When Adele’s Skyfall Meets Zizek

A Zizekian reading of the Skyfall to come

“Let the sky fall.”

Listening to these words, the first idea that came on to my mind was that: so that is not just the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek who longs for an apocalypse to come. The vocal train of a young generation, departured from Britain, gone through the hearts and minds of the young and olds from all continents destined to America, bears the same voice that “This is the end.” This great end, having nothing to do with any silent conclusion, is just the beginning of a ‘loud and dazzling’ art.

A quick look at Adele’s Oscar-winning masterpiece Skyfall, regardless of the 007 movie, brings us so close to Zizek’s apocalyptic philosophy. The song begins by a psychoanalytic technique used for concentration when it says “Hold your breath and count to ten.” The song, then, broadens its criteria and prepares the audience’s minds for a revolutionary idea by obliging them to “Feel the earth move and then,” there commences the outburst of the speaker’s heart shouting a dream.

This is very close to the narrative Zizek masters. He, being a Lacanian psychoanalyst, almost always uses psychoanalytic techniques to draw attention and begins with the end of an idea; the end of the capitalist system. This dangerous ‘moment’ which the speaker of the song has ‘drowned and dreamt’ is very much like what the so-called neo-Marxist Zizekean line of thought had long dreamt and drowned in, which had long ‘owe’ and so far has been so ‘overdue.’

This is the same manner as Zizek asks people to hold their breaths, take a fresh look at the world with all its problems and just imagine the fall of the immensity of the capitalist sky. And “When it crumbles” those who have not thought the fall so dogmatically unimaginable; the ones who have felt the fall, “will stand tall.” Zizek on capitalism asks people to “just start thinking about more radical changes.”

The year 2012 can be culturally called the year of apocalyptic thinking. Far from the ‘cheap’ prophetic ideas of the world coming to an end at any time, Zizek believes that there are some basic indications behind such cultural phenomenon as described in his book Living in the End Times:

The global capitalist system is approaching an apocalyptic zero-point. Its “four riders of the apocalypse” are comprised by the ecological crisis, the consequences of the biogenetic revolution, imbalances within the system itself…and the explosive growth of social divisions and exclusions. [X]

If we consider Skyfall as the very Zizekean ‘apocalyptic zero-point’ (‘where we start’), then, isn’t the earth’s move “where worlds collide and days are dark” the same as the very ecological crisis? Following the same reading, “we start/ A thousand miles and poles apart” except calling for a global act, can also contribute to the ‘explosive growth of social divisions.’ In the same line of thought, that is the capitalist social cracks and ‘divisions’ which create a polar space between people to the extend which “You may have my number, you can take my name/ But you’ll never have my heart.”

This way probably the only missing point of Skyfall from Zizek’s list would be ‘the biogenetic revolution’ because the Skyfall itself can represent a potential for ‘the imbalances within the (capitalist) system.’

But how is it that the Syfall is considered as the beginning “where we start?” Borrowing the words of Mao Zedong, Zizek believes when “there is great disorder under heavens, the situation is excellent.” And this great disorder caused by letting the sky to fall creates the ‘excellent situation’ for standing tall.

Probably many music lovers might consider such reading of such masterpiece as some sorts of failed ‘communist propaganda’ dreaming for a ‘great disorder’ on earth. But what the beautiful song and its line of thought most signifies is, more than everything, a crave for humanity. The eloquent lyrics, with the serious, broad and grand music accompanied by the divine voice of Adele shares a communal call for a better world by considering a radical change.

The song wittily touches upon the global problems and imagines more people to put their hands together and stand tall. This idea of hand in hand ‘loving arms’ is fully aware of the sentimentalism that multiculturalism suggests when it confesses that ‘you will never have my heart.’ But it later confesses that as far as we let break the high sky of ever increasing social divisions, if we think and imagine more and deeper about the problems of our world, then “I’d never be me (anymore).”

Skyfall is the time when the word ‘security,’ which always bears the shadows of police state, now only applies the ‘loving arms’ of each other that can keep us from harm.

After all the lauds and over-readings, what sky are we suggested to let fall? The natural sky is not at people’s hands, so what is that sky which if we ‘all together’ let fall, which would be ‘where we start?’ Isn’t the sky of capitalism the very blinding sky that is for long promised to fall? And when it crumbles, aren’t forms of socialism the only available alternatives one can think of, where ‘we’ the people ‘all together’ can put hands in hands and ‘stand tall?’

And finally Skyfall is to be seen as a supreme example of the exclusive inclusion where the intelligent capitalist system digests a dangerous socialist, poetic and artistic dream of a young generation and demonstrates it on the top of the highest mounts of the capitalist sky as if it has always belonged to the system.

Amir Barati is an Iranian journalist and social activist. He has written many articles on different political and cultural issues in English and Persian. Read other articles by Amir.