Thursday, August 18, 2011

Authenticity is misguided.

“The price of happiness is that the subject remains stuck in the consistency of its desire.” –Slavoj Zizek

It is acceptable to say that individuals desire. And we express our desires through language. For Lacan, the formation of language “is motivated by the pleasure that comes through feelings of control” (Barker, 98). Since language is socially constructed, then desire is also a socially constructed mechanism, as desires are expressed through dialogue and language. If “language is the symbolization of desire in a never-ending search for control” (Barker, 98), can we then contain or constrain desire. Furthermore, is desire just another means of trying to attain control? And, is satisfaction the death of desire?

According to Lacan, desire begins when demand is separated from need; “Desire is neither the appetite for satisfaction, nor the demand for love, but the difference that results from the subtraction of the first from the second. It is possible to satisfy need, which is a want-to-have one particular object or another (the source of pleasure). It is absolutely impossible to satisfy demand, which ‘constitutes the Other as already possessing the ‘privilege’ of satisfying needs” (Kaloianov).  In other words, desire cannot be satisfied because “desire’s raison d’etre [reason for existence] is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself as desire” (Desire: Drive-Truth:Knowledge).

Zizek suggests, “in a strict Lacanian sense of the term… ‘Happiness’ relies on the subject’s inability or unreadiness fully to confront the consequences of its desire: the price of happiness is that the subject remains stuck in the inconsistency of its desire.” He goes on to say that, “in our daily lives, we (pretend to) desire things which we do not really desire, so that ultimately, the worst thing that can happen is for us to get what we ‘officially’ desire. Happiness thus is inherently hypocritical: it is the happiness of dreaming about things we do not really want” (The Price of Happiness and Desire). 

Zizek also suggests that, “desire is historical and subjectivized, always and by definition unsatisfied, metonymical, shifting from one object to another, since I do not actually desire what I want. What I actually desire is to sustain desire itself, to postpone the dreaded moment of its satisfaction” (Love Beyond Law). Satisfaction is not the death of desire, rather the attainment or accumulation of something that we thought we wanted. Therefore, desire is an illusion of control. If we mask that which we desire, are we merely masking a desire for some sort of control. Additionally, if we desire that which we do not truly want, then the attainment of such desire is not fulfilling either. Desire is then a paradox of the human condition. Jean-Paul Sarte suggests, “we do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are – that is the fact.”

Is it that we believe before we desire, or fantasize even before we believe? Are our desires mere preconceptions of what we think we want, which ultimately mask the premise for the reason of our desires. Arguably, we are idealizing desire. We are not aiming to fulfill desire, rather to keep the idealization of desire afloat, our fantasy alive. In other words, “desire… is caught up… in social structures and strictures, in the fantasy version of reality that forever dominated our lives after our entrance into language. In a sense, then, our desire is never properly our own, but is created through fantasies that are caught up in cultural ideologies” (Felluga).

Happiness, then, seems to be the repetition of desire. The answer to the old clichéd question “is longing for something better than actually getting it” is suggested to be yes. One stops longing (desiring) when they stop living. Desire is not longing for one particular object, rather “to sustain desire itself” (Love Beyond Law). Can you be happy and insatiable all at once? Or is that the point? The paradox of humanity. If satisfaction is not the death of desire, should satisfaction even be desirable?

“It is not the object towards which desire tends, but the cause of desire. For desire is not a relation to an object, but a relation to a lack” (Lacan). Perhaps a lack of control.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd. 2008.   

Felluga, Dino. "Modules on Lacan: On Desire.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. 31 January 2011. 17 August 2011.

Kaloianov, Radostin. Hegel, Kojeve, and Lacan – The Metamorphoses of Dialectics – Part II: Hegel and Lacan. Academy for the Study of the Psychoanalytic Arts, 2004-2011.

Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 11). New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 1998.

Sarte, Jean-Paul. Quotes. Brainy Quote, 2011. 17 August 2011. <>

Zizek, Slavoj. Desire: Drive = Truth: Knowledge. Lacan Dot Com, 1997-2005. 17 August 2011.

