I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK: I’m Crazy But I’m Conservative — Işık Barış Fidaner

In this text I’ll do a little analysis on the movie I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK (2006). To prevent spoilers, I recommend you to watch the movie before reading it [1].

The movie deals with the possibility of a sexual relationship between the man (Il-soon) and the woman (Young-goon) by metaphorical images. The metaphorical images placed in a “colorful” world depicted with psychiatric patients are used to partition the possibility of a sexual relationship into structural fragments. When we look at these fragments closely, we see that the big picture is not as crazy as would be expected, and remains rather conservative. That’s why the phrase on the title “That’s OK” befits the movie rather well.

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Maybe the crucial scene is the one in which Young-goon refuses eating because “My system can dysfunction since I’m a cyborg” and Il-soon makes her eat rice step by step, like an algorithm. The first attempt at eating rice fails. After Il-soon says “Even though you’re a cyborg, I’m a technician and I will repair you if you dysfunction, I give you a warranty for life” and gives her his business card, Young-goon manages to eat the rice in the second attempt. Thus the “I’m a cyborg but that’s OK” in the movie title becomes a reality, the woman’s embodiment problem is resolved.

After she swallows the rice and stands up, a machine, a system appears on the woman’s body (system is the ground of embodiment). Then Il-soon examines the system that appears on the woman’s body and is pleased to observe that the key component (that he inserted himself the previous day by drawing a door on Young-goon’s back) has integrated into the functioning of the system. This key part that the man integrated to repair the woman, is the photo of Il-soon’s mother who abandoned him when he was 15 years old. Thus, instead of seeing crazy acts from “colorful schizophrenics” that we expected, we encounter conservative themes like the man completing the woman’s lack, repairing her like a system, integrating the woman he loves with the image of his mother etc.

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The second crucial scene is when Il-soon looks at Young-goon’s mouth and observes each syllable that she pronounces to note them down into the notebook in his hands; the woman extracts these syllables from the memory fragments of her own grandmother whose expression “The purpose of existence is …” remained elliptical. Finally, they read the resulting text to try to understand what they need to do. Thus they authorize themselves by collecting these fragments. The speech’s spelling out into a writing shows the unconscious desire turning into a will to ground authorization (will is the ground of authorization). This second scene resolves the man’s authorization problem: Il-soon’s authorization problem is the fear to vanish into a dot; a judge (who represents authority) told Il-soon “You will vanish into a dot” in a court room.

Il-soon turns the desire that Young-goon took over from her grandmother into a will and shares a new authority with her. Here again, the fact that the speech and desire fragments come from the woman, and that they are inscribed into writing and authority by the man’s hand, is a relatively (e.g. from the perspective of “schizoanalysis”) conservative theme that recalls the psychoanalytic act of interpretation.

The content of the resulting authority is also very interesting: They are able to read the part “Need a billion volts” but the part “World zend” remains illegible. The wish to be electrified by a billion volts resembles the “Enjoy!” imperative of the Superego, it resembles enjoyment (jouissance). The part “World’s end” that remains illegible, or maybe remains repressed or disavowed, resembles the death drive. In this scene, we observe two different symbolic castrations overlapping to resolve each other: (1) The elliptical desire of Young-goon’s grandmother about “the purpose of existence”, (2) Il-soon’s fear of vanishing into a dot in front of the judge. The first castration is resolved by the desire turning into a will, and the second castration is resolved by the authorization that is based on that will.

There are two prominent topics in the movie: The woman’s embodiment problem (she thinks that she is a cyborg) and the man’s authorization problem (he is afraid of vanishing into a dot). When I was proposing concepts like “body” and “authority” I didn’t attach these concepts to the sexes female and male [2] but the matching in the movie seems “natural” in a conservative sense. From the movie’s perspective, we can say the following: The system that grounds the woman’s embodiment requires the man to install his mother’s image and give a “warranty for life”; this is surely marriage and other social institutions. Whereas the will that grounds the man’s authorization requires the woman to spell out her desire about “the purpose of existence”; this is surely the mother tongue that’s being spoken, it’s even lalangue (Lacan).

Thus, although we expected crazy excesses from the film, we find a conservative sexual theory about the woman and the man complementing what each other lacks. If we say that the body-authority schema that is covered over the woman-man is not fixed, that it can be reversed, that it’s also open to other combinations like woman-woman, man-man, we can think of the schema that emerges from the film as being not that conservative.

(Turkish)

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler (Placeless Things) blog, Admin/Editor/Curator of Žižekian Analysis, and one of the admins of “Žižek and the Slovenian School” group on Facebook. Twitter: @BarisFidaner

Notes:

[1] You can read my previous analysis that includes the same concepts: “Being Relieved of False Melancholy: Ghost in the Shell”

[2] See “What Makes a Symbolic Order?” Žižek calls S1 and S2 masculine and $ and a feminine (Less Than Nothing, p. 794). If we follow this matching, authority and system should be masculine, will and body should be feminine.

Thanks to Öznur Karakaş who recommended the movie.

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