Introduction: Faces on the Stage and Faces in the Stalls
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Introduction: Faces on the Stage and Faces in the Stalls
1. Alas, the use of the theater loophole to allow smoking was blocked by the
Minnesota Court of Appeals. (Kaiser, n.pag.)
1. Actually, Gouldner might more accurately describe Goffman as posing indi-
viduals as holding ‘sign-value,’ referring here to the concept ﬁrst raised by
Baudrillard in For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign and further
developed in The Mirror of Production.
2. Interestingly, Habermas’ critique of Goffman is remarkably similar to
Goffman’s similar treatment of George Herbert Mead.
3. This is echoed in the analysis of the German philosopher Ernst Tugendhat
(who admittedly is dealing with the Meadian rather than the Goffmanian
use of ‘role’), who describes role positions as ‘meaning offers,’ stressing the
semiotic/hermeneutic dimensions of role-play (p. 243).
4. This example is of special interest given the importance that childhood play
is given in the formation of the self within the pragmatist tradition. Mead
repeatedly invokes play as an initial exploration of otherness by the devel-
oping social self and, despite Goffman’s aforementioned critique of Mead,
he was clearly inﬂuenced by the pragmatist tradition (especially as processed
through Blumer and Cooley). That role distance is a part of these early play
experiences is certainly provocative in this light, suggesting the doubleness
of role-play would also be constitutive of selfhood.
5. Fredric Jameson, in a 1974 review of Frame Analysis for Theory and Society,
also cites ‘key’ as the most interesting of Goffman’s conceptual contribu-
tions in the book; while my understanding of the key is rather different from
Jameson’s, I want to acknowledge a shared appreciation here. More recently,
the well-known sociolinguist George Lakoff has noted the inﬂuence of Frame
Analysis on his theorization on the production of political meaning.
6. In a footnote of his own, Goffman admits that, musicologically, ‘key’ is per-
haps not as apt as ‘mode’ for the process he is describing, but I agree with
Goffman that the technical aspects of the concept are less signiﬁcant than
its cultural-symbolic character (see 1974, p. 44).
7. It is worth noting that Goffman expressed a good deal of reservation about
pragmatism (esp. Mead) and attempted to distance himself from an ortho-
dox pragmatist position. In any case, Goffman’s avoidance of much explicit
philosophical analysis (as noted) makes his relationship to any established
school of thought difﬁcult to identify precisely.
8. As I have previously argued, Mead’s position here bears a very interesting
resemblance to Foucault’s analysis of classical forms of subjectivity, particu-
larly as the latter is interpreted by Gilles Deleuze (see Bailey, pp. 26–27).
9. Another important perspective here, one that would link Mead and Goffman
both chronologically and in theoretical terms, would be that of Kenneth
Burke, who analyzes role-play in literary and rhetorical terms. For an inter-
esting treatment of Burke’s relationship to Goffman, see Joseph Gusfeld’s
excellent introduction to the 1989 anthology Kenneth Burke on Symbols and
10. Goffman’s analysis of ‘face’ issues is intriguing in light of Raffel’s critique, of
course, as Levinas placed great stress on the importance of the face in the
engagement with otherness.
11. In Stigma, Goffman offers an extensive discussion of communities of ‘sympa-
thetic others’ built on a shared Stigma and, as noted, his sense of the ‘courtesy
stigma’ poses the relative portability (and thus symbolic character) or a range
of stigmatic phenomena (see pp. 19–32, especially).
Performance Anxiety: Role-ing with Lacan
1. Interestingly, Terry Eagleton makes a very similar point in contrasting Lacan’s
notion of subjectivity with that of his purported follower Louis Althusser,
arguing that Althusser fails to recognize—through a rather elementary mis-
reading that confuses the ego with the subject—the complexity of the
Lacanian subject (pp. 144–45).
2. Although as Sharpe notes, Jacques Derrida spots a considerable existential
bent in much of Lacan’s work, dedicating some of his encomium ‘For the
Love of Lacan’ to this point.
