A Brief Survey of Slavoj Žižek’s Best Cultural Criticism

Irreverent, provocative, and one of the most prominent thinkers of our time, Slavoj Žižek is the subject of a new documentary by Sophie Fiennes, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. The film, which opened in theaters this weekend, is a sequel to Fiennes’s 2006 much-loved documentary, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, and examines “the collective fantasies that shape our beliefs and practices.” Despite international recognition, the Slovene philosopher and cultural critic’s complex theories remain an enigma to many (and many of his fans, even). Curious audiences looking for a quick Žižek primer can head past the break where we offer 10 different entry points to the eccentric academic’s work.

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema

Director Sophie Fiennes’ focus on Žižek began with her 2006 documentary, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema — essential and fascinating viewing for cinephiles. Taking on the role of narrator and subject, Žižek discusses the complexities and language of cinema from reconstructed film sets (and sometimes on location) modeled after the movies he discusses — an uncanny, but brilliant tactic. The work of Hitchcock (The Birds is filled with “raw, incestuous energy”) and David Lynch (much of the director’s work centers on the “enigma of feminine desire and subjectivity”) receive extra attention, and Žižek’s asides reveal his sardonic and salacious sense of humor.