Zizek, Slavoj. Love Beyond Law. Lacan Dot Com, 1997-2005. 17 August 2011.

Zizek, Slavoj. The Price of Happiness and Desire. 2002. European Graduate School. YouTube. 17 August 2011. <> 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sex and the City

Sex and the City was a TV series centered on a group of 4 women set in the backdrop of New York. The show ran between 1998 and 2004 on HBO. The four main characters are archetypes of various characteristics of women. They include: Charlotte, conservative, sometimes naïve, and set on getting married and attaining a fairy tale relationship; Samantha, a hard-working and career oriented PR exec with a sharp tongue and an unapologetic promiscuous attitude; Miranda, sarcastic, dry, and, at times, a cynical corporate successful lawyer; and finally Carrie, the narrator, and generally free spirited sex columnist. The themes of plot follow questions that Carrie addresses in the beginning of each episode, which correspond with what she is writing for her weekly column, including dealing with independence and the dependence upon men and relationships.

            The show is about women, though it was created, produced, and predominately written by men. The show exudes the importance of the bond of female friendship and the taboo or stigmatized subjects that women talk about. The show gave women’s friendship a new angle; rather than gossip, it is depicted as the real conversations shared amongst friends. Women are sometimes enacted as “catty” or jealous in the media, but the show shined a light on female friendship and their bond, promoting feminism and female friendships.

Sex and the City is different from other TV shows because it acknowledged the shifting viewpoints associated with postmodernism and the oscillation (fluctuation) of values. Postmodernism takes a less optimistic view where constant change becomes the status quo. The women on the show were always frequenting different clubs and restaurants as well as meeting, dating, and sleeping with different men.

Sex and the City is aestheticized, as it is depicted in an idealized and artistic manner: the high-end living, luxury items, and precarious nature of the women’s beliefs. Postmodernism includes the notion of “an acceleration in the pace of living” (200), which is clearly evident in the TV series. This can be seen with the transitioning of men, the rapid pace of the city itself, and the evolving designer trends.

Consumerism, Capitalism, and Marxism are also clearly seen in the series. There is an idealized notion of glamour, which promotes consumerism, as if implying that without the designer labels happiness cannot be fully achieved. “Fabulousness” in the show exists by way of cultural capital. The consumer driven version of “fabulousness” serves the function of assimilation rather than subversion. In other words, cultural markers, for instance designer goods, signify status and wealth, and serve as a necessity to attain a self-sufficient and independent lifestyle. Is the show then suggesting that an individual, or audience member, create a reality through consumption by way of media? The characters are essentially slaves to their own fetishes and commodities, almost implying a sort of slavery to their vices. The women live dominated by their impulses of indulgence rather than purpose. They reside in the “eternal present.”

Commodification is not only seen with the designer labels (shoes, clothing, etc.) in the show, but the commodification of the characters themselves. They represent a type or quality. As Marx has suggested, "commodification is the process associated with capitalism by which objects, qualities, and signs are turned into commodities” (Barker, 13). Examples of commodification include ideas, culture, identity, and even the human body.

Sex and the City was a groundbreaking show. It was also a multi-faceted show that featured various aspects of culture, gender roles, societal norms and boundaries, as well as diverse topics that paved the way for many future shows. It showcased postmodern characters in a modern backdrop. Like it or not, despite its arguable topics or inappropriate inferences, Sex and the City has changed TV forever. Furthermore, due to the success of the TV series, two Sex and the City movies were made. Here is a humorous clip from the second movie (the women are in Abu Dhabi): 

(Our group gave a general introduction to the series, asked the class of their preconceived notions about the women, content, and general overview of the show, then split the class into groups and focus on either Feminism, Capitalism, or Postmodernism as seen in Sex and the City, including the show as a whole, the characters, as well as the topics covered. Lillian and I worked together and presented postmodernism to the Rules of Attraction group, articulating the general meaning of postmodernism and asking the group members to make connections to the Barker text).

