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Open Thread: The Symbolic Order Structures the Visual Field of the Snack Aisle

The tweet is just a MacGuffin

The new Matrix: Resurrections trailer dropped:

Oops, weird glitch. Of course I meant this:

Jean Baudrillard was a poststructuralist thinker who is almost entirely known as “the guy who inspired The Matrix,” despite himself thinking the first movie was based on a dumb misinterpretation of his ideas (which it was). He deserves to be better known for his 1991 book “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place,” which correctly prefigured the next thirty years of wars that also did not take place, the last of which recently and impolitely ended in such a way that we were almost forced to recognize its existence. Brent Staples asked him about The Matrix in 2002:

Mr. Baudrillard was unimpressed when we conversed by e-mail recently. He noted that the film's “borrowings” from his work “stemmed mostly from misunderstandings” and suggested that no movie could ever do justice to the themes of this book. This sounds like a parody of a French intellectual, but it also happens to be true. “Simulacra and Simulation” is a tightly argued manifesto against a world in which humans increasingly appear as props in front of a computer-generated backdrop. Anyone who's read the book will find it hard to watch “Spiderman” or the latest “Star Wars” episode without being perpetually conscious of how the digitalized action scenes overshadow the human actors. Mr. Baudrillard sees the obsession with virtual reality not as mere amusement, but as an attack on the basic distinctions between the “true” and the “false,” the imaginary and the real.

Some of the replies to that Funyuns tweet are “true self / false self” memes, such as:


These seem like a natural outgrowth of Baudrillard’s idea of the “simulacrum” but the distinction between true and false self refers to the work of psychoanalyst Dr. Donald Winnicott in the 1960s and 1970s. As far as I can tell it’s just about how people (especially children) have actual needs and desires but mask or hide them for self defense, and has very little to do with the kind of highfalutin French theory that produces language like:

…Just as every abstract and autonomized part of a whole becomes an artificial prosthesis that alters this whole by substituting itself for it (pro-thesis: this is the etymological meaning), one can say that the genetic code, where the whole of a being is supposedly condensed because all the "information" of this being would be imprisoned there (there lies the incredible violence of genetic simulation) is an artifact, an operational prosthesis, an abstract matrix, from which will be able to emerge, no longer even through reproduction, but through pure and simple renewal, identical beings assigned to the same controls.

…to choose a line at random from “Simulacra and Simulation,” which ⌘-f tells me only contains the word “matrix” nine times, so this must have been fate.

But The Matrix, most of Baudrillard, Winnicot, and Wavy Lay’s Funyun-flavored potato chips are all just cave-wall shadows cast by the magnificent bonfire of gibberish built by Pablo Picasso’s personal doctor, the renowned psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan who (according to Zizek by way of the primary encyclopedia of modern critical theory, TV Tropes Dot Org) made something very much like Alfred Hitchcock’s “MacGuffin” central to his theory of desire, and identified in his “objet petit a” the engine of what later (post? anti?) Lacanians Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari would call “desiring-production.”

And the MacGuffin of The Matrix, its objet petit a, the unattainable object of desire, is the matrix itself, which rapidly changes from an external mystery for Neo to solve and becomes the plane of immanence on which human subjects are trapped in the endless production and reproduction of desire. That last sentence sounds especially sick if you imagine Agent Smith reading it.

The unattainable object of desire for this post is an ending that works, but regrettably l’objet petit a is forever both a lack and a productive excess. So let the lack of an ending above stand for itself, and please help create a productive excess with your own conversations in this open thread.

Possible subjects include (but are not limited to): The Matrix, Lacan, Baudrillard, snack foods in general, snack foods that seem particularly Lacanian, good memes, your own proposals for a better ending to this post, or any weekend plans you might have out there in the desert of the Real. And happy Friday.

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