The problem for us is not are our desires satisfied or not. The problem is how do we know what we desire? There is nothing spontaneous, nothing natural about human desires. Our desires are artificial. We have to be taught to desire. Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire. It tells you how to desire. -Slavoj Zizek, Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, 2006
Most of the time we’re don’t know what we want. But, according to the Slovenian psychoanalyst and philosopher Slavoj Zizek, movies and maybe television shows take care of the problem. TV shows and films teach us that we’ll never go wanting when it comes to wanting, and a really good television show or film, one that becomes a cultural phenomena, convinces us that there is a common way to know how to want. A really good show convinces us that everybody wants things in the same way.
For instance, watching the new original Series “Arrested Development” on Netflix taught me precisely how to want things. By watching the first six episodes of the show last night I learned the top three ways we want things, and learning how we want things is precisely what I wanted.
Spoiler Alert: The following forms of enjoyment may or may not reveal things about the brand new season of “Arrested Development” that you don’t want to know yet. On the other hand, come on! These shows have been online for over 12 hours.
1. Gob’s Way
Getting what you want can be deflationary. Who among us hasn’t felt his resolve weaken after taking steps to achieve in reality what he has, until that moment, only wanted in private? For instance, when Gob finally gets George Michael’s feigned forgiveness after stealing George Michael’s girlfriend Anne, he finds it difficult to muster any real desire for her. Still, when Gob turns up at her parents’s house and sneaks into her bedroom he is unable to break up with her.
Ron Howard explains it this way: “As she unzipped her pajamas it reminded him of past situations when he’d successfully been aroused.”
Spoiler: Gob manages to sleep with Anne. Yes, her. He sleeps with Anne not because he has a real desire for her but out of a sense of duty to the memory of his desire. Unzipping is a symbol of arousal and, like the pavlovian dog that he is, Gob responded to it.
2. Tobias’s Way
There are times when we don’t believe, or don’t want to believe, that we actually want what we think we don’t want. For instance, in the new “Arrested Development” Michael Bluth’s brother-in-law Tobias becomes something of a running gag. Everyone in the family thinks Tobias was a homosexual in denial, and when Tobias discovers this he expresses his dismay and displeasure at the idea in his usual way:
I’ve got a bit of a stick up my bunghole about what I’ve now found is a running joke about me. But, let’s be honest. For 2000 rupees we’d both go down on Matthew McConaughey. Right, Michael?
Even if 2000 rupees converted to more than a mere thirty-two US dollars it would still be clear that Tobias is using Michael as a surrogate for his own desire.
3. Netflix’s Way
The strategy behind Netflix’s release of the reboot of “Arrested Development” is to give us more of the show than we can enjoy in any reasonable way. By presenting an entire season of the program to us all at once it inspires us to do what we’re already driven to do, which is to go beyond mere enjoyment into a kind of suffering. In fact, the suffering of the characters on “Arrested Development” is a kind of mirror of the suffering we ourselves seek after.
Binging on Netflix, watching an entire season of a television series in a mere day, requires a sacrifice. You’ll have to put your head down and power through, people. It takes dedication to surpass mere enjoyment and make yourself get off on the show. And this kind of dedication is precisely what Netflix is wanting to inspire. A dedicated viewer is a loyal viewer and a loyal viewer is one who will keep paying $8 a month every month for the privilege of watching and rewatching his or her favorite shows.
So the third kind of enjoyment is the kind that we don’t really enjoy at all, but rather it’s one which we are in service to. How about that?