The scene: a raised platform, ringed with bright white lights, set before a surging mob, waving placards for pitchforks, bearing the political slogans of the post-ideological age, spitting and grimacing, desperate for vicarious gratification, their toothy grins tinged with the threat of violence. On the platform: to the left, Davina McCall, professional cuntist; to the right, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Between the pillars of light, grotesquely large pictures of Lenin's face. For a brief moment they both stare blankly forward – a cameraman gives a series of hand signals – suddenly they are animated, Davina cheering and throwing up her arms, Lenin frantically tapping his nose and beard in a nervous fit.
DAVINA: Welcome back to Celebrity Big Brother, and welcome to Vladimir! Yeah,,,, woo hooooo!!!!
The crowd erupts in – not a cheer, exactly, but a noise, a muffling of yelling and clapping and belching and roaring and stamping of feet, an unsavoury commotion.
LENIN: Thank you very much, no, yes, it is an honour.
DAVINA: And it’s an awful shame, isn’t it, because you were so close, you were one of the last four left in the house.
LENIN: Well, yes, I am not so much interested in the winning of the show, the accolades, the headlines, and so on, and so on – but the fantasy of being the last person in the house, to be alone in the house, with the cameras, with the constant presence of the Big Other, this I am interested in. It is a recurring theme in Russian literature, no? You are alone in the house, but you are not alone, someone is there, someone is watching you – it is a perverse fantasy, I think. And very much Freudian, as well, in the sense of the home being a place of danger. So I am disappointed I did not win, yes, very much, indeed.
DAVINA: (unfazed) Let’s talk about some of the other housemates. There was a lot of tension, wasn't there, between you and Rizzle Kicks?
LENIN: (with a startled snort) You say there was? I did not see any of this tension, entirely not, I felt they were interesting men – maybe clinically, perhaps, you could say.
DAVINA: (to the crowd) Shall we show him the diary room tapes?
The crowd roars its. Fists are flung into the air in jubilatory schadenfreude: some miss and collide with another person, suddenly a hundred brawls are taking place,the crowd turns in on itself, here and there knives are produced and the sharp tang of blood mixes with the stink of sweat in the air. Only after the first few gunshots are heard do the security guards intervene: rottweiler-faced men in dayglo jackets force their way towards where the violence is at it's most intense – they are consumed by the crowd. Perhaps they are killed, perhaps they melt into it? It is impossible to say. A line of police cavalry charges. At first they make some progress: those at the edges of the crowd are swiftly truncheoned and detained, but soon the horses find themselves mired in the furious swarm, and in their anxiety they throw off their riders, the line is broken, the plan of attack evaporates. Some of the crowd attack the horses, some of the horses start fighting one another, gnawing chunks from each other’s necks. In the near distance, the low rumble of heavy artillery can be heard.
DAVINA: Let’s show him the tapes!
RIZZLE KICK #1: (onscreen) I just don’t get him man, like, what’s he done, why is he here? I ain’t never seen him on anything, like, nothing. And he’s some fucking wasteman, like, man ain’t had a single shower since the start of the show, swear down, he fucking stinks, doesn't he? I can’t fucking sit next to him, or like even near him, you know what I’m saying? And he chats some breeze, innit. I’m saying, it’s not just his weird accent, and all the snorting and those little hand twitchy things he’s always doing, you know what I mean – he’s talking about politics the whole time: like, yeah, cool, but it’s all revolt against this, up-rise against that everything’s perverted, I can’t take a dump without it being some representation of my desires in the symbolic order or whatever – I’m like, are you kidding me? This guy built a career on that bullshit? It’s not even anything, really, it makes its own internal sense, kinda, but it’s entirely divorced from the actuality of human subjectivity and the actuality of the human condition, and that’s what the ultimate focus of political philosophy needs to be, not all these proletariat abstractions. It bears no relation to how people actually function, it’s a poststructuralist psychoanalysist’s fantasy about how people actually function. So, nah. Me and Vlad aint not no never g'wan be breddas. I don’t see us being in the getalong gang in the Big Brother house, getsmeh?