3. Here, I would recognize Žižek’s important analysis of Lacan’s relationship with
a post-structural model of subjectivity (or ‘subject-positions’ as opposed to
subjects) in which he argues, quite convincingly, that Lacan is not positing
the former but rather retaining a more coherent notion of the subject, albeit
as ‘lack’ (1989, pp. 174–76).
4. As Žižek points out in a discussion of the Hegelian dimensions of Lacanian
analytic practice, Lacan deﬁnes the ﬁnal stage of analysis as ‘subjective des-
titution,’ in which the ‘subject no longer presupposes himself as subject’
and refuses the symbolization of the real that makes subjective existence
5. It is important to note that Lacan’s position on the curative possibilities (and
even the possibility as such) of ‘true speech’ shifted throughout his career and
indeed his overall view of the alienation intrinsic to the act of speech evolves
signiﬁcantly over the course of the seminars. I am largely sidestepping many
of the nuances of these shifts in thinking, but I wish to avoid the impression
that there is a single, monolithic sense of the social-symbolic dynamics of
speech in his work.
6. Indeed, for Lacan psychosis is a sort of language disorder that results from a
failure to pass through symbolic castration and a resolution of the Oedipus
complex, and one that is marked by a profound instability and an ‘asymbolic’
7. Berger mentions that ‘when these suspicions [regarding the symbolic orga-
nization of existence] invade the central areas of consciousness they take
on, of course, the constellations that modern society would call neurotic or
psychotic,’ thus echoing Lacan at a more clinical level as well (p. 23).
8. Of course, Lacan’s ideas are often seen in a rather different light and, like Rank,
Lacan was cast out of orthodox circles, being expelled from the International
Psychoanalytic Association in 1963.
9. Interestingly, Rank’s reﬂections on homosexual desire and art and Lacan’s
connection of homosexuality, particularly female homosexuality, and hyste-
ria have a strong similarity, despite the former coming long after Rank’s break
with Freud (at least partly over the centrality of sexuality in the Freudian
position) (see Rank, pp. 52–58).
Liquid Stages and Melting Frames: Objective
1. Lauren Langman’s ‘Alienation and Everyday Life: Goffman Meets Marx at
the Shopping Mall’, which extensively engages Baudrillard’s thought, is an
exception, although the author connects the two theorists in a manner very
different from my own.
2. I should mention that this is not the ﬁrst attempt to place Baudrillard
alongside psychoanalysis, as in Charles Levin’s admirable essay ‘Power and
Seduction: Baudrillard, Critical Theory and Psychoanalysis.’ However, Levin’s
interest is in Winnicott’s object-relations psychoanalytic paradigm and also in
Baudrillard’s early work (indeed being quite hostile to the later writing).
3. There is an interesting overlap here with the thinking of the contemporary
Heideggerean philosopher Hubert Dreyfus, author of What Computers Can’t
Do: The Limits of Artiﬁcial Intelligence and a revised edition entitled What Com-
puters Still Can’t Do. Dreyfus argues that attempts at artiﬁcial intelligence will
fail because they are unable to take into account the embodied character
of human thought and are ultimately reliant upon a model of thought as
4. Badiou’s book on Deleuze, The Clamor of Being, deals extensively with the lat-
ter’s relationship with Heidegger. Badiou poses Deleuze’s philosophical work
as a radical extension of much of Heidegger’s thinking. This is a controver-
sial position, but one that I ﬁnd compelling and quite justiﬁed. Žižek’s Organs
without Bodies tries to reread Deleuze in a Hegelian-Lacanian framework (a rad-
ical reading, to be sure), but recognizes the major conﬂicts in the relationship
of the two thinkers.
5. The inﬂuence of Sartre on Baudrillard is rarely acknowledged in its fullness,
but certainly emerges from a full encounter with the corpus of his work.
