Project-Buffy the Freudian.


……in your blog

Joss Whedon quite consciously incorporates both Freudian and Lacanian ideas into his scripts for the long-running TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In the final episode of season 4 there are a number of dream sequences, each of which can be seen as, in part, exemplifying one or more of the ideas of Freud or Lacan. Watch it and note as many ideological references as you can find. Make notes as to how they manifest themselves


  • It’s a film night: films include Capricorn One , and Apocalypse now!
  • Each character now has a dream…………

Freud believed that dreams were associated with the unconscious-as well as slips, jokes, neurotic behaviours (Pooke and Newall, 2008: 117)

Willow’s dream

  • Tara is talking to Willow initially.

The 2 girls are not dissimilar looking. Perhaps this is Willow’s perfect ‘other’ as  described in Lacan’s mirror stage. Tara may be the perfect ideal for Willow  who at this stage is beginning to suffer  ‘social’ anxieties characteristic of the Symbolic order (Silverman, 1999: 344)

  • Miss Kitty the kitten is not ‘all grown yet’ and they ‘have n’t found her name yet… ‘

This could be a reference to the development of the (human) psyche- our name is a signifier for who we are, and Lacan suggests that one acquires language only when one enters the symbolic stage. Language separates people from both their drives and the world around them, because the language signifier has no ‘physical’ substance  (Silverman, 1999)

  • The kitten chases the ball of wool

Silverman (1999:349) discusses the interpretation of a child throwing away a ball, in the context of the difference between Freud and Lacan. Freud takes the incident as representing the loss of the boy’s mother, whilst Lacan sees the ball as an objet a petit autre -an object which is part of itself, lost,  and then returned to itself.   Of course Lacan and Freud dealt mainly with humans not kittens.

  • Willow doesn’t want to leave the safe part of the dream…..She does leave and we have more threatening music…………….
  • Next we have several references to Anxiety through the school play. Willow….. ‘Gonna be late’ (breaks human/society rules), has a rubbish part (low personal status), thought it was drama class not a production (unprepared). Also everyone who knows her is watching in the audience (peer pressure), they are all angry (a basic negative emotion and thus within the id) and the teacher says the show has ‘to be perfect’   (either a reference to the Lacanian mirror phase, or a to the different world of the ego/superego (or Lacanian symbolic) where we face the reality of our world through various symbols/significations, one of which is often punctuality.

  • The play is Death of a Salesman

Freud posits 2 major instincts in life; the death instinct (a drive to fight against threats), and a love instinct (a drive to reproduce) (Pooke and Newall,2008:120).

  • The cowboy says to the milk maid ‘can I hold those milk pales for you’ to which the audience sniggers.

This is a typical joke, with a hidden message. The audience realises that behind the language is a reference to the cowboy gaining sexual pleasure by touching the girls breasts (technically the signifier ‘milk pales’ has shifted from referring to in animate buckets, to referring to living human breasts).

  • The processed cheese slices recur in four dreams

Everyone knows that our dreams tend to involve many different aspects of our thoughts which seem to knit together, sometime incongruously. Perhaps Willow had eaten cheese that day, but the recurrence of the cheese in 4 seperate dreams (and dreamers) suggests deeper significance here. Perhaps cheese might be a fetish of  the director ? A fetish is the replacement of a sexual object by a non-sexual object which fulfils a similar role in satisfying sexual drives.

Xander’s dream

  • Buffy’s mum tries to seduce Xander,

….at one point the boy replies in a Freudian slip (a mistake in language which reveals a subconscious thought). When he replies to a question by ‘I’d like you’ and not ‘I’d like to’  Xander reveals that he subconsciously wants to have sex with Buffy’s attractive mum.

  • Xander in the bathroom, is observed by a group of soldiers and medics…..

his may suggest the shame of nudity, genitals or excretion. We are not born with feelings like this ( despite the Christian theory of original sin, babies don’t feel ashamed when they poop in the nappy). However, as we develop into the symbolic stage, our signification often includes an embarrassment about these subjects…….

Alternatively, Exhibitionism is one of the pathologies described by Freud, and the punishment for exhibitionism is that the observing eyes will bite off part of the body.  Exhibitionism may often lie behind ‘an exaggerated sense of shame’ ( Fenichel, 1999:337).

  • The garden sequence-

Initially this scene is viewed through Xander’s eyes (first person), but we then  then change to second person, where Xander is the object, not the subject. The garden scene is strongly sexually symbolic in Freud’s opinion.

We have already spoken of natural scenery as a representation of the female genitals. Mountains and cliffs are symbols of the male organ; the garden a frequent symbol of the female genitals. Fruit does not stand for the child, but for the breasts. Wild animals signify sensually aroused persons, or further, base impulses, passions. Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants.

(Bartleby, 2015)

  • Xander serves ice creams from the ice cream van

This is a strong symbol of childhood

  • Willow and Tara are kissing and acting sexually in a lesbian way in the back of the van

This highlights Xander’s sexual impulse/force. More specifically Xander stares at this scene for a long time (several seconds). This stare may be described as the scoptophilic look, and is the primordial forerunner of the actual sexual act. This is a powerful form of looking, not just observing, but more along the lines of sharing the action ‘… by means of empathy in its experience’ (Fenichel , 1997:330). In other words he strongly desires sex with one or other (or both ) of the girls.

  • Xander follows them as if to want sex- but they disappear!!

This often happens in dreams! It’s a frustration of the sexual urge. Wanting to have sex with the girls is a natural dream/fantasy, but it sex also fulfils the Lacanian imperative. This states that the original loss which we experience when we are born (that of being both sexes simultaneously) can only be overcome through sex and procreation (Silverman, 1999: 342).

  • Giles starts speaking in French to Xander

Xander cannot understand the babble. This is a nice illustration of a Lacanian principle, that when humans develop language, during the symbolic stage, they are separated from the world around them as language signifiers have no ‘physical’ substance (Silverman, 1999). This point is also conveyed through Xander’s inability to understand a different language to his own- showing that language signifiers are inherently arbitrarily related to the real world.

  • We have several filmic methods to show dreams/conscious/subconscious

These include distortions of the image involving waviness, rotation, and fade/strikethrough.

  • A re-enactment of the famous scene from Apocalypse Now follows.

Xander is playing the hero soldier who has been charged with destroying the rogue ‘Colonel Kurtz’.  Xander identifies with the hero. The dream sequence suggests that he would like to be more like the film’s hero, these thoughts being subconscious, but appearing  to his ‘preconscious’ via the dream.

It is interesting that the film is notoriously symbolic for Disaster redeemed by success, another desirable symbolic phenomenon. During filming it experience problems with escalatingly ruinous finances, an  overpaid-difficult star (Marlon Brando), a depressed director. Additionally the critics thought it would be a flop,  the star suffered health problems on set, and the weather and politics during filming were difficult (The Guardian, 2015). However, finally the film got made, and was a massive Hollywood success- a massive redemption story.

  • Xander’s dad appears and says ‘are you ashamed of us  ?’

This scene is perhaps the most suggestive of the classical Freudian Oedipus complex in which the male child recognises his genitals are like his father’s, and attempts to usurp the father for his mother’s attention. Throughout this drama the threat of castration by the father is imminent (represented by the mother’s lack of a phallus) (Pooke and Newall,2008:118). The nearest the scene comes is that Xander has obviously upset his dad, who rips his heart out (Xander’s)  saying ‘The line ends here with us……..’  . This being the case, Xander cannot reproduce and is essentially rendered castrated by his dad.

Giles’s dream

  • Giles is hypnotising Buffy-

Hypnosis is one of several ways into the subconscious mind, and true  hypnotists render unconscious with their eyes, a potentially sadistic practise (Fenichel , 1999: 328). Looking can also equate to eating (subconsciously), and the eye also equates to both the penis and vagina! (Fenichel, 1999:334). So hypnosis can be said to include all the usual Freudian elements.

  • Buffy is the child of Giles, and they are at a fair/circus

Buffy has many ICONIC child-like characteristics here, dungarees, pig tails, she repeats ‘I want to I want to…..’ jumping up and down. Perhaps this nuclear family is a representation of the battlefield of ‘Family’ which lies between Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis- The Lacanian family structure is more complex than Freud’s (Silverman, 1999:352)

  • Spike seems to be an attraction at a circus-

Interestingly the picture moves between colour and Black and white, with Spikes performance seen in Black and white only.  This monochrome could symbolise a more ‘archaic’ and ‘libidinal’ look (Fenichel, 1999:   ) than the more sophisticated colour scenes.…).

