The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is an incredibly powerful film. It is somehow able to pack in all of the ideas of a great book or the best of a college course, while also being highly entertaining. It combines films, philosophy, religion, psychoanalysis, history, and politics. Although the film was directed by Sophie Fiennes, whose visual mastery should not go unnoticed, the film belongs to the narrator and star Slavoj Zizek.
Zizek uses films such as They Live, Full Metal Jacket, The Sound of Music, and others to dive into big ideas. Clips from the films are shown interspersed with shots of Zizek appearing on recreations of the sets of the same films. Zizek’s narration is powerful because he is able to make even the headiest of ideas understandable. The movie is so packed with interesting ideas that I feel that I would be doing the film a disservice without watching it again, or several times, before I tried to list all of the things it covered.
One of the biggest ideas in the movie is that all power, whether that is in the form of religion or even totalitarian atheism, drives from peoples’ belief in the Big Other. The Big Other could be God or history or any idea that exists outside of the self that allows people to follow orders without questioning them.
He also talks about having the right and wrong dreams. We often dream of an idealized version of the reality that is presented to us, a dream which would not make us happy if achieved. In order to make the world a better place we need to change the kind of dreams we have. An example is our common thinking that we would just be happy if we had more money, etc.; when it is very possible that the organizing principles of our society are what bring about so much unhappiness. He focuses on ideology because from the very beginning he talks about how trying to see outside of ideology is painful and we often resist it.
He also talks about capitalism vs. environmentalism. He asks the question why is it easier in some ways in our existing order to imagine the end of life as we know it rather than make a few small adjustments to our economic system.
Even if you end up not agreeing with Zizek, if you are the kind of person that welcomes big ideas this film will leave you with plenty to chew on. I feel as if I am not doing this film justice. This is a subversive, intelligent, entertaining movie that should be watched if you are looking for something stimulating.
P.S. Make sure that if you watch the film that you watch through to the end of the credits. This film is available for streaming on Netflix currently.