1. Contemporary European systems of ﬁlm production can render a precise
national identiﬁcation for a ﬁlm difﬁcult, so ‘French’ here is shorthand for
ﬁlms in the French language that examine issues germane to contemporary
2. ‘Theorizing’ here is understood along the lines developed by Alan Blum in
his titular book, with theory as an opening of conversation, of the initiation
of a dialogue.
3. Interestingly, Bordwell has been engaged in a particularly vituperative intel-
lectual exchange with Slavoj Žižek over the relative merits of ‘cognitivist’
and psychoanalytic strategies for analyzing ﬁlms. It is perhaps signiﬁcant
that the ﬁlms of Kieslowski (as interpreted by Žižek in his 2001 book, The
Fright of Real Tears) were central to the latter’s attacks on Bordwell’s position
regarding the weaknesses and dogmatism of psychoanalytic ﬁlm theory.
4. It is unclear (and probably irrelevant) whether or not Haneke intended this
replication as an homage or a more neutral borrowing. Interestingly, the
ending of Lynch’s earlier Blue Velvet replicates a scene from Luis Bunuel’s
5. At least initially, as the nature of the video images become increasingly
intense and horrifying in Lost Highway.
6. 1999’s The Straight Story is an exception.
7. Arquette plays both ordinary Renee Madison and femme fatale Alice
Wakeﬁeld, a strategy repeated with Naomi Watts playing Betty Elms and
Diane Selwyn in Mulholland Drive.
8. Haneke drives the point home—and not particularly subtly—by using
newscasts reporting on the invasion of Iraq in the background of several
9. ‘Money and Brains’ is the name of a geodemographic cluster used by mar-
keting organizations to determine likely patterns of cultural consumption
and refers to geodemographic groups with ‘high incomes, advanced degrees,
and sophisticated tastes to match their credentials’. See Weiss, The Clustered
10. The suicide, it should be noted, is actually somewhat ambiguous in that
Ericka walks out of the concert hall after stabbing herself in the heart, rather
than falling to the ﬂoor. However, she appears to have stabbed herself in the
heart with a large knife, which suggests a fatal self-injury.
11. Film scholar Annette Insdorf makes this point in her commentary included
on the Red DVD.
12. Kieslowski was noted for his frequent use of doppelgangers in his ﬁlms;
indeed, The Double Life of Veronique, his last ﬁlm before beginning the Three
larity with David Lynch’s use of dual character structures in Mulholland Drive
and Lost Highway).
13. Innsdorf, in the aforementioned DVD commentary, quite reasonably inter-
prets the statement as a return to sexual potency.
14. Romand’s story was dramatized in a ﬁlm entitled The Adversary in 2002; this
ﬁlm was a much more faithful recounting of Romand’s life and crime. Time
a variety of other aspects of the story, though it retains many of the details
(the use of Geneva, Switzerland as a hideout/place of fake employment, the
ﬁnancial scams, and other elements of Romand’s life) of the actual story.
15. Of course, this is an eerie echo of Romand’s own homicidal fury.
16. New York Times critic Stephen Holden notes the similarity in visual style of
the two ﬁlms in his negative review of She’s One of Us.
17. In this depiction, she complements the beautiful female protagonists of
Kieslowski’s earlier ﬁlms in the Three Colours trilogy, Blue and White, played
by Juliette Binoche and Julie Delpy. The former is deﬁned by a melancholic
removal and the latter by a cunning sensuality. Jacob would later play a
woman preparing to become a nun in Michaelangelo Antonioni’s 1995 ﬁlm
Interestingly, Antonioni directed a kind of ur-text to the ﬁlms discussed in
this chapter with 1975’s The Passenger, a brilliant ﬁlm exploring some of
the peculiarities of identity and the contingencies of personhood. In it, Jack
Nicholson plays a reporter who switches identity with a similar-looking man,
an international arms dealer, when the latter dies in an adjacent room in a
hotel in a remote African village.