  • A joke is told on stage beginning ‘ a man walks into a bar……….’

This is an iconic joke beginning, and jokes are another way that Freud postulated we can become aware of our subconscious thoughts.

Buffy’s dream

  • Buffy talks to a similar looking girl (Tara)

Could this reference Lacan’s mirror stage of development?

  • Buffy’s Boyfriend has returned from college and says he’s been made the surgeon general, and  world domination is following….
  • The demons are then said to have escaped………and she looks for her weapons- but they are n’t there- only a sort of face-mask mud in her bag- which she puts on.
  • The landscape shifts to a desert…..
  • The girl arrives again – ‘I am destruction’
  • The cheese again
  • She fights the native …. They fall down a slope………..she wakens-monster hybrid.

This is referred to as ‘the primal slayer’-could this be the child witnessing the ‘primal scene’ (their parents having sex). This may be causing some psychological pathology here, reflected in its presence in the dream.

Or the primal slayer may be the Lacanian ‘loss’ which defines all our lives ( Silverman, 1999: 342)

  • After this terror Buffy makes a joke about the natives hair, and about social/sexual norms………

Terror followed by comedy is a very common theme in artistic endeavours, and life in general. It may provide a release of tension.


Bartelby (2015) Sigmund Freud (1856–1939).  A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis.  1920. Part Two: The Dream. X. Symbolism in the Dream. [online] at [accessed 19 Oct 2017].

Fenichel O. (1999) ‘The scoptophilic instinct and identification’. in visual culture: a reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds.). London. SAGE Publications.   p. 327-339

Pooke, G and Newall, D (2008) Art History. Abingdon.  Routledge.

Silverman , K (1999). ‘The subject’. In visual culture: A reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds), London. SAGE Publications.   p. 340-355

The Guardian (2015) My favourite Cannes winner: Apocalypse now. [online] at [accessed 19 Oct 2017].




Project- Ecclesiastes misquoted.

Text:  Simulacra and Simulations by Jean Baudrillard


  • The map made of the Borgia’s empire is described. It was a perfect representation of the Empire, but then the Empire dissolved, and the map became a second-order simularcrum.
  • Abstraction and simulation are not what we expect today- eg. Mirror images, maps, they do not contain a real at all. They are a real world made up by images, which have no real about them. This is the precession of the simulacra.
  • In today’s world there is very little of the real.
  • The charm, poetry and magic of the Borgia’s map is dependent on the lost reflection of the map and its territory, but today no such relationship exists and the simulacrum’s ‘operation is nuclear and genetic, and no longer specular and discursive’ (Stanford, 1999).
  • The real now is all about miniaturization and reproducibility, and no longer has rationality, or an associated ‘imaginary’, so it is not real at all. ‘It is a hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere’ (Stanford, 1999).

         An example?? What about the financial industry which deals with figures/computers/changing indexes, but has relation to the manufacture of goods ….

  •  Now we have got rid of any referent, and instead use the less precise system of signs, which is open to a different sort of language and algebra.
  • Every real thing is replaced (substituted) by a sign, and this has none of the weaknesses or difficulties (‘visicittudes’) of the real thing.


In your BLOG…………….

Watch Blade Runner, the director’s or final cut rather than the cinema release version.

• Is Deckard human or a replicant? Make notes as to the reasons for your conclusion. What are the visual clues?

• Watch The Matrix. Make notes as to how far the ideas of the simulacrum inform the film


Blade Runner Analysis

Some background Information

  • Nexus 6 are replicants which are ‘at least equal in intelligence’ to the their human creators.
  • They have mutinied on another planet- and several are missing on earth.
  • The film is set in a ‘Metropolis’ like city in 2019
  • We learn about 4 escaped Nexus 6 replicants- Roy Batty, Zhorn, Pris (a basic pleasure model) and Leon.
  • Dr Tyrell says if they gift replicants a past (via memories, photos etc.) it makes them more controllable.
  • Nexus 6 have a 4 year lifespan, as a built in fail-safe, because they can begin to develop emotions of their own after a few years and can lose their self-control.
  • Deckard is a blade runner- he tests for whether beings are human or replicant, using a test based on pupillary response to questions. He is charged with destroying the Nexus 6 replicants.

General comments

  • This analysis is based on my viewing only and not influenced by extensive discussion available about the film.
  • Most of the evidence for Deckard’s human-ness is not conclusive, but revolves around just how sophisticated Nexus 6 are- how like humans they are. Much of the evidence suggests that Nexus 6 are very Human.
  • It should be remembered that ‘absence of evidence (eg. a replicant yawn) is not evidence of absence

Evidence that Nexus 6 are very human-like

  • The replicants want their freedom
  • They show characteristics of humans – and because of his they will be self-destructed.
  • We see in the first test, a replicant (Leon) who shows signs of humanness- eg annoyance, being irritating etc…
  • We learn that the nexus 6 want ‘incept dates’- are they worried about their impending death???
  • Rachel realises she’s a replicant and cries
  • When we see Pris walk down a street-the music is jazzy suggesting a certain authenticity and sexiness.
  • Batty tells Dr Tyrell ‘death’ is the problem. ‘I want more life fucker’…..this seems quintessentially human/real…………
  • Dr Tyrell cant alter the self-destruct- suggesting a certain ‘unknowable’ difficulty here- akin to man’s inability to prevent his own demise
  • Pris tells Deckard ironically that ‘I think therefore I am’, quoting Descartes central tenant of reality. This certainly makes her Real. To be human in this respect she would need to know she was thinking- and that certainly seems likely from the way the replicants act.
  • Batty seems upset by the death of PRIS he cries. If even tears are possible it suggests that most human attributes can be shown by Reps (we are told tears are not really functional in humans-so suggests quite a complex mechanism)
  • Batty makes a final soliloquy and then dies- a dove flies off as if it’s his soul. The dove is a universal symbol of peace. The film seems to be saying that this replicant should be pitied and is not BAD- perhaps though not human he still suffers.

Evidence that Deckard is human

Evidence Comment
He eats noodles and drinks


Do replicants eat? I can’t find any evidence in the film. He does get Rachel a drink at her place, but we don’t see her drink- though she does smoke
He suggests to Rachel (the secretary) that replicants are a hazard and he needs to destroy them. If a replicant , he does not seem to be aware that he is . However- Rachel is a replicant and does not know initially)
At Rachel’s flat D is tired – he yawns Tiredness is very human- machines do not get tired (though they do wear out and overheat !). No evidence that replicants get tired.
Deckard feels sympathy when Rachel realises she’s a replicant. Accompanying soft poignant piano music.


Deckard rings Rachel and is upset that she previously disappeared on him- a very human characteristic. Feeling romantic and sexual rejection, and Love is quintessentially human. Can replicants also feel love ?- We know Pris is a ‘basic pleasure model’.
When he tracks down and meets Zhorn, he embellishes an ironic comedic act –pretending to be a health and safety guy who is worried about her exploitation and working environment. Irony is often very sophisticated and so is rather Human.
During the pursuit of Zhorn filmic devices are used to reinforce the chaos of the situation Deckard feels.



This chaos is not ‘real’-but mainly perceived by Deckard.-and seems a very human reaction. Chaos of his chase is suggested by lots of quick edits/cuts, strange mechanical noises, babbled unintelligible foreign languages, and repetition (eg of ‘Don’t walk’).
When Leon finds Deckard and attacks him, leon does not obviously bleed- but Deckard bleeds copiously from his mouth later. Do replicants bleed or feel pain?
He tells Rachel he would not hunt her because he ‘owes her one’.


This suggests an ability to reprioritise eg. Need to kill a rep V need to demonstrate thanks. This is not typical algorithmic thinking that might be associated with a machine.
When PRIS suddenly begins to convulse and self- destruct- he shoots her.



Perhaps he feels this is ‘kinder’, otherwise an algorithm may suggest that the job of destruction is already in hand.
Batty fights Deckard and breaks his fingers. Deckard cries out in pain.



Do any of the replicants feel pain? It’s not clear that they do. Batty seems not to feel any obvious pain though at one point he seems pointedly to say ‘that hurt’ . This is sort of humorous in a complicated way!


There is also an interesting issue here about the fact that Hero’s very rarely seem to feel physical pain during fights in Hollywood movies (eg. James Bond, Matthew Bourne) – the ideology of Hollywood.


