Deciphering How Propaganda Deceives Us

The Perverts Guide to Ideology

Directed by Sophie Fiennes (2012)

Film Review

Slovoj Zizek is a philosopher and researcher at the Department of Philosophy of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. In this film (written and narrated by Zizek), he explains the concept of ideology by comparing it to magic sunglasses that enable us to see the true message behind all the propaganda we are exposed to in daily life. An actor puts on the sunglasses and magically sees messages of “consume,” “obey,” “conform,” and “make love and reproduce” all around him. Zizek warns that most people don’t want to see the dictatorship behind democracy because “freedom hurts.”

Most of the documentary focuses on specific ideological messages contained in popular films. However though one segment focuses on Coca Cola and Starbucks advertising and another on the propaganda value of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (ie the section adopted as the hymn “Ode to Joy.”)

The first film Zizek examines is the Sound of Music, specifically the scene (which was censored in Yugoslavia) where Mother Superior sings “Climb Every Mountain.” This part of the film was banned by Yugoslavian authorities, who interpreted it (correctly in Zizek’s view) as an official church-approved admonition for Maria to fully pursue her sexual desires.

He performs a similar analysis of the ideological messaging in the films Westside Story, Taxi Driver, Jaws, Cabaret, I am Legend, Titanic, Mash, Full Metal Jacket, the Dark Knight, Brazil, the Last Temptation of Christ, as well as films produced by Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, and famous Soviet, Chinese and Czech filmmakers.

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