Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

Voyous défoncés

The Homeland Security officer chasing Harold and Kumar attempts to force a confession from a Black "suspect" by forcing him to watch a can of grape soda being wasted.

According to IMDB, Amnesty International was “highly critical” of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay; aside from being an amusing example of taking a film too literally, it’s an illustration of the way a certain sort of liberalism requires authoritarianism to define itself against. This is particularly a problem if you’re criticizing Harold and Kumar, as the film spends so much of its time exposing this idea of absolute authority as a fantasy, one held by liberals of the right wing (the neoconservatives) and the left wing (Amnesty). Who would have thought someone would make a film of Derrida’s Rogues in the form of a stoner comedy?

The reason I mention Rogues is that the critique of sovereignty seems to me to provide the link between the film’s two main themes: the war on terror, and cock jokes. I owe the realization that the cock jokes are politically important to Steven Shaviro’s great post on the film, but I think there may be more coherence at an explicit, thematic, level than Steven suggests. Harold and Kumar’s anxiety about dicks is an anxiety about bodily integrity and autonomy; what Derrida calls ipseity, the same logic that underlies sovereignty. Where Harold and Kumar are absurdly anxious about their ipseity, the representative of sovereignty in the film, the homeland security agent chasing Harold and Kumar, is absurdly lacking in anxiety, totally condfident in his sovereign power even in its most ludicrous exercise (my favorite example of which is the scene pictured—and linked to—above).

This kind of self-confident fantasy is sovereignty as imagined by Schmitt; except of course Schmitt doesn’t play it for laughs, but takes it very seriously (it would hardly have the necessary fantasmatic power otherwise). It makes sense that an authoritarian like Schmitt would promote this fantasy, but it’s a little pathetic when left-wingers (I’m thinking of Laclau and Mouffe) buy into it. To engage the Schmittian logic of sovereignty is to have already made the mistake of thinking the kind of ipseity it depends on is possible, that is, it is effectively to already concede defeat. The correct response to Schmitt is to laugh at him.