The Tool video and song Vicarious emphasize Western societies obsession with violence and death. The video itself is one long war scene, but shows the other and more irrelevant to one's life such as the OJ Simpson Trial. This obsession to death/violence expressed in the song and video is comparable to the game played by the "good little boy" in Freud's "Beyond the Pleasure Principle." The psychoanalytic comparison can be one of two; however, the ultimate pin is on a necessity to have mastery over one's own life.
In an attempt to find comfort in his mother's moments away, the boy repetitively throws an object into disappearance and then joyfully accepts its return. It is his own self-made mechanism for soothing his feelings of abandonment from his mother. In regards to obsession, we are in our own ways finding comfort in the repetitive viewing of the ultimate unknowable, death. Freud states, "[the mother's] departure had to be enacted as a 'necessary preliminary' to her joyful return" (432), whereas, Westerner's view acts of death and violence as the 'necessary preliminary' to the inevitable moment of our own demise. Just as the little boy prepares for the mother's return, human's prepare for the return to a space beyond the living - some call it God, I prefer the primordial state-of-being.
The other example which Freud uses is the more 'defiant' one and can still hold weight in reference to the cultural obsession with death and violence. In this regard, like Freud's example of the boy taking a more vengeful approach, the viewer acts disobediently towards our inevitable end. We, too, are exclaiming both our disregard for the ultimate termination, as well as, an almost irreverent attitude to death itself. We are in effect saying 'try to come and take me, I'm not scared of you!'
Lacan points out that various texts are "symbols of the unconscious in petrified form" (The Symbolic Order) and the viewing of death and violence is the unconscious mind absorbing the inevitable as well as the possible violent end. It is almost a way of making the acts our own and accepting them as reality. Ultimately, both Freudian scenario's have a quality of the desire to acquire mastery over our lives. The first expresses how we use death and violence repeatedly to become more used to the inevitable and the unknown, while the second defiant act allows the individual to dominate the unknown through pretenses of flippancy. However, Freud states, "the compulsion to repeat must be ascribed to the unconscious repressed" (434) and just maybe our compulsion with watching death and violent subject matter is precisely the unconscious's need to return to the womb or the primordial state-of-being and away from the often challenging aspects of living.
Lyrics | Tool lyrics - Vicarious lyrics
Freud, Sigmund. "Beyond the Pleasure Principle." Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 431-37.
Lacan, Jacques. ""The Symbolic Order" (from "The Funcction and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis")." Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 1st ed. Malden: Blackwell, 1998.