In the aftershock of our nation’s annual heteronormative consumerist orgy, also known as the Christmas Season, let us reflect, and recall these sage words from our dear Louis Althusser:
The tenacious obviousness of the point of view of production alone, or even of that of mere productive practice are so integrated into our everyday ‘consciousness’ that it is extremely hard, not to say almost impossible, to raise oneself to the point of view of reproduction.
That is, dear friends, let us not forget that capitalism (and the plethora of ideologies that comes along with it) is deeply embedded in our culture—that, in fact, the two can’t be separated at all. I often feel as though the holidays are an out-of-body experience. I’ll see myself at the mall, foaming at the mouth, agonizing over what which pair of gloves I should get for Aunty X or Uncle Y, and I’ll wonder: How did I get here? Has it really been four hours already? Am I in a time warp?
Surely, these consumerist tendencies persist throughout the year. But every December, they’re heightened to astonishing proportions. As a feminist and hopefully all-around thoughtful person, I try to be mindful of my own actions. I’d like to at least recognize when I’m conforming and be critical of it, if not avoid it entirely. This task, however, is much easier said than done.
For instance, this Christmas I hoped to see The Wolf of Wall Street. I’m a huge Leonardo DiCaprio fan, and I heard great things about it. A couple days later, I stumbled upon this article criticizing the film for:
…exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior.
Can I really argue with that? The film upholds these financial “wolves,” confuses greed with ambition, and ignores the real victims. How can I explain my deep desire to see this film? Why am I so attracted to a story that not only glorifies greed, but shamelessly degrades women as well (see link)? In the end, it seems that this blockbuster hit is just another one of Althusser’s ideological State apparatuses, masking as a critique, but inevitably subscribing to the “ruling ideology.”
The filmmakers may have intended for The Wolf of Wall Street to reveal the dark side of rampant capitalism. Unfortunately, that isn’t how the film functions. In criticizing an idea, they’ve reproduced it. It’s time to recognize the dangers of satire, how it recreates the very thing it claims to be against. What does it mean that a film like The Wolf of Wall Street can have huge success when released on Christmas day? What does that say about our culture and about ourselves? Let’s hope, then, that the New Year brings on a more critical viewership.