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“Hegel’s master/slave dialectic to the film Thelma and Louise”

November 19, 2012

The title of this absurd post is quoted from some anonymous person whom today searched that phrase, probably in Google and clicked-thru to my blog. WordPress includes information about the searches that lead to this blog and I noticed this search string in today’s results: “hegel’s master/slave dialectic to the film thelma and louise”. So I searched it myself at the first google hit is the ZombieLaw blog entry “Master slave dialectic and the Zombie as colonial metaphor“. That post referred to an article about Haitian colonial labor by Aaron Cutler at The L Magazine. That post does mention the movie “White Zombie” but does not refer to “Thelma and Louise”. The reason Google grabs it is because of another ZombieLaw recent post in the sidebar – Brad Pitt, ‘Zombie Congress’ and ‘Thelma and Louise economics’ about zombies jumping the fiscal cliff.

So now seeing as I just searched it, I thought I would also blog about the other hits for this bizarre phrase (question for your copyright experts, is this all a derivative work of the original anonymous googler who entered this topic idea into a search engine??)

Lady Power” by Nancy Bauer is a great article from 2010 The Stone in NyTimes. It is about feminism and Lady Gaga and subject-object relations in expression of humanity:

Jean-Paul Sartre, taking a cue from Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, proposed in “Being and Nothingness” that what moves human beings to do things that don’t quite square with one another is that we are metaphysical amalgams. Like everything else in the world, we have a nature: we’re bodily, we can’t control what happens around us, and we are constantly the objects of other people’s judgments. Sartre called this part of ourselves “being-in-itself.” But at the same time we’re subjects, or what he, following Hegel, called “being-for-itself”: we make choices about what we do with our bodies and appetites, experience ourselves as the center of our worlds and judge the passing show and other people’s roles in it. For Sartre, the rub is that it’s impossible for us to put these two halves of ourselves together. At any given moment, a person is either an object or a subject.

The Cartesian dualism that drives Sartre’s understanding of human beings as metaphysically divided from themselves is decidedly out of fashion these days. Most contemporary philosophers of all stripes reject the idea that we possess selves that are made of more than one type of metaphysical stuff. But we shouldn’t forget that the claim at the heart of Sartre’s picture is thoroughly phenomenological: it’s not so much that people are split as that they experience themselves as such. Notoriously, Sartre was convinced that we are inclined to deal with the schism by acting in “bad faith.” On occasion we find ourselves pretending that we’re pure subjects, with no fixed nature, no past, no constraints, no limits. And at other times we fool ourselves into believing that we’re pure objects, the helpless victims of others’ assessments, our own questionable proclivities, our material circumstances, our biology. Sartre’s view gives us a way to understand how a girl might construe her sexually servicing a random guy or shaking her thong-clad booty at a video camera as an act of unadulterated self-expression and personal power. But this interpretation comes at the cost of an epistemic superiority complex, according to which young women are hiding from themselves the ugly truth about what they’re “really” doing.

Leave it to Simone de Beauvoir to take her lifelong partner Sartre to task on this very point. If you have it in your head that “The Second Sex” is just warmed-over Sartre, look again. When it comes to her incredibly detailed descriptions of women’s lives, Beauvoir repeatedly stresses that our chances for happiness often turn on our capacity for canny self-objectification.

But Bauer suggests Gaga’s Telephone is like a Quentin Tarantino version of “Thelma and Louise”. For ZombieLaw readers, it is important we remember that “Thelma and Louise” was produced and directed by Ridley Scott. Yes, that Ridley Scott, director of “Alien” and “Blade Runner” (and more recently “Prometheus”). “Thelma and Louise” is a sci-fi war movie parable about outsiders fleeing an fascist world.

See also this extra credit assignment from Berkeley City College course blog on Feminist Philosophy and De Beauvoir:

When Thelma and Louise first came out in 1991 it was hailed by some as one of the first mainstream American films to challenge gender representations. Make an argument for or against this claim by examining the protagonists’ roles and circumstances within the context of gender conventions

Finally, see the SSRN paper by Pravin Jeyaraj of University of Westminster “Plasticity, Recycling and Plastic Bullets”:

Perhaps the contradiction about love is that is feels so purposeful yet requires a will-to-power, which Nietzche describes as purposeless progression. Malabou cites research in neuroscience in order to come up with the concept of the world as a plastic brain. Contrary to the traditional idea of a brain as a central, controlling authority, neuroscientific research shows the brain as acentred, in that there are lots of disparate centres. To get from one synapse to another, nervous information, the dialectic, has to cross a void between synapses, like Thelma and Louise driving off the cliff at the end of the film. The act of recognition is the explosive jump across the void – it is most difficult the first time but it gets easier the more often that the gap is traversed. Instead of one central committee, there are ‘multiple, fragmentary organisations, an ensemble of micropowers’.

See other references to ZombieLaw French Theory

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