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd. 2008.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

the who and the what

"Love is by definition an unmerited gift; being loved without meriting it is the very proof of real love. If a woman tells me: I love you because you're intelligent, because you're decent, because you buy me gifts, because you don't chase women, because you do the dishes, then I'm disappointed; such love seems a rather self-interested business. How much finer it is to hear: I'm crazy about you even though you're neither intelligent nor decent, even though you're a liar, an egotist, a bastard" (Kundera, 49). 

French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, was asked to examine “love.” The following are Derrida's excerpts from the above video:

“… as for the reason Philosophy has often spoke of love, I either have nothing to say or I’d just be reciting clichés."

"The first question one could pose is the question of the difference between the who and the what. Is love the love of someone or the love of something? Ok, suppose I love someone: Do I love someone for the absolute singularity of who they are? – I love you because you are you. Or, do I love your qualities, your beauty, your intelligence? Does one love someone, or does one love something about someone?"

"The difference between the who and the what at the heart of love, separates the heart. It is often said that love is movement of the heart. Does my heart move because I love someone who is an absolute singularity or because I love the way that someone is?"

"Often, love starts with some type of seduction. One is attracted because the other is like this or like that. Inversely, love is disappointed and dies when one comes to realize the other person doesn’t merit our love. The other person isn’t like this or that."

"So at the death of love it appears that one stops loving another not because of who they are but because they are such and such. That is to say, the history of love, the heart of love, is divided between the who and the what."

"The question of Being, to return to philosophy … because the first question of philosophy is: what is it ‘to be’? What is Being? The question of Being is itself always divided between the who and the what. Is ‘Being’ someone or some thing?"

"I speak of it abstractly but I think that whoever starts to love, is in love, or stops loving is caught between the division of the who and the what. One wants to be true to someone – singularly, irreplaceably – and one perceives that this someone isn’t x or y. They didn’t have the qualities, properties, the images that I thought I loved."

"So, fidelity is threatened by the difference between the who and the what.”

Derrida says that “fidelity is threatened by the difference between the who and the what,” but isn’t it precisely the "what" that makes up the "who"?

Are we looking for someone that we love absolutely because of who they are, or the qualities they possess? Though, the question seems to be in itself misleading. Isn’t it always that you love someone for who they are based on the qualities they possess? Conversely, even though they might not have some important trait, you still love them despite their lack of a specific quality. Derrida posed the question most eloquently, “Does one love someone, or does one love something about someone?” 

Does love just boil down to poetic justice versus logical thought? Or perhaps that is the wrong question. The question is not one of love, rather one of happiness or contentment when in love. Or, is it the case that we cannot be logical when dealing with an emotional ideology?

Perhaps Slavoj Zizek said it best:
“What does love feel like,” asked an interviewer, to which he replied, “Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.” 

Greenstreet, Rosanna. Slavoj Zizek: Short Survey. The Guardian, 9 August 2008. 16 August 2011. <>

Jaques Derrida on Love and Being. YouTube. 26 January 2007. 16 August 2011.

Kundera, Milan. Slowness, A Novel. Trans. Linda Asher. New York: Harper Collins, 1996. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


“An utterance can have Intentionality, just as a belief has Intentionality, but whereas the Intentionality of the belief is intrinsic the Intentionality of the utterance is derived.” –John Searle

Derrida’s deconstruction places a direct focus on the relationship between words and meanings. Deconstruction can be defined in many ways, as many philosophers have defined and even re-defined the term (how ironic since the concept itself calls for such process with other text), though it is widely agreed that the concept of deconstruction is to “take apart, to undo, in order to seek out and display the assumptions of a text” (Barker, 87).

