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Chapter 7

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Media Studies
Michael Petit

MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction CHAPTER SEVEN :P SYCHOANALYTIC A NALYSIS “Psychoanalytic scholars explore how media texts reflect human mental drives towards unity, pleasure, and desire” “The *psychoanalytic+ approach is generally grounded in the genesis of individual psychology, the psychology of the media text, and the ways in which the two interact in the process of media consumption”  P SYCHOANALYTICTHEORY:AN OVERVIEW o Pleasure Principle – the uncontrollable human drive to satisfy desire, or an appetite for something that promises enjoyment, satisfaction, and pleasure in its attainment (e.g.: sex, power, food)  Pleasure may come from various sources that may not be typically associated with it (e.g.: law-breaking)  Pleasure – that which momentarily allows us to transcend everyday existence or reality  Pushes individuals towards unrestricted satisfaction of every possible desire  Freud associates the Pleasure Principle with the id (inherited, instinctual part of our psyche) o Reality Principle – the constant curbing of desire according to possibility, law, or social convention  Is how reality/society places constraints on when and how individual members may experience desire and pleasure in their lives  Is part of socialisation/maturation  Shocking, thrilling, or upsetting aspects of life may be sources of pleasure because they temporarily loosen the constraints of the Reality principle and allow the Pleasure principle more reign o The human psyche (individual subjectivity, identity, consciousness) is born out of the tension/opposition between the Pleasure/Reality principles o Repression (Freud) – the process of mentally containing our desires below conscious recognition/expression  Forbidden desires/pleasures are not purged, but banished into the Unconscious  This manages tension between the Pleasure/Reality principles  Unconscious (Freud)– a mental reservoir for desire that always attempts to express repressed desires by interjecting them into conscious life MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  Freudian Slip – moments where repressed desires break through conscious ones o Lack (Lacan) – There is a gap (not struggle) that separates Pleasure from Reality  We are trapped in a reality whose social order and language keep us from knowing or expressing pleasure fully  We experience lap because we are consciously divided from pleasures indefinable/inexpressible in the symbol systems (language) of our everyday reality  Also known as a sense of Alienation  Unconscious (Lacan) – the shared realm of pleasures and desire that remain beyond our access because of the insufficiency of language in knowing these pleasures  We are motivated by the idea of traversing the Lack and reuniting with lost pleasures o Media theorists assert that such repressed/lost desires influence the creation of media texts and explain the mental drives activated by those texts o Psychoanalysis is more useful in explaining the structures of media texts than audience consumption of media texts o Freud and Lacan agree that events surrounding a human infant’s initial experiences with its parents are responsible for the formation of subjectivity, but disagree on specific aspects of the process (when and how does the Pleasure/Reality relationship crystallise?)  FREUDIAN PSYCHOANALYSIS o Freud – founder of modern Psychoanalytic theory, was interested in psychosis, and the ways that sexual experiences and drives direct human action  Claimed that individual identities are the result of external forces encountered early in life o Infants are born ‘polymorphously perverse’ – the ability to experience pleasure in an infinite number of ways  This is because infants have no self-control and are uninhibited by social conventions  Infants are unaware of their individual nature – understand the world as an extension of itself  Everything is both pleasurable and a result of their own doing– establishes the Pleasure principle MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction o Developmental Stages – sexually influenced process of learning the distinction between desire and fulfillment and forming a conscious self (foundation for identification with the outside world)  Oral Stage – union between mother/child in breastfeeding (comforting fantasies)  Mouth as the first erotogenic zone (“all psychical activity is concentrated on satisfying the needs of that zone”)  The child initially breastfeeds only for sustenance, but then begins to derive other (libidinal/sexual) pleasures from the breast  Anal Stage – Pleasure derived from the retention and expulsion of waste (sadistic fantasies)  Phallic Stage - Pleasure derived from shifting libidinal concentration to the genitals (fantasies of control and self-sufficiency) o Identification with the outside world occurs when:  The Father – represents Freudian Reality principles, intercedes on the mother/child union and dissolves the infant’s intensely pleasurable/sexual desire for the Mother  Oepidus Complex – when the child undergoes a mental restructuring that takes the raw, libidinal materials of the oral, anal, and phallic stages and splits