Jukić, Tatjana

Capitalism MacGuffinized and the Truth of America: Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest / Tatjana Jukić. - 2017 - str.

In North by Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock mobilizes his story around the slick advertising world of New York City, to then move it across the United States until its rationale has been fully revealed and enacted on Mount Rushmore—as if to suggest that North by Northwest entails somehow the rationale of America. Cary Grant is crucial to this logic, because his journey across the States, which coincides with his near-Oedipal quest for a self, reveals America to be precisely the “new continent” which gives rise to a “new man”: the expression Hannah Arendt quotes from John Hector St. John de Crèvecœur and John Adams, but uses to describe a Jeffersonian ideation of America. Structural to this proposition is the fact that Cary Grant starts off as an advertising agent, a Mad man, whose work and intelligence, indivisible, serve to process work and intelligence into a MacGuffin, so that the idea of a MacGuffin is shown to assimilate Oedipal structures, as well the political economy of capitalism. In Slavoj Žižek’s words, MacGuffins in Hitchcock designate “‘nothing at all’, an empty place, a pure pretext whose sole role is to set the story in motion.” It is only that in North by Northwest the MacGuffin, inseparable from Grant, is revealed to entertain a peculiar intellectual intensity, so that Oedipal structures and the political economy of capitalism are not simply assigned over to a “nothing at all” ; instead, the MacGuffin turns out to entail the labor of metaphor at its purest. As MacGuffins are routinely defined in contradistinction to the story, it follows that narrative raison in Hitchcock’s cinema remains heterogeneous and exterior to the ideation reducible to metaphor. Tellingly, the story of North by Northwest assumes the Cold War as its framework, to which capitalism is constituent insofar as it mobilizes socialism as an autoimmune response. Hitchcock, however, suggests that America, not socialism, may be an autoimmune response to capitalism: not any America but the revolutionary, Jeffersonian one, with its chthonic, metonymic debris (with its toxic continental cornfields, exploding oil, impassive rocks…), which weighs upon capitalism and sexuation alike, as they complete their transition into metaphor.


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