With his use of deconstruction, Derrida has welcomed the challenge to take on the status quo. However, with leaving everything open to interpretation and reevaluation, “meaning has the potential to proliferate into infinity” (Barker, 90). Additionally “one of the central problems faced by the process of deconstruction is that it must use the very conceptual language it seeks to undo” (Barker, 36). The problem becomes that when interpreting text over and over again, the meanings change. This can bring about suggestive implications which then undermine social, economic, and political institutions. Though, with our postmodern state this is already an ongoing situation. Derrida’s notion calls into question the fundamental aspects of society, even questioning the ways in which we act and the explanations we provide of how we understand and have come to understand ourselves.

Essentially, “deconstruction seeks to expose the tension between what a text means to say and what it is constrained to mean” (Barker, 36). By way of deconstructing, every text has meaning beyond the word itself. Furthermore, the words around, or supplemented, add to or can substitute meanings. For instance, a dog is a dog because it is not a cat. However, “the meaning of  dog is unstable” (Barker, 86). Derrida suggests, “one of the definition of what is called deconstruction would be the effort to take this limitless context into account, to pay the sharpest and broadest attention possible to context, and thus to an incessant movement of recontextualization.”

Deconstruction adheres to the notion of deconstructing the language of philosophy. With such, comes a change in meaning, resulting in disproportionate and even biased explanations of previously held universals. In other words, deconstruction strips away universals, leaving behind an array of suggestions and possibility. Derrida seems to be pushing to call into question fundamental norms and dominating discourses held by societal guidelines. Derrida was correct when he suggested that language is subjective, but isn’t that the point … how can it not be?

Derrida brings forth new ideas and ways of looking at text, however his proposed notion of deconstruction is seemingly arbitrary: meanings can be manipulated. On the other hand, by taking historical context into effect, a more fixed meaning can be presented. Context seems to be the critical aspect. Derrida has stated that “there is nothing outside the text,” meaning that everything is context. Critics of Derrida have used this statement by the philosopher to place a stigma upon his concept of deconstruction. Language is an extension of intent, purpose, or meaning; therefore context is of utmost importance.

Here is an example reiterating the importance of context, though in a humorous and trivial way, using a very common profane word: (

Round and round in a circle to find meaning, and then deconstruct meaning, create a new one, and even reevaluate that.  It sounds slightly chaotic and somewhat redundant. To look at something in a different or more meaningful way is not necessarily deconstructing it, but opening up one’s mind and reflecting upon point of view. To deconstruct text is still arbitrary, as John Searle, Derrida’s critic, points out, “It [writing] has enormous meta-cognitive implications. The power is this: That you cannot only think in ways that you could not possibly think if you did not have the written word, but you can now think about the thinking that you do with the written word. There is danger in this, and the danger is that the enormous expressive and self-referential capacities of the written word, that is, the capacities to keep referring to referring to referring, will reach a point where you lose contact with the real world. And this, believe me, is very common in universities. There's a technical name for it, it's called "bullshit." But this is very common in academic life, where people just get a form of self-referentiality of the language, where the language is talking about the language, which is talking about the language, and in the end, it's hot air. That's another name for the same phenomenon.”

Derrida said it best himself, “needless to say, one more time, deconstruction, if there is such a thing, takes place as the experience of the impossible.”

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd. 2008. 

John Searle Quotes. Brainy Quote, 2011. 4 August 2011. <>

Stephens, Mitchell. Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction. The New York Times Magazine, 1994. 4 August 2011. <>

Using Proper English. YouTube. 3 August 2009. 4 August 2011. <> 

Thursday, July 28, 2011


“The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.” –Ecclesiastes.

Simulacrum is defined as an image or representation, however, when using this concept to conceptualize reality and socially constructed ideologies, the simple definition becomes rather complicated.

Simulacrum, conceptualized by Jean Baudrillard, is the concept of imitating an imitation where the original is lost. It is the idealized version of something that, perhaps, never was to begin with. The recycling of imitations of an original that never was suggests that existence precedes essence. In other words, if imitating over and over again something in which no original basis can be found, then hyperreality and exaggeration ensues. The result is a distorted version of a reality or notion. Mimicking or exemplifying an idea or behavior that never was allows nothing except for distortion to take place.