them into conscious and unconscious desires  For boys, the Father’s arrival signals a threat to the sexual Mother/Son union  Recognises that the Father’s phallus holds more power than his own, so he represses his desires for the Mother into the newly formed Unconscious at the threat of ‘castration’  Initial sexual repression becomes a template for other socially ‘perverse’ desires, which are funnelled into the Unconscious  The Conscious then becomes the vessel for all remaining socially acceptable modes of pleasure, forming the basis of ‘normal’ human subjectivity  For girls, the Oedipus complex becomes a process of recognition and lacking  Father’s phallus forces the young girl to recognise her deficiency (penis envy)  This knowledge causes the girl to reject the penis-less, powerless Mother and sexually desire the powerful Father and the idea of bearing him children MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  Girls do not experience the castration threat (as they are ‘already castrated’), and so their Oedipal stage is relatively unstable, shifting between maternal/paternal identifications, and always incomplete. o Criticism:  Sexual reductionism and ignorance of gender constructs  Feminist critique of its construction of female sexuality and subjectivity as a reverse or after-effect of male sexuality  LACANIAN PSYCHOANALYSIS o Agrees with Freud that the mind fractures into Conscious/Unconscious drives upon realisation of reality, but stresses the individual’s induction into systems of language over sexual development o Three Realms of Human Existence:  The Real – made up of things in the world that cannot be consciously known or signified with words  The Imaginary – similar to Freudian pre-Oedipal, pleasurable stage where the infant feels whole and connected to everything  Mirror Stage – child sees its mirror reflection and misrecognises itself as an autonomous and total whole. It identifies with the reflected image and begins to conceive of its own distinctness as a complete identity and takes the first steps towards ego formation. Lays foundation for subjectivity.  Symbolic Realm – the cultural plane of social meanings and relationships/Reality principle  Language structures, orders, and constrains the impulse for the Imaginary desire  The Father instructs the child on social convention and taboo (who then rejects incestuous desires)  The child is forced to construct a personal identity with newly acquired language o Subjectivity (Consciousness) is entirely a fiction, one born out of misrecognition of individual wholeness (in the mirror stage) and solidified in a symbolic system of language where subjects can only ever attempt to represent themselves  Individual subjectivity is an effect of language and symbols because they are the only tools available for us to articulate a consciousness or identity. MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction  We cannot fully articulate our pleasures/desires because some are rooted in the Imaginary, experienced before language and beyond linguistic expression o Lacanian Unconscious is not a personal quality, but a shared sense of the unnameable desires we yearn to experience again. This turns to Lack.  PSYCHOANALYTICS TUDIES OM EDIA(FILMS) o 1. Films are structured in such a way that they activate unconscious desires  Freud: Movies allow us to indulge in unconscious, repressed, or socially prohibited pleasures  Lacan: The structure of films allows us to traverse the Lack and access the Imaginary pleasures which language divides from our conscious mind o 2. Psychoanalytic concepts help explain widespread phallocentrism in American culture and films  Phallocentrism – a social condition where images/representations of the penis carry connotations of power and dominance  Oedipus Complex and the Symbolic Realm of language become intertwined with the notion that men are powerful and women are powerless in society, and this erroneous concept is encoded by culture through patriarchal systems of power MDSA01 2012 - Critical Media Studies: An Introduction o Some Feminist scholars see psychoanalysis as a potential field of resistance because it displays how social constructions of power come to be naturalised within a culture o Apparatus Theory  The actual environment and machinery of cinema activates a number of psychoanalytic desires within spectators  Jean-Louis Baudry: Film is the contemporary means by which we access desires lost/repressed from psychic development through Identification  Convention of the theatre (giant images onscreen, a passive, seated audience) create a sense of visual dominance and restricted movement, causing viewers to again unconsciously rejoice in Mirror stage feelings of wholeness, mastery, and control while watching the film  Darkness of theatre and spectator immobility recall a womb environment, causing an unconscious regression to the Imaginary stage (maternal connection)  The process of filmic viewing is what is appealing, not the narrative/content  Christian Metz extends Baudry to include Freudian drives of Voyeurism and Fetishism  Metz: Identification with screen re-enacts the confirming mirror- stage, but does not function as a mirror. Therefore, the Identification is with the ability to
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