It is a truism that we don’t know what we want. But this truism becomes interesting when we give it a little spin and change it to “we don’t want to get what we want.” At the center of desire is a void, an uncontrollable death drive, a hysteric storm of silence. When we stand near a cliff, what we are afraid of (so people go) is not being pushed down, but our inner drive to jump. We are horrified, in front of the cliff, by our own desire.
So, does Zizek argue, is the flaw with Althusser’s theory of interpellation: That we are forced to internalize the values of our culture through ideological state apparatuses (Hollywood, School, TV)—forced, so to speak, to become a subject. We are, Zizek goes, not forced. Instead, we flee into interpellation, from the abyss of our own desires. We want to be told, we need to be told, what we should desire. There is no natural desire other than that horrifying rudimentary void. The state of nature is the state of the unlivable abyss. We cling to the Big Other, the forms of control, because they tell us what to do. So, at least, we get a minimal certainty and comfort. (One can detect a trace of Being&Time Division 2 Guilt&Conscience&Anxiety talk from early days of Zizek’s career as a Heideggerian.)
This, I think, is the lesson to be learnt from the popularity of College Decision Reaction Videos. (Personally, I’ve fallen pray to it as well.) The obvious comment that one can make is this, that it helps us satisfy our fantasy, because we want to get into a good university too much. The problem with this is that it does not describe the phenomenon. What happens is that rather than to be satisfied by decision reaction videos, the experience is mostly negative. Either others get wonderful offers, provoking the fear that I am not good enough; or others get rejected from all the institutions, which only leads to the same insecurity. As usual, though, we voluntarily indulge ourselves in unpleasant experiences. For what? Here comes Zizek’s reversal of interpellation. College decision reaction videos are watched because we don’t really know what we want. We are unsure (although others have always told us) whether we will be happy, whether we really desire it, when we get into a good college. Here, by watching others’ reactions (their elation, tears, shouts, whole family celebrating), we are reassured. Yes, I do want that. Look at her—how happy she is! We are reassured that we really do desire.