During the fight Deckard gets out of breath, and experiences other filmic perceptions of ‘human-ness’ (adrenaline/fight/flight). Batty seems not to.
Batty tries the same jump that Deckard failed and makes it easily.

Evidence that Deckard is a replicant

He sees some of his own photos which include the same room as in Rachel’s ‘memories’.



He sees the same photo as he saw at Leon’s flat and at Rachel’s. The implication is that this is a stock photo given to all replicants to provide memory- so he is a replicant too.
At the piano Deckard has a sort of reflection/dream involving a unicorn.


We see the unicorn at JF’s- suggesting that JF engineered Deckard too.
He sees Zhorn naked, but appears not to look at her body puts on a comic act similar to a H and S worker re her ‘act’.


During this encounter Zhorn also appears to smile warmly and recognise the irony of the situation.



– rather unnatural (or at least restrained) for a heterosexual man)



She acts with human characteristics her- though she Is a replicant.



At his flat he kisses Rachel-who does not reciprocate. He tries again and this time she kisses him very ‘naturally’.





Does Rachel feel sexual attraction or put it on? If she does it’s indirect evidence that Deckard may also be a replicant. Roy and PRIS kiss like lovers later on …..


During his fight with Batty Deckard climbs out of a window and hangs by a ledge-despite having broken fingers.


This is either evidence that he is a machine, or (more likely) evidence that this is how most heros act in movies. In this film this Holywood ideology is therefore ironic.
Rachel asks Deckard if he ever took the test himself This casts some doubt that deckard’s human-ness can be taken for granted.


 Sources of ambiguity

Sources of Ambiguity.
The owl witnesses Dr Tyrell’s death and we clearly see his pupils change size.


We are told that the owl is a replicant so can we therefore believe anything in this film?
At the end of the film the policeman sees Deckard with Rachel and says ‘It’s too bad she wont live- but then again who does !’.



As a final statement this suggests that Humans and Replicants are not all that different.

Ideology and simulacra in the Matrix

Opening statement: Ideology and simulacrum are very similar as Ideology hides the reality of the situation from the subjects.

summary of ideology in the matrix:

  • Religion- Neo as Messiah, one who will save the people
  • Work- He works for a corporate firm, looks like finance/capitalist/global firm (commodity and capitalism). He’s told off by his boss for being late too often, and told the benefits of working at the corporation.
  • Drugs-Neo sells drugs as a side-line in the Matrix life. Using drugs alters our reality (from a non-drug like reality- but this too is a programme in the film therefore several layers !).
  • Love- Trinity falls in love with Neo. Both are attractive ’Hollywood’ style characters, and Hollywood needs to represent the ideology of LOVE.
  • Software- ie the Matrix itself. There’s a disconnect with the real. Matrix is a programme which gives people an existence like the 21 st C developed world…. work, city, capitalism……. All replace reality.  The actual world here does n’t exist …… the world is a desert where humans are kept as batteries for the machines and Zion is a remaining outpost of humans. The matrix is therefore a third order simulacrum. so it’s a third order. Other representations of software in the film include computer screens and binary code (coding information)- such as in the opening credits.
  • All experiences within the Matrix software- city life, Neo’s kung fu fights etc. are to some extent ideology and simulacra.
  • Memory- Neo has a memory- suggesting an attack (perhaps here a fault in the programme). In other films memories are used to help subjects through their experience (replicant’s in Blade Runner, or Douglas Quaid and Recall in Total Recall). Memories can sometimes hide the truth of the situation from us (such as when we feel nostalgia for lost times- when those times were  bad!)


Opening   sequence: We see numbers on the computer screen- these are binary numbers and code information.

  • Software and technology as simulacra

Policemen storm Trinity’s flat

She kills them all. She speaks to Morpheus on the phone.

The woman flees- she seems to be faster and stronger than the pursuing humans. She completes a superdive with no damage or injury.

  • Trinity is within the Matrix here, which is a simulacra. Additionally she acts heroic and superhuman which is often a characteristic of Hollywood heros.


Neo is also Thomas Anderson (2 identities within the matrix)

When the druggies come to his flat we see text description before the ‘real’ event (knock-knock text before we here and see the knock).

  • The text description is a Saussurian signifier. In one sense it is a first order simulacrum- the text represents the action like a painting represents the subject. There is a strong link between simulacra and language- arguably from a postmodernist Baudrillardian view, without language to describe it, our reality doesn’t exist (Felluga, 2011).

Neo gives the people drugs. He says it’s difficult to know sometimes whether he’s awake or still dreaming.  Neo chooses  between going out and enjoying himself or staying in bored (so as to be able to get up for work).

  • Dreaming is a simulacrum of ‘real life’. Some dreams are simple representations of real life, and would be considered first order simulacra. Freudian psychoanalysis would consider most dreams to be more symbolic, and second order simulacra. The real which they represent is hidden within signs (or symbols), and this real is our existence, but contains both behaviour and also emotions.
  • Drugs allow ‘out of body’ experiences where we leave a reality behind.
  • Work is an ideology and a simulacrum. The real is hidden behind an ideology. Neo chooses to go out to enjoy himself, despite the consequences for work the next day.

At work

Neo’s boss reprimands him for his awful punctuality at work. He tells him everything which work has to offer him. He works in a highly corporate, modern business- an icon of the capitalist working environment.

  • Here we have a representation of the ideology of work. Marxist analysis would say that work is a false consciousness. The boss is bourgeoisie ruling class and hides the real truth from Neo/Anderson (a second order simulacrum). Actually the worker is used simply as a means to accumulate Capital for the Bourgoisie, and everything that it might offer to the worker is a ‘sweetener’ so they stay in their place.
  • Neo’s employer looks like a multinational corporate finance firm. These firms remove us from reality even further than the Marxist view of workers and their bourgoisie rulers. In Neo’s working environment it is difficult to perceive any kind of maker of a  physical product with a use-value, buyers and sellers are hidden in a complex capitalist system. This could be interpreted as a third order simulacrum (Felluga, 2011).

After the reprimand Anderson is given a phone which rings- Morpheus tells him how to escape from the men who are already looking for him. He tries to escape but is captured.

  • Neo is not in control here- Morpheus has the information and extra perception which will allow him to escape. This enhanced perception of the situation is a vehicle of the processes of software which is part of The Matrix.

Interview room

They have a file on him- which represents his life

He has 2 lives

  1. Thomas Anderson (normal)
  2. Neo (an unlawful computer hacker)

These men think Morpheus is dangerous and wish to use Neo to get to him (‘a terrorist’). Neo says he wants his ‘phone call’.

  • Here we have a exposition of the difference between a terrorist (who the angent’s call Morpheus) and a freedom fighter (we might consider him when we know the full story).  The saying goes ‘one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’. In terms of the simulacrum, this has increased the cryptic nature of Morpheus to represent either one or the other- depending on your point of view, and can be thought of as a second order simulacrum.
  • Anderson’s reference to his phone call presupposes an ideology of a Lawful society, including lawful arrest, access to a lawyer, a system of justice and the rule of Law.

Neo is bugged

Suddenly Neo’s mouth morphs,  he can’t speak- and they put a bug in his body, ….then he wakes up. All this seems to be manufactured by the Matrix software. Can anything be manufactured by them? Do they have to conform to consistent rules?

Later we are told by Morpheus that sentient programmes are sent into the matrix world, and are dangerous and need to be fought- but they are based on rules. However, Neo does not need to act within these rules- he can dodge bullets etc…..this is essentially a supernatural quality suggestive of God and Religion.

  • This a little like the religious idea of a omniscient and omnipresent God who creates the World and Man, but creates rules such as gravity, disease and Death which are the rules of the game…….

Neo meets Morpheus

Morpheus calls Neo and tells him he’s ‘the one’ he’s been looking for. They use a machine to find and expel the bug from Neo. Morpheus mentions ‘Alice in Wonderland’- a famous book which explores logic and semantics in the guise of a children’s fairy tale. Neo tells him he doesn’t believe in fate- he likes to think he’s in control of his life.

  • The idea of a messiah, who is believed to be all-powerful by some but not others, is very suggestive of religion, particularly the Christian story of Jesus as the Son of God.

