Friday, May 13, 2005

Hitchhiker's Glitch


I watched both the BBC tv version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as the recent US version. It was interesting to read these two films, which deal with the same basic story against each other. According to Zizek, the difference between "reality" and the Real lies in the difference between similarities and differences in repitition. To see reality, one finds what is similar throughout different perspectives (such as eye witness testimonies of a crime, the element that stays constant provides the reality of the different versions). To find the Real however, one must find what is different about the different versions (such as in dream analysis or psychoanalysis. The key is to see what changes in the different (re)tellings).

What is different between the two versions lies in the basic theme, the "lesson" if you will. In the 2005 version there is a romance, the earth is remade after being destroyed, and none of the main characters die or disappear for very long. The basic lesson would have to be that love is what the universe is about and that everything will be alright in the end.

The BBC version gets more into the nature of the universe, and actually works at the questions of existence that the 2005 version flirts with lightly.

In both versions the answer to "what is Life, the Universe...Everything all about? is revealed. The answer being "42." This of course makes no sense to anyone, because no one really knows what the actual "question" to what Life, the Universe...Everything is all about. In this year's film the question is deferred past the horizon of the story (only a silly desperate speech on the main character's love for the last female human in the universe standing in for it). In the BBC film, the question is actually revealed, and thus touching on an important part of existence which everyone feels, yet even as the remake shows, must deny.

In both versions, Arthur's paranoia over the nature of the universe is assuaged by the planet designer (who loves making fjords) who says that there isn't anything fundamentally wrong with the universe that's just your paranoia, everyone is like it. While this is let go in the 2005 version, in the BBC version is remains, and is dealt with at the film's end. Stranded on the planet earth, 2 millions years before it will be destroyed, Arthur and Ford try to unlock the ultimate question to Life, the Universe...Everything which they were told is in Arthur's brain. Knowing that the answer is 42, they soon learn that the question is, what is six times nine.

Thus, the fact that everyone in the universe is fundamentally paranoid, shouldn't be something dismissed as mere paranoia, but is instead something which connects us to as Zizek calls it "the proto-ontological structure of the universe." That insecurity over a gap, or a glitch in reality, is the Real which is either assumed into meaninglessness or refused to be recognized. When people remark too often that things don't make sense or that they just don't work, they are often trapped in the assumption that the question and the answer of the universe are meant to fit. What they miss constantly, especially in terms of understanding and expectations is that there is always this gap, this glitch.

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