18. A much-admired scene in which Bateman and his colleagues compare
business cards presents this status game as high drama and displays an
almost-pornographic gaze at the cards, with each banker describing the spec-
iﬁcations (font, paper type) of his particular card accompanied by ominous
19. Another extremely memorable scene in American Psycho features a naked
Patrick Bateman chasing rival Paul Allen through his apartment building
wielding a chainsaw.
20. An essay by John Champagne in Bright Lights Film Journal offers an exten-
sive Lacanian analysis of The Piano Teacher. Champagne makes the point
that the ﬁlm ‘seems like an introduction to the work of Freud and his French
disciple, Jacques Lacan
21. As with American Psycho, Salo was the cause of a great deal of controversy,
largely because of its depiction of grotesque sado-masochistic sexual prac-
tices involving children. The ﬁlm is also noteworthy in the context of this
chapter as it is a clear cinematic ancestor to many of Michael Haneke’s ﬁlms,
particularly 1997’s Funny Games and 2009’s The White Ribbon.
22. A sort of microcosmic version of the genocidal urge to wipe the slate clean
and begin with a new society one sees, especially, in the Cambodian Khmer
Rouge regime. Interestingly, such regimes were built on a model of ‘year zero’
as launching a new man, a new social subject.
23. Open holes, such as wells and graves, were a subject of much symbolic
reﬂection in early Freudian literary and cultural criticism, representing
vaginas and, consequently, castration anxiety. Michel thus appears—again
rather pedantically—to overcome his castration complex with the murder of
24. Majid commits suicide, but the immediate cause of his bloody self-
destruction is the false accusation of kidnapping Pierrot, Georges’ son.
25. Indeed, Bourdieu placed second on an oft-discussed 2007 list of the most
cited academic writers in the humanities. For comparison, Goffman ﬁnished
ﬁfth, Lacan was ranked thirty-fourth, and Baudrillard failed to make the top
26. Interestingly, Bourdieu has written quite extensively on the issue of uni-
versalizing within social thought and especially the tendency for French
intellectuals to engage in a rhetoric of universalization.
27. It is worth noting that Bourdieu includes a detailed exploration of the
culinary preferences of various strata of French society in Distinction.
28. Given the more seriously toned discussions of French geopolitical
insecurities (particularly those surrounding immigration and the Muslim
population of France), it is interesting that Steinberger describes French cui-
sine lightly as ‘one of the most benign forms of imperialism the world has
29. Recall the passage from Kundera’s Slowness cited in the ﬁrst chapter; it should
be noted that the novel is from Kundera’s ‘French’ period—the era in which
he was living in France and writing in French.
30. In addition to Winter’s book, see for example Joan Wallace Scott’s The Politics
of the Veil (2007), Cecile Laborde’s Critical Republicanism: The Hijab Con-
troversy and Political Philosophy (2008), and John Bowen’s Why the French
Don’t Like Headscarves: Islam, The State, and Public Space (2006) for academic
analysis of the issue in contemporary France.
31. Kieslowski died shortly after the completion of the Three Colors trilogy thus
ﬁnishing his career in France, and Haneke has worked in German (The White
Ribbon), English (a remake of the earlier German-language Funny Games), and
French (Amour) in recent years.
32. In The Seventh Continent (based on a true story), an upper-middle-class family
commits suicide after systematically destroying all of their possessions and
ﬂushing their money down the toilet. The ﬁlm reﬂects a less nuanced version
of many of the critiques of the dehumanizing nature of consumer society
that appear in Hidden and The Piano Teacher.
33. This is not intended as a general evaluation of either cinematic tradition,
of course, and the decline of European art cinema has certainly been the
source of a good bit of ﬁlm critical attention in recent years. Also, the work of
David Lynch (described extensively above) suggests that simpliﬁed notions
of aesthetic character for American versus European ﬁlms is silly indeed.
34. It is worth noting that Weir, like Haneke and Kieslowski, works as an expa-
triate within a national cinema. He emerged as a major Australian ﬁlmmaker
in the 1970s but has worked within Hollywood since 1985’s Witness.