The rebels look for the Bug in Neo using a machine which resembles an Ultrasound machine in medicine. This has interesting connotations about the several ways which we can use different image modalities (which show a different picture of reality) in medicine to detect disease, such as Xray, ultrasound, computed tomography etc. Each is a different image of the real, and therefore second order simulacra.

Morpheus says the Matrix is Ideology !!

  • Here Morpheus exposes the reality /framework of the film. The truth is that Neo, like most other humans, is a slave/prisoner. He’s offered choice of a. a blue pill-wake up as normal and b. the red pill-continues ‘down the rabbit hole’. He chooses red.
  • Neo is seen gestating in a strange world (the real world), and seems to be born through a tunnel/water. He’s picked up, and has no hair and is naked. This seems to be the nearest thing to ‘real life’ within the film. ‘This is the real world’ they tell him.
  • Morpheus says: its approx. 100 years in the future, on the hovercraft Nebucadnezzar. They plug into Neo’s brain- and we see a sort of blank canvas/operating system – presumably the programming which allows the Matrix.
  • What is real ? Neo asks….
  • Morpheus replies: The real is the desert, AI was born, humans are grown as power sources for machines. Matrix is control- a computer generated dream world in order to keep humans under control, whilst they are used as chemical batteries for the machines.
  • A man is described who promises to free them all- Morpheus thinks Neo is he. Zion (reference to the ‘true’ jewish homeland) is the last human city near the earth’s core.
  • Tank puts Neo through some programmed training- through a port at the back of his skull.

The Kung Fu scene-

  • This is like a computer game. Their bodies are actually on a chair and they are plugged in- so this is a ‘virtual reality’. In this scene the actual fight does not exist. It is an example of Baudrillard’s precession of simulacra, or the hyper-real. It is a third order simulacra, because no equivalent real exists- real is defined by the programme.

In the sewers

They see a ‘search and destroy’ programme. Neo is told he’s here to save the world. One of the crew, Cipher, is plotting with a ‘sentient programme’ . He wants to deliver access codes for the Zion maintenance, so it can be destroyed.

Neo meets the Oracle

Neo is back in the city, a normal large built up environment.The ‘Oracle’ tells people who they are. Neo goes to her flat. There are several ‘potentials’ there. She is a ordinary looking black woman who’s been doing some ‘home-cooking’.

‘being the one is like being in love- no one can tell, you just know it …..’ she says.  She tells Neo he isn’t the one, but Morpheus does not believe this. He’s prepared to sacrifice himself for Neo (just as Jesus sacrificed himself for us?). Oracle says either Neo or Morpheus will die….

  • Cities, global capitalism and technology as simulacra
  • During man-kind’s development, he went through hunter gathering, agriculturalization, and finally into built-up city living. Marx considered that these cities were a type of loss of reality- a getting further away from true needs and desires (Felluga, 2011).
  • Today’s modern cities and the accompanying global capitalist economy which accompanies them, are becoming Baudrillard’s third order simulacra. In the modern capitalist world discussed by Baudrillard, we have Hyper-reality, an inversion of the Marxian idea that Human Needs and Production drive Consumption. Consumption is now the basis of a person’s position in society, a development of commodity from physical items whose use is based on need/use value, or exchange value, to include commodity as a ‘vehicle of information’ which has a ‘sign-value’ divorced of human needs, but determined by the capitalist system (Mendoza, 2010).

Neo’s deja vu

In another programme Neo gets a feling of déjà vu, suggesting that the Matrix has set a trap.  They leave Morpheus, who fights with Smith (a ‘sentient programme).  Within the rebel group Cipher asks the question whether the red or blue pill is the best? He says he’d prefer to be back in the Matrix and feels his new reality is to be ordered about by Morpheus.

  • This may reference the idea that as humans try to rebel against the ruling classes, the subsequent systems always seem to fall down and become as bad as the previous (see the Communist party after the Russian or Chinese revolutions.)

Morpheus captured

We learn that the first matrix was designed to be perfect with no suffering. But the matrix was redesigned and became imperfect- which humans found was more easily manageable (perfection not easy to live by). The ‘sentient programme’ tells Morpheus that they believe humans are not mammals but bacteria- they spread, overpopulate, like a virus, and must be cured. He hates the plague of humans, and feels that once Zion is destroyed he need  not be in the Matrix.

  • The first matrix suggests the Garden of Eden before fall. Man found it too perfect to live by, and there was a fall. The less perfect Matrix is more manageable, just like humans cannot be ‘perfect’ in God’s world.
  • MAN is summed up in a very negative light, but one cannot help but agree that Man is not good, and has very unpleasant traits. We have overpopulated, killed millions of species, killed and imprisoned our own kind, and may well live to kill the planet we live on.
  • This is the simulacrum of human-life. The real hidden truth (reflected in the film, and of now 21st Century living), is that as top of the ‘food chain’ we never get to hear much about how, without man, the world might be better and safer. This might be thought of as against the Human-centric ideology of the world we live in.

 Neo saves Morpheus.

He goes in to bring Morpheus back and  believe’s he can do it. what we believe is possible…). He seems supercharged and invisible (he can stop bullets and send them back etc….). Neo is the one but  ‘there’s a difference between knowing and walking the path’. Neo begins to believe and fights the agents. During the fighting Neo is shot and seems dead, but Trinity says she loves him (ideology of love-it can transcend bounds of distance and time and death ! ) and he comes to life!

  • This suggests the ideology of both Hollywood movie stars/heros, and computer virtual reality games.
  • Neo succeeds when he believes in himself-not when he believes he’s the chosen one. This is very good personal psychology. It is well known that to believe in oneself helps us achieve what we want-to an extent, and that it’s not dependent only on who we are (as far as genes, intelligence, random luck etc…..).
  • Perhaps this is an Enlightenment answer to the ideology of Religion. The Enlightenment would argue that in the broadest sense how we are is determined by ourselves (through science and knowledge), not by a supernatural idea of something outside ourselves which control’s us.

At the conclusion of the film Neo contacts the matrix and tells it that he’s going to begin a different way of living for people, the matrix is disabled. He returns to the programme……………..


Felluga, D (2011)  “Modules on Baudrillard: On Simulation.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. (2011) [accessed 18 january 2018].

Mendoza, D (2010) Commodity, Sign, and Spectacle: Retracing Baudrillard’s Hyperreality [online] at [accessed 18 january 2018]

Stanford (1999). Jean Baudrillard Simulacra and Simulations [online] at 26 August 2017]












Project- Illusion only is sacred, truth profane.

………in your blog
Look for three examples of current advertising that sells by appeal to lifestyle rather than the virtues of the product itself and make notes to show how.

• Find advertisements for products that have been in production since before the second world war (Coca Cola or Bovril for example), in the Modernist period and today, and annotate them to show how, or if, there has been a change from product to lifestyle as the selling point.


Three adverts which appeal to lifestyle not product

1.    HSBC mortgage advert.

  ·       Accompanying music is gentle, authentic, with a strong folky voice.

·       The daughter goes to swim practice every morning – and she and dad both have to get up at 5.15 am to allow this.

·       They laugh and joke in the car on the way

·       He stays throughout her practice, and looks at houses to buy on the laptop

·       At 0.33 s we have a small generic printed mortgage warning about ‘home may be at risk…’

·       But dad buys a new home with HSBC help – we are not told whether the one  day deal was used……

·       Daughter is initially upset by the move- and then dad shows her the pool and she is ecstatic

·       There is about 5 s of text (no voice) about the actual mortgage product, no interest rates etc, just a soundbite about ‘we may be able to agree your mortgage in just one day’

Fig. 1 TV Ad Songs HSBC Mortgages Advert Music – ‘The Swimmer’ Home Again Commercial  (2017)

fig 1

Fig. 2 TV Ad Songs  HSBC Mortgages Advert Music – ‘The Swimmer’ Home Again Commercial (2017)

fig 2.gif

 Fig. 3 TV Ad Songs HSBC Mortgages Advert Music – ‘The Swimmer’ Home Again Commercial  (2017)

fig 3

 There are several aspects of a lifestyle being sold here.

 ·       Work and reward in life- ‘swim practice’  is a sporting cliché really as  always seems to start so early and be so physically exhausting (fig. 1 ).

·       They are both dedicated and hard-working. She is a child destined for success, he is a nurturing parent who wants nothing but the best for the child.

·       No mum is seen in this advert- Is this a single parent family  ? If so it is used to increase the emotional tension of the scenario- (mum would have wanted me to be successful’).