DAVINA: So, Vladimir, how does that make you feel?
LENIN: Well, myself, I make it a point of never reading my critics, never reading my reviews. Or I will tell the publishers: put the bad reviews on the back of the book! My audience know who I am, they will read me anyway. But Mr Kicks – he is ultimately an empiricist, he has a very British way of conceiving these things, this antipathy towards the abstraction, the Continentalism, and so on, and so on. In his music and his music videos, the focus – it is entirely on the immediacy of experience, no? So his criticism, it is still rooted in ideology, this I claim. The ideological disagreement, it does not translate into personal antagonisms. But I should say, the proceduralism of intimacy in the diary room, it is exactly like Catholic confession, no, it is exactly the same. You do not confess to the priest, your confession is directed towards God, towards the Infinite Other. You do not talk to Big Brother, you talk to the Big Other, to the audience at home, to the Holy Spirit. After I am evicted from this house, I am no longer a participant, I am an observing subject. Then it is acceptable to show me these tapes – it is a form of licensed voyeurism, is it not?
DAVINA: (nodding her head) One last question.
LENINN: Please, please, go on.
Throughout this exchange Davina has been undergoing a grotesque metamorphosis: her cheeks grow fuller, her paunch expands, her tit's shrink, her hair turns white and recedes. At first the faint shadow of a moustache falls on her upper lip, then stubbly hairs sprout from her chin. Soon she has a full beard, her eyebrows sit heavily on her brow, her camera-friendly coquettishness becomes a stern gaze, almost disdainful, which she now fixes on Lenin. She is no longer Davina McCall: instead, Slavoj finds himself being scrutinised by the unmistakeable visage of Karl Marx – or perhaps Jehovah; depictions of the two are, after all, very similar.
MARX: Do you not think that your participation in this televisual charade, your gleeful willingness to put your theorising at the services of capital, your unashamed prostitution, your jestering and japing, your fruitless contrarianism, psychoanalysis – do you not think that this not only casts disrepute on your status as a serious Marxist thinker, but also cheapens Marxism itself? Are you not turning revolutionary ideology into just another media gimmick?
The crowd, who are all orthodox historical materialists, nod sagely.
LENIN: I know you. You said a man should be able to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticise after dinner. Well then – can I not play the jester in the morning, advertise for garment retailers in the afternoon, appear on reality TV in the evening, and still be a serious political philosopher after dinner?
MARX: You forget that we are still living under capitalism.
LENIN: But under capitalism, we must still live.
The crowd, wracked by confusion, briefly organises itself into a series of non-hierarchial communes, forms a workers’ state, undergoes rapid wealth, becomes disillusioned. Defeated, they shuffle back to their allotted space in front of the platform.
DAVINA: (for it is her again: the beard has gone, the grin has returned) Well, Vladimir, it’s been a pleasure to have you on Celebrity Big Brother. Do you have anything else to say before the end of the show?
LENIN: Yes, I do. I would like to say that I endorse all the products of the Apple and Pepsi corporations, and that the cool refreshing taste of a glass of Coke-A-Cola proves without question that the transcendent object of desire is not in fact unobtainable – in fact, it can be obtained at your local newsagent or grocery store.
Lights wind down, theme music plays, scattered applause. Lenin, rising from his seat to re-enter the world, takes an especially deep snort – then starts to gag. Something is clearly wrong. Davina sits impassively as Lenin chokes on his own mucus: the cameras are off, after all. Lenin writhes on the ground, flailing frantically. The sycophantic crowd tries to imitate his dying motions. Everywhere they collapse, their limbs jerk around, they feign choking noises. Everything begins to blur: the crowd, the stage, the cameras – now they are only a single undulating mass, a throbbing that reaches up above the horizon and encircles the world. Perhaps an orgy is taking place, it’s difficult to tell. There are no images any more, no clearly defined shapes or people, only an immense all-enveloping pulsation. Suddenly the giant visage of Mikhail Bulgakov appears over the whole throng laghing hysterically. Then as suddenly as it began, he dream ends. Still, nothing is understood.