation. (Looking Awry: an Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture)
Zizek speaks here of the ‘typical’ postmodern subject position, a position that I’m not willing to grant him mostly because I can’t quite grasp what he means by ‘typical,’ but this desire for healing – through a ‘substitute formation’ of a world in which (science fictionally) the Ancient becomes some sort of malevolent power bent on destroying the clean, chaste, perfect world (almost utopic, eh?) seen as the end product of a science fictional vision – fits somehow as an explanation for the desire to destroy that Ancient evil that sells units of Halo 4.