·       The intimate relationship between dad and daughter is shown eg. Dad says ‘wake up sleepy-head’ and she initially wants to go back to bed.

·       As the mornings accumulate both father and daughter become tired- the lifestyle is threatened by life’s inherent difficulties |(fig. 2).

·       When the father buy’s a new house with a pool he saves the day for the daughter- she can now continue to excel at sport (symbolically she will be a hardworking successful adult). There love is reinforced (fig 3)

·       It is rather obvious that the British weather is not really suitable for a child to use an outdoor pool for swim practice-adding to the inauthentic nature of this advert.



 2.    Lloyds bank advertisement  

 ·       A black horse runs through various scenes (The horse is a symbol of Lloyds bank)

·       The time frame is split in two – the first half references regret/difficulty/change, the second optimism, regeneration and happiness

·       The music is authentic, a folky/pop number where the voice dominates-it is a reworking of an old dance track.

 ·       scene 1- young boy helping dad on the farm-. In awful weather he is helping to protect the haystacks (fig. 4).  This scene is (ironically) made  inauthentic in that it is stolen from the iconic ‘saving the harvest ‘ scene from  Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the madding crowd….’ -when Shepherd  Oak saves the harvest and shows Bathsheba how dull, but dependable and practical he is. I do not believe the artistry of the advertising executives runs to the spontaneous conception of an original idea such as this one (someone probably told them about the film- I’m not sure they’d have watched it).

 ·       scene 2- The horse gallops past a tall ship (fig. 5) referencing the Golden age of the British Navy and Empire.

 ·       scene 3- The horse gallops past a worked out pit, an old mill, and an old steam engine All these reference the Industrial Revolution in the UK- and the rising and falling waves of Capitalism (where old technologies die out, and new ways of making Capital are born…)

 ·       Scene 4: A cenotaph memorial service, with both old and new service veterans in wheel chairs. A mum and a young child also look sadly on- presumably dad died in conflict.

 ·       Scene 5: A modern home, a young child, a mum and a baby- signifying the aspirations of modern suburban Britain for a home, garden, job, and of course healthy children.

·       Scene 6 -Man on a car production line- signifying modern UK industry (we are told inexorably about how successful the UK car industry is globally- whether it is a sustainable Green method of transport is much less debated)

·       Scene 7 : We see several  young kids running after the horse on a beach- the horse has the authenticity and power of nature, as does the beach and the sky near sunset- this is a ‘Romantic’ scene in the specific sense of man being wowed by the vastness and impenetrability of nature.  The children are all happy, smiling,  healthy and attractive (fig. 6).

Fig. 4 Youtube  Lloyds Bank – By Your Side (2017)

fig 4

Fig 5 Youtube  Lloyds Bank – By Your Side (2017)

fig 5       

Fig. 6  Youtube  Lloyds Bank – By Your Side (2017) 

fig 6

 ·       The music tells us  ‘we’ve come a long way together’ … through ‘great change’.. with  ‘Lloyds by your side’ . 

This advert sells a lifestyle, and desirable characteristics (paradigmatic positives) and makes its case more powerful by the use of paradigmatic ‘negatives’. It mentions no specific Lloyds product. The advert references many of the vicissitudes of life- instability, unemployment, war, death, lost friends and capitalism.  The suggestion is that the viewer is part of the stoical  British nation, a nation that battled enemies,  acted heroically, won wars, lost friends, became unemployed etc.. but that we are strong enough to survive- with the help of Lloyds bank of course.  The reference to the British Empire and Navy is designed to engender feelings of Patriotism and Paternalism (on behalf of the bank)  in the viewer. In reality the British Empire was a racist  murderous regime of colonialism, slavery and greed.  The advert also suggests that the vicissitudes of capitalism (the closed pits, closed mills, defunct steam trains) are a natural process which must be endured stoically. They may be to an extent, but I believe that Capitalism is not just an organic process- and many of the sins of capitalism are not simply capitalism’s fault, but are produced by greedy behavior  in the Bourgoisie.  The advert crosses the line of poor taste in my view- especially the use of the emotions of ex-servicemen and widowed mothers, in ‘service’ of selling Lloyds bank as a product (within a decade of their culpability in the financial crash of 2008). Adverts have history here- eg.  the use of the Great war armistice for exchanging Sainsburys gifts in the Sainsbury’s 2014 Christmas  TV ad) . 



3.    John Lewis Xmas ad 2017  

  ·       A child’s bedroom-an idyllic warm, cosy scene (fig. 7)

·       There’s a fluffy monster under the bed who keeps the child awake with his snoring

·       The accompanying music is a Beatles track- a very lyrical, very intimate tune ….‘ once there was a way, to get back homeward…..’

·       The child makes friends with Moz the monster

·       The monster and he are now good friends and laugh and play together (fig. 8). But the boy’s sleep suffers as a result of all the late night play. (fig.9)

·       At the present opening scene a strange  present turns up- we believe it’s fom MOZ as it’s not wrapped professionally. It’s actually a night light depicting lots of illuminated stars.

·       MOZ disappears that night- but the child has his present to remind him of his friend (fig. 10).

 fig 7

Fig. 7  Youtube John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017 – #MozTheMonster  (2017)[

fig 8

Fig 8  Youtube John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017 – #MozTheMonster  (2017)[

fig 9

Fig 9 Youtube John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017 – #MozTheMonster  (2017)[

fig 10

Fig 10 Youtube John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017 – #MozTheMonster  (2017)[

 The child’s bedroom is symbolic of the stable, loving and safe place to bring up your child (fig. 7). Interestingly the child has a black father and a white mother which partially deconstructs the ideology of the traditional nuclear family. The monster here (fig 8) may represent the child’s vivid imagination and his ability to improve his own mental  environment (monster’s don’t exist-at least they do-but not those that look like this one). At 16 seconds however the child is struggling to make friends with Moz- and the monster’s breathing is threatening his lifestyle and his ability to sleep soundly. However very soon the child makes friends with Moz- because parents aspire for their children that they will be friendly, broad-minded and quick to make friends with new (safe) people, despite of differences such as race, creed, sexuality, disability, or whether they are a twelve  foot furry monster or not. This aspiration is easily symbolized by John Lewis, but the insidious danger of capitalism, (global warming, world poverty and inequality for example) is less easily tackled, and some may say this was more threatening  to future societies than the isms of race, disability etc.


The boy’s new friendship represents his great imagination and the idea that the world is his oyster and he can become whoever he wants (which is not the total truth) – a desirable ideal for parents everywhere.   The monster and he laugh, play, and get on famously- and we know play (like work in the HSBC advert) is important for a healthy child. However, the boy’s sleep begins to suffer a little (fig 9) as a result of the relentless late night play, suggesting that in a good family children need some discipline to temper the fun and imagination. At the end of the advert a present turns up which seems to be unidentifiable, and we assume that Moz sent it. The boy loves it- it is a night light which transmits images of stars all over his bedroom- once again symbolizing the vastness of the universe and the possibilities open to this growing child in the future (see also the romantic sublime vision on the beach in the Lloyds advert) . Unfortunately Moz is an imagined  friend and so reality dawns and Moz disappears on Christmas night- but the child has at least got his John Lewis light to remind him of his absent friend. Once again the suggestion is that the desired lifestyle is a bit of fun here and there with a bit of discipline and realism added in.

 Although I struggle with the hidden ideologies and lack of authenticity of most adverts I was quite amused and touched by the vision of  the boy and monster trying to hide themselves from dad’s view when he came to check on the boy.



fig 1-3: TV Ad Songs  HSBC Mortgages Advert Music – ‘The Swimmer’ Home Again Commercial (2017) online at [accessed 25.12.2017]

Fig 4-6: Youtube  Lloyds Bank – By Your Side (2017) online at  [accessed 25.12.2017]

Fig 7-10: Youtube John Lewis Christmas Ad 2017 – #MozTheMonster  (2017) online at [accessed 25.12.2017]


Pre-second world war products……

 Coca-Cola brand through the ages

  • Newspapers:  the brand’s first print advert was published in 1885 in The Atlanta Journal.
  • Magazines: From around 1900 to the 1960s, the brand commissioned leading artists to create colour illustrations for magazine adverts.  The iconic illustration of  the Coca‑Cola Santa ,  was first created by painter Haddon Sundblom in 1931.
  • Radio: From the mid-1920s radio became the most important method of communication for Coca‑Cola.
  • TV: The brand extensively used both TV sponsorship and famous TV celebrities to dvertise its product.

