The Conspiracy Narrative that is ‘Zoolander’

No, I am not ‘jumping the shark’ so early on; I’ve just read an essay from MIT’s ‘Mediations’ magazine (Volume 1, Number 1, to be precise) entitled ‘Zoolander as a Parable and Parody of the Classic Conspiracy Narrative and Contemporary Western Popular Culture’ (Author: Jason Dick) It looked as if it could be interesting. I mean, the abstract claims:’Although often classified as an unorthodox comedy, Zoolander contains several elements which contribute to the reading of the film as a parody of the classic conspiracy narrative, while functioning as a parable of the paranoid anxieties of Western society exhibited in contemporary popular culture.’which sounds as if the contents could be informative and just a little fun. Unfortunately it was just a wee bit too post-modern for my liking, and Freudian with it[1]. Indeed, this post really is a sequel to ‘Psycho-analysis; how I don’t miss thee.’ seeing that it has these ‘wonderful’ claims:p. 23 – ‘Homosexuality in the classic conspiracy narrative has historically been viewed as a sickness or disease associated with communism primarily due to public fear arising in response to the Other, or that which is different.’and:p. 24 – ‘Mugatu is not only depicted as the Other through his sexual orientation, but through the feminization of his character; this fits into the classic conspiracy narrative in that the male antagonist is often presented as effeminate or as having womanly qualities, which is looked down upon in Western society. The feminized male is critical to the reading of conspiratorial narratives in that it represents the Other, which is in opposition to the image of the healthy, well-defined ‘man’s man’, hugely important in Western society.’Obviously my lack of grounding in Freudian pyscho-analysis means that I have missed out on a whole host of homosexual undertones to the great Conspiracy Theories of History. I’m not entirely sure what I should do to rectify this; perhaps some counselling might be in order, but where does one find a Freudian these days?Oh, and there’s more:p. 26 – ‘Fetishism is an essential element of conspiracy theory because it is analogous to the classic fetish of the classic paranoid with the notion of truth.’Not quite the fun read I thought it would be. Perhaps it’s because I don’t buy into this concept of ‘the Other’ upon which this reading of Conspiracy Narratives (and ‘Zoolander’ in particular) rests upon. It may be the weird analogy between ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Zoolander.’ Or the related analogy between it and ‘Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.’ Whatever the case, there’s a lot of this wacky material out there and I’ve not even begun to skim its surface. Expect, in a few monthes, for me to start posting names of articles followed by the succinct summary ‘Arrgh.’Then you can shed tears for me, for I will be beyond crying.–1. I’m not against post-modernity; in particular disciplines it is a very appropriate critical tool. The disciplines in which it can be used appropriately tend to be aspects of Literatre Studies where there is a worry about intent and what the reader takes out of the text. Post-modernity has no place in the discussion of Science, if only because by ‘the languages of the Sciences’ we mean something quite other to ‘the languages of human societies.’


About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

4 comments:

  1. That reminds me – look up “The Pink Swastika” some time — this is the theory that homosexuality is responsible for the Holocaust. Because the Nazis were all gay. (The thousands of homosexuals who were sent to concentration camps and killed were the effeminate ones, or something — they try to claim that “butch” homosexuality was part of the Aryan ideal or some shit.)

    I don’t know if it strictly counts as a conspircay theory, but our friend Judith Reisman is quite a fan of it, so it’s bound to be an entertaining read…

  2. Aye; homosexuality is often singled out as a cause of almost anything bad in history. Julius Caesar would have been a good leader for Rome if it weren’t for his bisexual tendencies (according to one ancient writer; Suetonious, I believe). Witches cavorted in cabals of their own gender, and so forth. Why this is thought to be particularly true of Conspiracy Theories (especially since the hypothesis seems patently false elsewhere) I don’t know.

  3. (This has nothing to do with the post at hand, but here’s as good as anywhere…)

    From the Campion-Vincent piece in your notes:

    1. A specific agent(s) is named, with a clear motivation.
    2. The agent is evil, the outcome is destructive, which is easy to understand—evil results in evil—and not a complicated and probably more accurate explanation of complex events with unintended consequences of multiple intersecting agents and actions.

    Know of any conspiracies to save the world instead of destroy it? Mysterious figures pulling hidden strings to make the world a better place?

    All I can think of is Watchmen, and that was probably a work of fiction.

  4. Well, depending on which version of the Illuminati story you take, the French Revolution, albeit it in a bloody way, was meant to reform the world for the better. Indeed, the Illuminati story in general could be seen as a conspiracy by Rationalists to save the world from theocracy.

    Of course, there are lots of examples of small scale conspiracies which are good rather than evil; the conspiracy of parents to hide from a child the preparations for a surprise birthday party, my return to Auckland; whilst some might say that they aren’t the same as global domination conspiracies they are still acts of conspiring and thus conspiracies.

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