Sunday, August 9, 2009

On David Lynch's Eraserhead

“In Heaven, everything is fine.” I had never seen Eraserhead until its screening in class several months ago, and until then, I had no idea that the Pixies’ “In Heaven” was a cover of a song from the film. In turn, the song has become dramatically more haunting to me than it once was, and for that, I have David Lynch and his Lady in the Radiator to thank. Barring this song, a cacophonous soundtrack almost entirely composed of white noise and non-diegetic machinery is not the only thing that makes Eraserhead so difficult to watch. From what I can surmise, the film is intentionally unpleasant, forcing viewers to come to terms with their own desire for something beyond their possession. As someone who lacks enjoyment, it is Henry's perpetual desire that triggers his disturbing fantasies. But even his fantasmatic escapes – from the Lady in the Radiator to his record player – exist as constant reminders of the dilapidated industrial dystopia that the film's characters populate, pertaining to mechanical devices of mass-production.

Ultimately, as subjects within the dominant capitalist political framework, Eraserhead serves as a metaphor for the familiar predicament we all find ourselves in. Capitalist output is wholly predicated on the labors of our dissatisfaction. Like Henry the printmaker, or I daresay “Joe the plumber” – disingenuously used as a metaphor for the “common man” by the McCain-Palin 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, but I couldn't resist – we are all lacking and craving that which is absent from our lives. This accounts for Lynch's placement of Lacanian psychoanalytic sperm-like “lamella” throughout the film. Our lack incurs desire; our desire incurs fantasy. Considering fantasmatic escape is illusory and beholden to the realities of our oppression, like the radiator, it cannot fully satisfy our deprivation. As desiring subjects, it is our ceaseless empty yearning and abiding sacrifice as workers and consumers that sustains the apparatus. In the age of our contemporary technological utopia, such ceaseless empty yearning has been exacerbated by the advent of "new media" – Facebook, Twitter, iPhone, Blackberry, The Huffington Post, Fox News, et al. At once, the era of instant gratification perpetuates the erosion of our collective attention span; the exhaustion of our collective satisfaction; and the immortalization of a global capitalism sustained by the blind and jaded malaise of consumption and excess in our distant austerity.

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