(, 2017)


  • slogans  have reflected both the brand and the times
  • The 1906  “The Great National Temperance Beverage,” reflects a US societal move away from alcohol….
  • Sales figure-  “Six Million a Day” (drinks/day) from 1925.
  • The quality of the product, eg. Refereshing taste
  • its role in entertaining, as in 1948’s “Where There’s Coke There’s Hospitality.”
  • The 1971 “Hilltop” ad featured a song with the words “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.”
  • January 2003, l- “Coca-Cola… Real.”      ‘’The campaign (and slogan in turn) reflects genuine, authentic moments in life and the natural role Coca-Cola plays in them’’ ).

(coca-colacompany, 2012)


Fig. 1 The Great National Temperance Beverage (1906)

This advert  gives information on both product and by implication,  lifestyle. It suggests the product is

o    Official (B&W, format of an analysis, date etc.)

o    Endorsed by the country ( tested by the ‘state assayer’)

o    healthy  (no cocaine in it!)

o    Scientific  (analysed painstakingly, by a Dr of Medicine (Dr William H taylor,M.D),


Fig. 2 Pure as Sunlight (1927)

o    The product is pure as the sun

o    By extension life giving and healthy

o    Energy-giving

o    Delicious and refreshing

o    The hot sun (givng light and heat) and the cold ice are paradigmatic opposites.

o    This imagery allows us to feel the cool coke to a greater extent



Fig. 3 Along the Highway to Anywhere (1949)

o    This advert concentrates on a Lifestyle

o    Coke drinkers are like the lifestyle

o    They /It is/are   natural, romantic, beautiful, healthy, adventuring, interesting

o    They are cool

o    Buying the product act’s as a proxy for being the ideal

o    This ad seems rather old-fashioned with the complexity of the visual information

fig 4

Fig. 4 Have a Coke and a Smile (1979)

  • Memorable Red and white branding
  • Elegant
  • Memorable
  • Also coke is cold, refereshing, on a summer day
  • The bottle is being offered to a friend? (you are popular! Or Coke wil make you so!)
  • Has elements of both coke product and lifestyle.


Fig 1 Coca-colacompany  The Great National Temperance Beverage (1906) [online at] [accessed 25.12.2017]

Fig 2 Coca-colacompany Pure as Sunlight (1927)  [online at] [accessed 25.12.2017]

fig 3 Coca-colacompany  Along the Highway to Anywhere (1949)   [online at] [accessed 25.12.2017]

Fig 4 Coca-colacompany  Have a Coke and a Smile (1979) [online at]  [accessed 25.12.2017]

 References (2017) tv-ads-from-the-archives [online at] 

Coca-colacompany (2012) A History of Coca-Cola Advertising Slogans [online at]   

Project-Being and Semblance

Text: What is a picture? by Jacques Lacan

  • this is typically difficult (and not very precise or logical) of the writing of Lacan
  • he seems to want to analyse the relationship between an image, the representation, the gaze, and the viewer…..
  • Lacan’s diagram suggests that we , The Subject view’s an image which is one part (one vertical that transects the pyramidal diagram representing our vision) of visual field our
  • and reciprocally, the subject is viewed by a reciprocal visual field which represents the gaze
  • This seems to reverse my previous understanding-that the subject gazed at the object. Here the subject becomes itself an image (a picture), when viewed by the gaze , which emanates from where?

(pg 1)

  • So ‘I’ the viewer am visualised or photo-graphed, by the gaze.
  • The representation is both the image signifier and the signified (ie. The saussurian sign)
  • Lacan seems to say that it’s not the partition between the image and that which it represents, but the viewer’s image and the picture of the viewer that he‘s concerned with here.

I’m not sure I see the point of defining the viewer via a gaze of someone who may not exist (ie. the gaze is defined by the viewer’s vision, not another viewer).

  • He now seems to introduce a living observer who holds the gaze-which is ok, and makes the idea viable I think, and say’s that the viewer is defined by the other person (and by extension not through his own vision).
  • This sort of relationship is seen in either reproduction, or death struggle (in fact any meeting of the two which involves one being viewed by the other),
  • the gaze also splits the subject (that which is gazed at) Into two through 1.that which is seen ( ie. the signifier- the surface), and 2. that which it is (the whole person)., and this is important in reproduction- (although as a contrary position we are told that beauty is not skin deep, nor to judge a book by its cover ! )
  •  This outer visible self (the image of another) seems very important to Lacan in human interaction -such as sex

p. 2

  • But, Unlike other animals, ‘Man knows how to play with the mask as that beyond which there is the gaze’. Does this confusing language mean that man can change the ‘outer image’ presented to the other (eg make up, new clothes etc…..) , or that he can change the ‘surface picture’ by presenting his true internal character to the other- via getting to know one another ………



Google Books  (no date) What is a picture? by Jacques Lacan [document] [online] at


The OCA handbook-

  • The image screen seems not to be a visual image screen, but it is ‘like the kind of screen that cuts us off from something, like the screen around a hospital bed’. (Haveland, 2009: 93)

I did not get this idea from Lacan’s text p.93

  • ‘Lacan has called this screen the stain, or the spot, like the blind spot at the centre of our eye. But in this case the blind spot is a result of our cultural conditioning  in which we are taught how to see, what to select and how to achieve a selective blindness.’ (OCA, 2009: 93),

Again this makes real sense, and fits with eg.. a ‘sexist gaze, or a colonialist gaze’- but  surely this is how the subject sees (which is not the gaze!)  not is seen (ie the gaze)??? but I can’t see this argument anywhere in the text or diagram !

  • Lacan is ‘suggesting that the gaze is not what we do to an object but the means by which the object impinges on our consciousness, an act of the object not ourselves’ Haveland, P. (2009) Visual Studies 1 Understannding Visual Culture. Barnsley : Open College of the Arts: 93).

Again this seem very rational and an excellent idea……..and I can see that here the gaze is how the object see’s us.


Haveland, P. (2009)  Visual Studies 1 Understanding Visual Culture. Barnsley : Open College of the Arts.


Text: The subject-  by Kaja Silverman

  • Lacan has influenced semiotic and psychoanalytic theory by
  • Extending Freud’s theories, returned to Freud’s earlier theories on psychoanalysis (towards the unconscious) rather than later ones (towards the ego), and has linked Freud with Saussure and Levi strauss showing how psychoanalysis can link with semiotics.
  • Lacan’s writing is notoriously difficult, and it (and he himself) have many inconsistencies                                                                                                            (Silverman, 1993:340)
  • This text links Lacan’s  work with broader psychoanalysis and semiotics…..
  • Lacan’s stages of development of the subject consist Birth, territorialisation, mirror stage, acquisition of language and Oedipus stage. All involves some loss.

(Silverman, 1993:341)

  • The first loss happens at birth and is the loss of the mother- by which the subject can never be both male and female. He makes up for this by seeking to develop his (or her) own sexuality to the full, and seeking sexual union with the opposite sex.
  • The second loss comes through a territorialisation of the body. It is initially felt as one with the mother and her love and her body/milk….

(Silverman, 1993:342)

  • But then pleasure starts to differentiate within , through outlets like the mouth, anus, and sex organs (‘erotogenic zones are inscribed and libido is canalized’ ( ref)
  • This differentiation organises bodily powers into drives which will be reinforced culturally later on (by the culture of sexual difference)
  • The child tries to introject structures into itself (through the areas of eroticisation ) as if to replace that which was separated from itself by development or bodily organisation….. mother’s breast, the mother, the opposite sex organ etc…..etcthese are called the objets petit autre and this happens through the imaginary stage
  • Imaginary describes the ‘subject’s experience which is dominated by identification and duality’

(Silverman, 1993:343)

  • The imaginary precedes the symbolic stage, but they do happen simultaneously for a time, and is exemplified by the mirror stage.
  • Between 6 and 18 months the child sees in the mirror himself as an ‘other’ and as an ideal image
  • This recognition is also a ‘misrecognition’, and also a crisis ( the child cannot assimilate the image to itself……nor other structures of ‘loss’ like the breast, genitals etc… the child has ambivalent feelings towards the image.
  • The imaginary order is characterised by this ambivalence in feelings towards these objects
  • Because of the importance of vision in the mirror stage it’s been used to analyse film images wrt the subjects identification with these lost phenomena…..