Anthropologist Eric Higgs suggests that, “the boundary between artificiality and reality will become so thin that the artificial will become the centre of moral value.” If there is no real or authentic original basis for an imitation that is continuously being copied, then artificiality is what is left, and in turn, takes on the form of reality. Baudrillard proposes that due to the hyperreality state, all that is left is the simulacra. Hyperrealism suggests a reality where the difference between what is real (that which has an origin) and what is a representation of the real can no longer be distinguished.

The imagined and the “real” are both simulacra because the reproduction or imitation has no origin. This can be seen in the socially constructed notion of gender and gender roles. Since both the imagined and the original, “real” version, are distortions, the perception of the model or norm is simply an idealized model. Gender roles, what is considered the norm and what is flamboyant (either too masculine or feminine) is then an exaggeration in every sense. This follows the stage of phases involving the simulacra: the transgression of a reflection of a basic reality, masking and perverting the basic reality, then masking the absence of the basic reality until it bears no relation to any reality whatsoever. It becomes its own pure simulacrum.

Judith Butler’s “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,” discusses the issue of gender and gender roles, along with heterosexuality and homosexuality. She argues that, “gender is kind of imitation for which there is no original” (722). Therefore, masculine or feminine gender roles performed are not an innate or intrinsic quality of an individual, rather characteristics that are very much learned.  If there is no original, then the gender roles constructed by societal constraints of approving or disapproving masculinity, femininity, or even effeminate traits, are simulacra.

This can be stated very easily, however, one must take into consideration that self-identity first begins with the recognition of particular bodily traits and attributes. Female and male characteristics are what distinguish individuals at a very early age. The way one behaves, whether accordingly or not, stems from the basis of sex and then gender. Stripping away the notion that there is a fundamental basis of gender and sexual orientation not only contributes to confusion to the individual, but also to the formation of self-identity. If there was never an original, then society is simply pushing copies of normative behavior and self-identity can never fully be realized. Or can it? Isn’t performance of gender roles part of self-identity. Or perhaps deconstructing the social norms can lead to re-evaluation and progressing the concept of self-identity, and, in turn, reality. Though, to take it to the extreme, Baudrillard argues that there is no such thing as reality today because the concept of simulacra involves a negation of the concept of reality.

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulations. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988. 28 July 2011. <>.

Butler, Judith. Gender Studies, Gay/Lesbian Studies, Queer Theory. Chapter 7: Imitation and Gender Insubordination, 1993. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jerry Maguire quick post

On the surface, Jerry Maguire is all about ego and money. Even his football player client continuously reiterates the famous line, “show me the money.” But looking beyond the superficial surface of money and the material world, Maguire offers another take on love. The film suggests that love means showing up. In other words, being there for someone else through the downfalls and bad times to rise up and meet the success together. Initially, Maguire stressed his idea of love on his success. Essentially, that he could not have one without the other. Though, it is through his struggles that he is able to overcome himself and negative disposition and accept love. Shakespeare’s King Lear exemplifies this concept “Men must endure/ Their going hence, even as their coming hither:/ Ripeness is all” (5.2). There is no control of birth or exit from this world, but the rest is up to the individual.  It is through the struggles that are endured where meaning is found. 

Ethnography: Starbucks

Each of my mornings consists of either driving or walking to my nearby Starbucks for a double tall non-fat cappuccino. Compared to others’, my drink of choice is a simple one. Rather than heading home to enjoy my morning coffee, I sat for an hour on Monday morning, around 10:30a.m, to observe other individuals who frequented this popular coffee house.

The Starbucks on Louise and Saticoy is different from other locations as it does not offer an inside area. The inside of this Starbucks is small and contains only the eager staff fervently making each customer’s drink order. Though, it does have a walk-up window, small sitting area for those who choose to enjoy their beverages outside, and a convenient drive-thru for on-the-go customers, allowing them to purchase items of their choosing without ever having to get out of their car.

