birds

from Looking Awry – Slavoj Zizek

The terrifying figure of the birds is actually the embodiment in the real of a discord, an unresolved tension in intersubjective relations. In the film, the birds are like the plague in Oedipus’s Thebes: they are the incarnation of a fundamental disorder in family relationships—the father is absent, the paternal function (the function of pacifying law, the Name-of-the-Father) is suspended and that vacuum is filled by the “irrational” maternal superego, arbitrary, wicked, blocking “normal” sexual relationship (only possible under the sign of the paternal metaphor). The dead end The Birds is really about is, of course, that of the modern American family: the deficient paternal egoideal makes the law “regress” toward a ferocious maternal superego, affecting sexual enjoyment—the decisive trait of the libidinal structure of “pathological narcissism”: “Their unconscious impressions of the mother are so overblown and so heavily influenced by aggressive impulses, and the quality of her care is so little attuned to the child’s needs, that in the child’s fantasies the mother appears as a devouring bird.” (Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism, 1980)

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