In this clip from the “Pervert’s Guide to Ideology,” Slavoj Zizek tackles “West Side Story,” the 1957 Broadway musical about gang rivalries in New York City’s then-gritty Upper West Side.
The song “Gee, Officer Krupke” illustrates, for Zizek, the function of cynical ideology. “They don’t know what they are doing but they are nonetheless doing it” is, for Zizek, the old Marxist notion of ideology. But “cynical ideology functions in the mode of ‘I know very well what I am doing but I am still nonetheless doing it,'” as indicated by the gang members’ hypothetical plea to Officer Krupke.
Dear, kindly Sergeant Krupke you gotta understand
It’s just our bringin’ up-ke that gets us out of hand
Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks
Golly Moses, naturally we’re punks
Gee, Officer Krupke we’re very upset
We never had the love that every child oughta get
We ain’t no delinquents, we’re misunderstood
Deep down inside us there is good
The members of the gang acknowledge that their delinquency is a result of their poor upbringing.”The paradox here” Zizek continues, “is how can you know all of this and still do it.”
He continues to tie the song to the English riots of August 2011, noting that “the standard liberal explanation really sounds like a repetition of the officer Krupke song.”