Sunday, January 30, 2005

Derrida and Yu-Gi-Oh

I've been reading The Work of Mourning which is a collection of eulogies and mourning texts written by the late Jacques Derrida. It contains Derrida's attempts to deal with the deaths of more than a dozen of his contemporaries and friends through writing.

For decades Derrida has written about friendship, and the things which is means and implies, which we rarely ever consider. In every act, even in the act of making a friend, a sadness is always implied, because in that process of coming togther, there exists the trace of the inevitability not just that the friendship will end, but that one must leave it before the other. This collection of Derrida's work shows the tension involved with this process, and how one can continue the conversation of friendship when the other has left. And although we have very general stereotypical ways of talking about this at our disposal, I feel that Derrida, by exploring the work of his friends, and exploring his own relationship not to them, but their absence make some important points about the meaning and value of deep friendships.

In thinking about Derrida's work, I made a strange connection to the cartoon Yu-Gi-Oh. If one watches the episodes from the first and second seasons carefully, a discourse on friendship is far more palpable then winning or competition. It is really interesting to read Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas and Yu-Gi-Oh together. In the same way which Derrida uses friendship and its exploration to shield himself from the abyss which confronts him with the death of a friend, the characters in Yu-Gi-Oh use the power of their friendship in similar ways, to defeat Pegasus, Marik and Bakura (the best example is in a duel with Pegasus, where the cold touch of the Shadow Realm threatens to destroy Yugi, and it is only through the connection he shares with his friends, is he able to be shielded. The visual and literal language which they use to describe this, is suprisingly similar to that which Derrida uses).

The relationship between Joey and Yugi is one which shows well the tension which characterizes Derrida's writing in The Work of Mourning. Or the tension which he is feeling, which he was always already anticipating. In both season one and two of Yu-Gi-Oh, Joey and Yugi are both best friends and duelists. They both join the duels, knowing that only one can win, however at every step of the way helping and supporting each other. Every interaction is always filled with the trace of that death which will take place when one will fall, and only continue on within the one that survives. In season one, Joey and Yugi are the two who must fight to see who will challenge the tournment master, Pegasus (who is the game's Big Other, who created the game and who knows everything which happens in the tournament, by his Millenium Item which gives him psychic powers and a network of all-seeing cameras around his island where the tournament is being held). Yugi wins, and Joey falls out of the tournament, only existing as the voice of support for Yugi through the link of friendship they share (which was inscribed in an earlier episode by Tea with a black marker, forever connecting her, Joey, Yugi and Tristan). In line with Derrida's general belief in the inspiration of friendship, it is the Joey within Yugi which helps Yugi defend off Pegasus' psychic attacks and eventually win the duel.

It is interesting how in the innocence of the cartoon, it can explore and go beyond the ideas of Derrida. I guess since we all claim innocence over something at every moment, strategically situating it and invoking it is of the utmost importance.

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