As I waited patiently in line, I noticed that there was music playing overhead. Surprisingly though, a CD was not placed by the window advertising the artist who could be heard overhead. None of the patrons seemed to notice or care about the music quietly playing, myself included. Instead, customers quickly placed their drink order and pastry or breakfast item of choice. Additionally, many of the employees already knew the coffee beverage requested by recognizable faces that presumably frequented the Starbucks on a daily basis.

I picked up my coffee from the window and chose a place to sit. I looked around and noticed an older woman, presumably in her 60s, reading a newspaper and consuming one of those overly complicated ice-blended options. Another table was occupied by a 20-something-year-old man typing away on his laptop, hitting each key as if it angered him. He was also consuming an ice-blended “frappuccino”, though his was a large (“venti”), perhaps indicating he wanted a beverage that would suffice for a lengthy period of time.

As I sat and sipped my coffee from the labeled cup and matching logo “sleeve,” I noticed the different drink orders: some simply ordered a “medium coffee”, while others chose customized drinks. One woman ordered a very specific drink consisting of specific pumps of white mocha, shots of espresso, soymilk, half something else, and even a temperature direction. Most of the middle-aged men and women had simpler orders and did not pay attention to Starbucks’ “tall, grande, venti” labels for the corresponding small, medium, and large sizes. Conversely, many of the younger individuals seemed to enjoy their overly complicated and personalized drink orders.

Starbucks has successfully taken an ordinary item, coffee, and transformed it into an experience. Since “popular culture is constituted throughout the production of popular meaning located at the moment of consumption” (Barker, 54), Starbucks is, therefore, part of popular culture. Furthermore, Starbucks is not only a brand amidst popular culture but has even produced its own culture. The individual who orders the “large coffee” versus one who prefers the “triple grande no foam soy fat-free sugar-free vanilla latte” differ, however, they do share one thing in common: both are willing to pay a little extra for their coffee. For some, Starbucks might be conveniently located on an individual’s daily route, for another Starbucks is more than just coffee, more than a brand.

Seemingly, people don’t want just an ordinary cup of coffee anymore. Starbucks glamorizes its beverages, offers a personalized menu, even suggesting additions, and charging extra. It seems as though individuals appreciate something they pay a little extra for. Individuals want to hold the cup that features the well-known logo on it. Essentially, Starbucks has successfully transformed coffee into a novelty item.

Popular culture has integrated Starbucks and its cultivation of the coffee beverage. Starbucks’ coffee is generating quite a bit of money, not solely based on its product, rather its brand. Starbucks coffee has become a novelty fixture as opposed to what it really is: caffeine in a nicely designed cup with matching sleeve. As Marx has suggested, "commodification is the process associated with capitalism by which objects, qualities, and signs are turned into commodities. The surface appearance of goods sold in the marketplace obscures the origins of those commodities in an exploitiative relationship" (Barker, 13). Starbucks does not simply sell coffee and pastries; they offer a kind of popular culture lifestyle by way of a commodity.

Starbucks is taking away individuality by placing people under the umbrella of the culture of Starbucks customers, while giving them personalized options to contribute to individuality, a perfect contradiction. Where is the “common sense” or “good sense” of paying $5 for a novelty item that can easily be made at home, or better yet, purchased at a similar coffee house is not a brand-name, for less money. Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, suggests that, “all people reflect upon the world and, through the ‘common sense’ of popular culture, organize their lives and experience" (Barker, 67). It is through Gramsci’s ideology of popular culture that we can see how Starbucks has risen and remains planted within popular culture.

As of today, Starbucks has over 24 million Facebook followers who have “liked” the company and another 2 million who have taken the time to “check in” to their various Starbucks locations. Starbucks has become a common meeting place for many individuals: students, first dates, friends, and others. As individuals scurry through everyday life trying to make sense of it all, if indulging in a $5 brand name coffee makes us happy, then why not.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. 3rd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications Ltd. 2008.