So, you’ve probably seen the Iniesta-Casillas commercial. The two of them pretend to be fans of random strangers and ask for autographs and photographs. On a basic level, it’s a tongue & cheek look at the roles we as fans play as compared to players. In following the academic trend of “gutchecks,” the immediate emotional response is a wry smile and perhaps a laugh. It’s nice to see these Spanish footballers off the pedestal. However, I’m not about to let this work of art escape the rigorous academic critique it deserves.
As a starting point, please have a copy of Zizek’s “The Sublime Object of Ideology” handy. Why? Well, only Hegel and psychoanalysis can shed light on the deeper meanings and reaches of this “advertisement.” This film, ahem, actually reveals a fissure point that divides the idealistic concept of the “All” from the materialist notion of the “apparent All.” We derive pleasure from seeing it, but ultimately it revolves around the Freudian death drive’s attempt to grasp the totality of reality. Here’s how.
We know that Iker and Andres are not really fans of the pedestrians. The pedestrians also know. But Iker and Andres know that we know and also that the pedestrians know. Thus, we also derive pleasure from our participation in the “ironic act” – an obvious sketch that everybody gets as a joke. We the discerning consumer, the skeptical pedestrian, and the good-natured but contractually obligated celebrity athletes all play our predetermined roles.
The film is not the “apparent ALL” in the sense that visual medians like documentaries attempt to expose an unfiltered reality. Rather, the movie works as an unfiltered expose of filtered reality. We laugh at the obviously preposterous premise. However, a purist would argue that, like the “Real World”, the “Bachelor,” and other such programs, this film is a half-assed deconstruction of genre, is perhaps even more deceptive, and therefore the most poisonous pill of all to swallow.
To fully understand the criticism, it’s important to attempt to formulate a baseline of “reality” and “nonreality.” After decades of television, cookie cutter suburban homes with wives, husbands, kids, schools, scripted dialogue, picket fences, laugh tracks and nosy neighbors have become the standard and easy-to-see “not ALL” non-reality. We smell a situational comedy a mile away. The four young single friends live in large metropolis and regularly meet in cafes to discuss amorous escapades, workplace grievances, and career moves. Goofy slapstick character says goofy something and performs amusing & awkward physical act, to our delight. We don’t want to feel left out, so we follow the studio audience and laugh track’s lead. Our face forms a smile, but we don’t smile. That is obviously the “not ALL” non-reality.
But where is the “ALL” reality?
We thus encounter Zizek’s favorite topic: the gap between the transcendental “ALL” and the materialist “not ALL”. In laymen terms, the gap between knowledge as perfect & explanatory versus what we as an individual can see, taste, touch, and smell. Television has always tip-toed in this nether region. In terms of the “not ALL” material world, we plug in the glowing box and press an on switch on a remote control. We see human beings, professional actors, that speak sentences and make gestures to the approval of first, a director barely off screen, and second us, the audience sitting in front of the screen. But where does and can the transcendental “ALL” fit in?
The Casillas-Iniesta video superficially attempts to push us, the athletes, and the pedestrians away from the scripted TV world and closer to reality with an ironic premise. However, you have to ask – are we really totally inside this inside joke? For example, were those really pedestrians? Or paid extras? Or actors? Also, how many pedestrian clips were filmed? How many were cut out? Obviously, not every take made the final video. To flesh out the point, was it mere coincidence that attractive but moody people always got selected (“casted”) to be in MTV’s the Real World? Directors’ hands have altered this reality. It’s as filtered as instant coffee. The Casillas-Iniesta video is thus the most dangerous kind of “not ALL” reality – the kind that sells itself as “ALL” reality. Or at least an approximation.
Therefore, this film succeeds at tugging our emotions because of the Freudian death drive. As Zizek notes, we grasp, claw, and strive to push our sense closer and closer to reality. We long to jump over the grand canyon from the “not ALL” side to the “ALL” side. We have watched Iniesta and Casillas play some scintillating soccer and become Champions of Europe and the World. We’ve seen shitty TV. This film lowers our defenses by mocking TV premises and allegedly reversing the role of fan/athlete. What could have been cooler than to have walked alongside the camera man, filming those guys on the street? Or, even better, getting asked by Casillas for an autograph! Cue swoon-track.
This film amuses, but is no transcendental formation. It’s just the latest flavor in union-scriptwriter-busting neo liberal reality TV 2.0 meets viral internet marketing 101. Don’t let Casillas’ charms fool you, even if he is a handsome son of a gun.
Video: Dirty Tackle