35. Of course, this larger theme has a very long history in American cinema, with
prominent examples such as Billy Wilder’s 1951 Ace in Hole/The Big Carni-
of a mine tragedy into spectacle, and Albert Brooks’ critically praised 1979
comedy Real Life, which parodied the production of the Public Broadcasting
System (PBS) ur-reality television series The Loud Family.
36. The ﬁlm bears a considerable similarity to Sydney Lumet’s earlier Dog Day
to the degree of Mad City.
37. Once again, this is a well-worn moral trope in cinema, with Sidney Lumet’s
critically venerated) examples.
38. Interestingly, Schepisi comes out of the same Australian ﬁlm scene that
produced The Truman Show, director Peter Weir.
39. Snider was the lead singer of the very popular 1980’s glam metal band
40. The ﬁlm tapped into a cultural fascination at the time with extreme forms
of body modiﬁcation (as in the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow) and used it as a
means of promoting the ﬁlm.
41. Snider himself famously testiﬁed before the U.S. Congress against labeling
music for objectionable content, a drive linked to religious conservatives
(although one of the leaders of the Parents Music Resource Coalition, a
leading advocacy group, was Tipper Gore, wife of future Vice President Al
42. This fear was compounded when it was widely reported that the ﬁlm was
a favourite of notorious Midwestern killer Edwin Hall, with some specula-
tion that Hall’s crime, the kidnapping, torture, and murder of an 18-year-old
woman whose father worked in law enforcement, was directly inspired by
similar events in the ﬁlm.
43. A superb example of an earlier depiction of this sort of transformation is
Nicholas Ray’s 1956 masterpiece Bigger Than Life, in which a school teacher
assumes a kind of Nietzschean superman personality due to the side effects
of cortisone that he is prescribed to combat a rare inﬂammatory disease.
A later but also interesting example is Joseph Ruben’s 1987 horror-thriller
The Stepfather (remade by Nelson McCormack in 2009), in which a seem-
ingly all-American man assumes the titular role with a number of families,
murdering them when they fall short of his desires for the perfect family.
44. See Bailey and Hay, ‘Cinema and the Premises of Youth: Teen Films and Their
Sites in the 1980s and 1990s’.
45. Interestingly, in Haneke’s The Seventh Continent (described in note 29), the
family’s suicide includes their ﬁnal moments watching television followed
by alternating shots of a television with no signal (and the correlate noise
on the soundtrack) and ﬂashbacks to earlier events in the ﬁlm, somewhat
heavy-handedly analogizing the dead television with the dying family. The
effect is to implicate the spectator in a voyeuristic enjoyment of the suicide,
a cinematic strategy repeated more dramatically in 1997’s Funny Games.
46. Against the monkeys-typing-Hamlet scenario he mocks in Cool Memories 2.
47. I use the term ‘quasi-ethnographic’ given the large and rich body of literature
in Anthropology and other disciplines dealing with the limits and possibili-
ties of new (and often more poetic) forms of ethnographic discourse. An early
and excellent example of this work can be found in the collection Writing
48. A similar moment occurs in Antonioni’s The Passenger, mentioned in note
13, when Jack Nicholson methodically peels the photo off from the passport
of a suddenly-deceased man at the same remote African hotel and replaces it
with his own, and is thus able to assume the identity of the dead man.
49. This aspect of the judge’s attitude is quite similar to that of Julie, the main
character in Kieslowski’s Blue, the ﬁrst ﬁlm in his Three Colors trilogy, who
tries to live a life free of desire and any emotional attachment after the death
of her husband and daughter in a tragic auto accident.
50. At the risk of being repetitive, Sartre’s deep inﬂuence on Goffman is worth
reiterating here. While no reasonable person would claim Goffman as a
French thinker, or even perhaps a Francophile, he is less distant from the
Continental tradition than might be assumed.
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