(Silverman, 1993:344)

  • the mirror stage has similarity to the oedipal phase in that in both the individual feels ambivalence to a ‘ideal representation’ (father figure in case of male Oedipal phase).
  • The mirror stage is imaginary and the oedipal is symbolic, but in reality even the mirror stage has some cultural elements……. Eg…an ‘ideal’ image must h reside in a culture of values, and even then we may have cultural influences such as ‘boys’ clothes v ‘girls clothes’ etc….
  • The resolution of the ambivalence of the imaginary order can only come within the symbolic order.
  • Lacan, like Saussure allows for relational meaning only within a closed system, but says this can only be a closed system of signifiers
  • ‘meaning emerges as a result of the play of differences within a closed system’ (Silverman, 1993: 345)


  • Lacan ‘insists’ on the ‘linguistic status of the signifier’, but sometimes allows a more loose concept, with a combination of signifier and signified within the signifier….. that the ‘concept ‘insists’ within the form or ‘letter’’ (Silverman, 1993:346)
  • What Lacan seems to require from this definition of a mixed signifier, is that the signifier is completely separated from the real object, but may have some concepts carried within it…….
  • For Lacan, Many other things can assume signification other than language (rituals, diets, neuroses….)… fact the symbolic world gives man meaning … and ‘symbols….envelop the life of man in a network so total………..’ (Lacan quoted in Silverman, 1993: 346)…..

This section on symbols which entwine us in a matrix from cradle to grave, sounds very much like Althusser’s ideology  which seems to do the same.

  • Language is the most important Signification system, and all others can occur only with the help of language( to define them?), and when the acquisition of language has occurred in the subject.

(Silverman, 1993:346)

  • Lacan distinguishes in language a signifier that is never converted back into the ‘real’ (like for example indexical and iconic symbols are). These are conventional symbols.

So acquisition of language is a massive part of the construction of a reality which is not really real……?

  • In the symbolic order, and when language has been learnt, this language completely separates both the subject from it s own ‘being’ and the subject from the phenomena around it from reality.
  • The linguistic structure cannot now satisfy the body’s needs-it severs them, but it nevertheless ‘determines its entire cultural existence’ . (causing anxiety?)
  • Lacan believes that this linguistic ‘coercion’ is not just in preconscious thought (as Freud believes), but also in unconscious (subconscious) thought (as Freud does not believe)
  • Lacan’s unconscious is a signifying network, and is split off from the conscious and the drives,

(Silverman, 1993:347)

  • unlike Freud’s which is synonymous with the id -containing the drives. Lacan’s signifying network is more like Freud’s unconscious in ‘the interpretation of dreams’


eg collections of relationships between signifiers and signifieds????

  •  The entrance into the symbolic order and the unconscious is made through a signifying event made of a unary and a binary signifier
  • A story by \freud is told, of a boy who only ever throws away his toys -to bring them back… never playing in a traditional way. For Freud this represents a reduction of the anxiety of his mum’s absences, but for Lacan it is a presentation of his numerous personal separations through development….

(Silverman, 1993:348)

  • Lacan believes the toys are objets petit a

(Silverman, 1993:349)

  • The tale of the little boy , his toys and the words ‘fort’ and ‘da’ (gone and here), show the Lacanian dominance of language over the drives, and is a signifying event which brings about the subconscious.
  • Within the tale the boy enters subconscious, inaugurates ‘meaning’ and the loss of the real, and enters the symbolic stage- he also inaugurates desire- which is connected to the separation and lack which the subject feels…..


(eg.s ? there are many examples) that separation that comes from acquisition of language (two pronged) , separation of the objets petit a, ………..

  • These desires are first found in the mirror stage (imaginary and symbolic orders coexist for a time ), and then are directed towards the ideal parents relationship….
  • This Oedipus complex continues to be a form of anxiety, and the subject ‘discovers itself to be castrated’ (Silverman, 1993:350)
  • We now have the desires of the subject defined by the symbolic, and the family/parents is central to the symbolism.

(Silverman, 1993:350)

  • the symbolic order connects to the idea of cultural control, which Levi Strauss likened/defined via the regulatory role of the ‘incest taboo’ on the (unregulated ) desire to copulate (with anyone!).
  • This taboo sets up the structure of society wrt to sexual relationships, which are the central currency .
  • This structure of kinship and marriage determines all other rules in society Strauss says….inc. attitudes, power distributions, and ‘legal and economic status’(Silverman, 1993:351)
  • Strauss believes language, like the cultural structure, allows everyone to ‘inhabit the same psychic territory, and regiments the exchanges which take place between them’. (Silverman, 1993:351), but language is more powerful and stable in this respect.

Is there a subtle link here between language in society and the idea of computer software as ideology? One can only carry out actions on a computer that are programmed within it, and one behaves in society mainly (maybe not exclusively) in accordance to ways we can describe with language……..This is language as ideology… also relates to the idea of  is our world defined by words or are words defined by our world ???…ie…. how much (what proportion) of meaning is language!!

  • Lacan considers that the Oedipus stage and language are virtually synonymous, because one only knows how to act within the structure of society (and the incest taboo ) via being relative to terms like father and mother……

(Silverman, 1993:351)

  • The family is a ‘set of symbolic relations’, and mother/father are more cultural than biological…..
  • The Lacanian discourse of the family is discussed
  • Lacan considers the sex differences very differently from Freud. Freud’s penis, is replaced by Lacan’s phallus, which is essentially everything that is opposed to ‘Lacan’s Lack’ (ie. Whatever the being is separated from in life….)  ie. It is a signifier

(Silverman, 1993:352)

  • The phallus though is also a signifier of the privileges which male subjects receive and to which females are denied in patriarchal society.
  • The penis representing the actual father can never live up to the phallus which is the ‘signifier’- of the symbolic father’- which is not only coding patriarchal contents, but also cultural systems that relate to it…. Law, education, technological, medical etc…… (all of which are patriarchal to an extent).
  • This is a very complicated text, and the author mentions the ‘formulation’ of Lacan has problems, including the problem that female subjectivity can be misunderstood, or understood in different ways by readers/listeners………

(Silverman, 1993:353)

  • although Lacan’s phallus is not the penis, in some ways his ideas suggest that it is….. ‘the phallus somehow mirrors or represents the penis’ (Silverman, 1993:354)
  • the final pages seem to be a summary of the complex argument, and I will return to them shortly….to hopefully clarify the ideas in the text….

(Silverman, 1993:354-5)


Silverman , K (1999). ‘The subject’. In visual culture: A reader. Evans, J and Hall, S (eds), London. SAGE Publications.   p. 340-355


…in your BLOG
1.Look up Schrödinger’s cat. Make a brief summary of the theory.


  • Erwin Schrodinger was a physicist
  • In 1935 he proposed a thought experiment and called it the Schrodinger’s cat Paradox.
  • The paradox was a comment on  the interpretation of quantum theory by some scientists
  • We have a cat, some radioactive substance, a Geiger counter, a hammer, and some poison in a bottle, all in a box.
  • As the substance decays the hammer breaks the bottle and the cat dies due to the poison.
  • In quantum theory- the motion of very small subatomic particles (responsible for the decay in this experiment) is not under the influence of Newtonian laws, they are described by a wave function, whereby they can be in a number of places , described by different probabilities at any time. Consequently the decay of the substance is random and cannot be predicted.
  • so unobserved, you must say that the particle can be doing any of the possible things, and that the decay is happening at different rates. Consequently, the cat may also be either alive or dead to an extent, and thus is both alive and dead to an extent.
  • But when observed, the cat is either one or the other (it can’t be both), and this is the same with the particle- it can’t be physically in two places at the same time!!

(Nationalgeographic, 2013)

  • The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum theory said that the particle exists in all states simultaneously until observed- Schrödinger used his paradox  to highlight the limits of this interpretation in practice (Telegraph, 2013).

2. In Blade Runner there are a number of instances of reference to Lacan’s version of the gaze. Think of the blimp with its lights and sayings about the off-world colonies. Think of the Japanese woman on the billboard. They remind us that we are always being seen and the structure of seeing. Other figures fit into this category: the owl, the eye at the opening of the film, perhaps even Tyrell’s glasses.

Find six other examples of this in film, TV or other imagery and annotate and make notes on your chosen examples and explain how they fit in with Lacan’s ideas.


