Screen Cultures and Selves (Lecture 6)

LACAN – The Psyche

The Three Orders

  • The Real
  • The Imaginary
  • The Symbolic
  • Fred 3 parts of the psyche – Id, Superego, Ego
  • Form the way which we experience the world

What has this got to do with the media?

  • Triad: symbolic-real-imaginary → a system of perception + dialogue with the external world
  • Perception, subject formation, language and image are central in both psychoanalytic and media discourses
  • Theories of media are embedded with invocations of these three orders and a further concern with their interplay
  • Attempts to theorize media in terms of the intricate and slippery border between the internal and the external, discussions of language, image, sound

The Mirror Stage and The Symbolic Order100babymirror

  • No one can remember the first time that we see ourselves (birth of the subjectivity)
  • Mirror stage: a baby recognize itself in the mirror as a whole and to counteract the primordial sense of his fragmented body
  • The image itself in the mirror is described as the “Ideal-I”, it provides an image of wholeness which constitutes the ego
  • Realize human being – identify internal self with external image
  • Represents first encounter with subjectivity
  • Think about inner and outer
  • A baby starts to understand the external world and internal world are completely different

The Real

  • The state of nature
  • all about need (not desire)
  • A baby at the mirror stage started to understand what the real is
  • If he need something, he cries and does not care about what other think
  • If he wants to sleep, he sleeps; if he wants to shit, he shits
  • The only real that we experience is only 5-6 months

Lacan’s Sense of Jouissance – a mode of pure enjoyment, an absolute pleasure

  • Pleasure becomes pain
  • The subduing of the “lust”
  • External prohibition (not moral in society) – tell the baby that you cannot do that, which becomes painful

The Imaginary Order

  • Primarily narcissistic
  • Whereas needs can be fulfilled
  • Demand are never statisfy, we won’t get the things we want at life
  • A baby started to think the lack of things he need – a sense of something lost (lost state of nature)
  • Difference between “demand” and “desire” – the function of the symbolic order, is simply the acknowledgement of language, law, and community
  • Put the poster of pop star/film star on the wall – imagine he/she is yourself

The Imaginary

  • The imaginary becomes the internalized image of this ideal, whole, self and is situated around the notion

The Symbolic

  • A contrast to the imaginary
  • The imaginary is all about equations and identifications
  • The symbolic is about language and narrative
  • Once a child enters into language and accepts the rules and dictates of society, it is able to deal with others
  • Laws and restrictions that control both our desire and the rules of communication

These three things are all happen at the same time: to tell a baby to go to the toilet in a private room and lock the door, then he shame on himself and realize the real is dirty


Cinema and The Mirror

Film Theory

Hugo Münsterberg (1916) – Psychologist

  • Parallel between the structure of the human mind and the filmic experience
  • Only concern the conscious mind, not the unconscious
  • Conscious experience of the spectator predominated in film theory

Psychoanalytic Film Theory

Jacque Lacan – Psychoanalyst

  • The process of spectator identification understood through the idea of the mirror stage
  • Mirror stage occurs in infants between six and eighteen months of age, when they misrecognize themselves while looking in the mirror.
  • The infant sees its fragmentary body as a whole and identifies itself with this illusory unity
  • This self-deception forms the basis for the development of the infant’s ego
  • This idea for film theory is readily apparent if we can accept the analogy between Lacan’s infant and the cinematic spectator

Christian Metz, Jean-Louis Baudry – Psychoanalytic Film Theorists

  • The film screen serves as a mirror through which the spectator can identify himself or herself as a coherent and omnipotent ego
  • Spectatorship provides derives from the spectator’s primary identification with the camera itself
  • Identification with the camera provides the spectator with an illusion of unmitigated power over the screen images
  • The camera knows no limit: it goes everywhere, sees everyone, exposes everything
  • The camera inaugurates a regime of visibility from which nothing escapes, this complete visibility allows spectators to believe themselves to be all-seeing
  • It remains unconscious and the spectator sustains the sense of being unseen
  • Once the camera itself becomes an obvious presence rather than an invisible structuring absence, the spectator loses the position of omnipotence along with the camera and becomes part of the cinematic event.
  • Reality effect: events on the screen are really happening and not just the result of a filmic act of production

Louis Althusser (1970) – Marxist Philosopher

  • Thinking about the political implication of the mirror stage
  • Fundamental ideological deception: ideology hails concrete individuals as subjects, causing them to regard themselves mistakenly as the creative agents behind their experiences

Traditional narrative film: the process of ideological interpellation and control

Hollywood film: invites spectators to accept an illusory idea of their own power, and in doing so, it hides from spectators their actual passivity

Laura Mulvey (1975)

  • Link psychoanalytic film theory to feminist concerns
  • Link the process of spectator identification to sexual difference
  • A secondary identification with character accompanies the spectator’s primary identification with the camera

Reference: Psychoanalysis, Cinema and The Mirror

Screen Cultures and Selves (Lecture 4)

Presentation about morality

Each group had a presentation of an advertisement, which is immoral. We talked about why the advert is morally wrong and in what way it is wrong. We also discussed the image and its relationship with the previous topics covered in the lecture so far.

cokeWe disagree with the group that talked about the advertisements of Coca-cola. Their
argument is that the connotation of those image is oral sex. However, we think that everyone drink coke and no matter men or women, we all drink in the way that show in those advertisements, it is difficult for us to think of oral sex because it is just a coke. Maybe they just have this association because of today’s topic.

presentation-tipsProfessional Presentation

  • Do some reading and research before presentation
  • Can quote some references
  • State arguments

Screen Cultures and Selves (Lesson 3)

Structuralism: about you, me and being human

Nature vs. Nurture

Nature: gene(DNA), appearance, physical, gender, talent

Nurture: being construct by others

Are we born with character, love, hate and morality? Or are we the products of family, environment, experience and education?

Are mass murderers born to be evil? Or they become evil because of something that happens to them?

Who are we? the mixture of nature and nurture

Basic instincts of a baby: breathing, eating, sleeping, crying, go to the toilet → these are our basic desire to survive

Elements of nurture: semiotics and myths (we have to learn and experience)

Morality: right and wrong things in a society

Jaques Lacan:

  • The unconscious is structured like a language
  • Claude Levi-Strauss (1908) is structuralist anthropological writing during the 1950’s

The unconscious mind: doing things that we cannot control

Anthropology: things that people have done and will continue to do → Why do we get married? Why do we do what we do?

Is it nature or nurture that people in remote area get married? If it is nurture, why do different people do the same?

myth of binary opposition → every cultures have good and bad

Sigmund Freud’s Iceberg Metaphor

Claude Levi-Strauss:

  • The Savage Mind
  • Man obeys law that are inherent in the brain
  • Myths are not made by individuals but by the collective human consciousness
  • The savage mind had the same structures as the civilized mind
  • The human is the same everywhere – in relation to the centralization of structure
  • ‘Bricolage’ – the characteristic patterns of mythological thought
  • Reuse available materials in order to solve new problems

The conscious mind is structure. The desire of structure is nature. We cannot understand the world without it.

Self-Appraisal: Boy or Girl?


It seems a simple question of asking  – “I am a boy or a girl?”. It is just to identify which gender I am and obviously I am a girl.

When I was small, my parents used to tell me that I have to be girly, quiet, gentle and chariness because I am a girl. They told me I cannot be rude, impolite, reckless and playful because all of these are the personality of boys. I was always wondering why girls and boys cannot have the same character.

collage1In addition, my mother always bought me some Barbies, dolls, bears and cooking toys for me. One day, I told her I want to have a toy gun (yes, I love to play guns, swords and cars!), then she blamed me and asked me why I like to play those toys which are for boys. At that time, I really did not understand why there should have differences of the toys between boys and girls.

When I became a teenager, I always bought clothes in white, black and grey colour by myself. However, my mother told me I should wear clothes and dresses in sharp colours, like red, pink and purple, therefore can show that I am a lady. I totally disagree that we should use colour to identify boys and girls as it is a very neutral thing. Boys can love red and purple, and girls can love black and blue as well.ewei-50-50

All of the above experiences are come from MYTHS. They are just some fabulous rules of
how society expect us to be a girl or a boy. I definitely have no idea why girls and boys should act in a different way and why we should obey these kinds of social MYTHS.

Screen Cultures and Selves (Lecture 2)


How we make meaning? How do we understand who we are? How do we identify with the world/images/films/TV/computer games/books?

  • Meaning → Semiotics → Signs (we know red means stop and green means go)
  • Signifier → Signification → Signified
  • E.g. we see the word “cat” → learn what is the word “cat” → think what is cat (if we see a word in other languages meaning cat, we do not know what is it because we did not learn about it)
  • Arbitrary: no connection with what you see and what you think, there should be a process of learning
  • Denotation: literal meaning
  • Connotation: what is actually intended
  • Process of signification → myths
  • Binary opposition: a pair of related concepts that are opposite in meaning (e.g. boy and girl)
  • we learn by culture and what we have been told


Film Review: Fist of Fury (1972)

300px-fistoffuryWe have watched a film called Fist of Fury. It is a Hong Kong film in 1972 and starring Bruce Lee, who is a famous martial artist.

Since the film has a very specific background, it has a very special history meaning. It is not only a film to entertain people, but also a means of the country to control the thought of their people. There is a huge effect on the Chinese to agree with their national identity after they watch this film.

Here is our discussion on the film.

One of my dream

I had this dream in few months ago. I remember it because it was very scary.


The dream begins…cartoon-lizard-nfnrl1m

When I was having dinner with my family at home, I saw a shadow moving quickly on the wall. I did not know what is it, so I ignored it and continued the dinner. After a while, I heard some noise from kitchen and I went in to see what happen. OH! I saw a lizard! I asked my father to catch it but it ran away very fast, and it was missing finally. After dinner, I had an itch on my foot. OMG! The lizard was on my foot! I was going to be crazy and screamed loudly because I really afraid of it. I hope someone can come to rescue me as soon as possible.

That’s it. The dream ends…