1.     The Double Life of Veronique.


Fig. 1 The Double life of Veronique (1991)

 ·        The film looks at the lives of 2 almost identical women (played by Irene Jacob), one who lives in Poland, the other in France. 

·        It reflects the Director Kieslowski’s feelings about his native Poland and his adopted France.

 ·        Kieslowski’s main themes include the role of chance, and the possibility of alternate histories   in our lives.

  • The Polish woman, a singer, has an unfaithful lover, and dies tragically during her first solo concert. Immediately afterwards, certain elements of this woman become a part of the French woman, who is a music teacher.

This has connections with Schodringer’s cat- who has two destinies (dead or alive) , defined by chance, and can (before observation) be said to be living both at once.

The film could also be analysed In relation to Lacan’s view that the viewer  (subject) understands what he sees, as if he is himself gazed at by the object, through a semi-permeable veil or stain, and picks up only the visual ideas that he is conditioned to  detect.

 For example, using a small extension of the stain idea,  the two women are the same, and are viewed through the stain. The Polish singer is viewed through the stain representing just those life conditions she was born into- a matter of biological, spatial and temporal chance.  We the viewer see her life through the prism of these chance happenings and register a life of communism, unhappy love, and tragic early death.  Alternatively seen through the stain of a different set of chance factors, we view the French music teacher, whose life takes a different course. The arbitrariness of life, and thus the ‘stain’ is made obvious.

Kieslowski is well known for his use of colours (eg. The ‘Colours’ trilogy Red/White/Blue) and using colour filters in his films. Perhaps this  physically references  Lacan’s idea of the filter which exists between all subjects and the objects gaze.

2. Shallow Hal.

shallow hal

Fig. 2 Shallow Hall (2001)

  • Hal and his friend only are only attracted to physically beautiful girls.
  • Hal is hypnotised by a life Guru and starts to see the inner beauty within Girls. He meets Rosemary- who is very fat, and falls in love with her inner self. He also finds her externally beautiful (symbolised here by an actual physical slimness).

This is what often happens when we fall in love- we need to see the inner beauty, before we see the outer beauty. This is what makes Love and sex such a minefield.

  • Rosemary falls for Hal too, but the Guru is persuaded to reverse the spell, as his friend thinks he’s been dishonest to Hal. Once the spell is reversed Hal avoids Rosemary, who is left heartbroken. However through an incident in a hospital, Hal becomes aware that he can still truly see the beauty within and without people. He contacts Rosemary again and they are reconciled.

Of course we can see that here  Rosemary simultaneously reflects both the Saussurian signifier- the conventionally overweight and unattractive Rosemary, and the Saussurian Sign -the truly beautiful, more complex Rosemary, and this distinction is important to the Lacanian gaze (Lacan, p. 2).

But in Lacanian terms the gaze of the camera here is  akin to the gaze of Rosemary, and we too are being invited to look at the character development of Hal throughout the film. What bits of Hal are becoming more and less visible to Rosemary as they pass through the invisible stain which separates her gaze? The view of the film viewer and what he sees, and any lessons learnt,  is perhaps the most important view here.

In terms of the Mulveyian analysis of gaze (Mulvey, 1999), we are not interested in the viewer’s, or Hal’s active (scopophilic) gaze at Rosemary. We are being asked whether we identify with the more narcissistic gaze within ourself- do we identify with Hal’s character and how do we evaluate it in terms of our own desires….

3. Persona.

persona5 (1)

Fig. 3 Persona (1966)

  • An actress, Elisabet is admitted to hospital- she does not talk and is almost catatonic. She is assigned to a nurse, Alma.  They both retreat to a house owned by an administrator, and the drama plays out.
  • Alma begins to talk more and more to the silent Elisabet about her life, her anxieties re. her fiancé and an abortion she had when she was younger………she finds it therapeutic. Then she discovers that Elisabet has been writing to others about details of Alma, and becomes furious.
  • Later Elisabet’s husband arrives and mistakes Alma for her, and they make love. Alma now narrates Elisabet’s back story-that she also has had a child, but she did not love it and resented its imposition on her acting career.
  • The two women seem increasingly alike…. And Alma reacts against this. She also finds that Elisabet’s silence is dishonest. She, Alma, is not like her, she is not selfish… …. ‘I’m not like you. I don’t feel like you. I’m not Elisabet Vogler: you are Elisabet Vogler. I’m just here to help  you’.
  • Elisabet reaches a completely catatonic state………

 These two women are both similar and different. On the outside they are different-  when viewed through the Lacanian gaze and the veil which allows only the surface details to be visible.

Each could be both subject and object of the other, and  gazed at by the other. However, overwhelmingly in the film, Alma is the aggressor, the one who does not see or understand the other- her complexities, her ‘more than skin deep’ ness- what the hidden story is.  So we are encouraged to look at her as the viewed- from Elisabet’s eyes, but more importantly  how she measures up through our own gaze.

We can see that through a more penetrating gaze,  with the story filled out a little, and with a different viewpoint, that Alma is not the Good, and Elisabet not the bad. Nothing is ever quite this black and white. Alma may be in a position of power and ‘goodness’-the nurse, but she is judgemental, aggressive, and lacks any self-criticism- she is insecure, makes love to Elisabet’s husband, and feels that her abortion was OK, but Elisabet’s feelings for her son were not.

I view the 2 women as very similar, each had broadly similar sorts of  events occurring, but reacted in different ways. Through a  veil which allows for understanding and respect, I view both women as similar, and equal. Bergman shows how similar the women may really be  by splitting the screen and  moulding half of each actresses face into one- and the effect is very striking (fig. 3).  

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone (2001)

  • The ‘mirror of erised’ has an inscription which read backwards states ‘ I show not yourself but your heart’s desire’ (fig. 4 )
  • Harry looks into the mirror and sees his lost parents who he can never be reunited with.
  • Dumbledore knows that if Harry stares too much into the mirror, his desire for things he cannot have will interfere with his ability to make a success of the life he can have.




fig. 4 The mirror of erised (2017)

5.  A Bar at the Folies-Bergere,

 A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, 1881-82 (oil on canvas)

fig. 5 A bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-2)

·        This painting by Manet precedes Lacan’s ideas about images.

·        However the painting has received attention for its unrealistic depiction of images in the mirror

·        The girl and the (man?) she serves do not seem to be shown as they ought

·        We should see the girl’s behind view in the mirror if we the viewer face her at the bar

·        If the viewer is a Man about to be served, we should see his reflection too.

·        Perhaps this is symbolic- does Manet want to show that :

·        the man does not see the woman (through a stain similar to Lacan’s)- he wants to pick up a prostitute, and sees nothing of the true woman- just an outside shell which he may or my not think is acceptable to have sex with (many of the barmaids were also sex workers).

·        the girl (or decent society ?) does not see the man  because she believes he is  a ‘punter’ and only after sex 

6. What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me (1938)

What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me, 1938 (oil on canvas)

Fig. 6 What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me (1938)

  • Lacan believed that the gaze splits the subject (that which is gazed at) into two – that which is seen ( ie. the signifier- the surface), and 2. that which it is (the whole person).
  • Here we may consider Kahlo being viewed by the gaze which is represented by the water, or the picture viewer, or herself.
  • We can see some obvious reflections of her outer surface- eg. her toes and parts of her legs.
  • But we also see reflections of the inner person (the signified). In Kahlo’s case this was a very autobiographical inner self. We see aspects of her life such as her parents, her homeland, her culture, and the USA (which she visited later in life with exhibitions).


Nationalgeographic (2013) The physics behind the Schrodinger’s cat experiment. [online] at [accessed 27 Oct 2017].

Telegraph (2013) Schrodinger’s-Cat-explained [online] at [accessed 27 Oct 2017].


Fig. 1   Criterion, The Double |Life of Veronique (1991) [photograph] [online at] [accessed 5th November 2017]

Fig. 2  imdb.  Shallow Hall  (2001) [photograph] [online at ] [accessed 5th November 2017] [accessed 5th November 2017]

Fig. 3  Claudiocolombo. Persona (1966)  [photograph] at [accessed 5th November 2017]

Fig. 4 Pottermore the mirror of erised (2017) [illustration] [online at] [accessed 5th November 2017]

Fig. 5   Manet, E.  A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1881-82)  (oil on canvas) [online at] [accessed 5th November 2017]

Fig. 6 Kahlo, F. What I Saw in the Water or What the Water Gave Me (1938) (oil on canvas) [online at] [accessed 5th November 2017]