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Slavoj Zizek

In March 2005, no less than Vatican itself made a highly publicized statement, condemning in strongest terms Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code as a book based on lies and spreading false teachings (that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had descendants - the true identity of Grail is Mary's vagina!), especially regretting the fact that the book is so popular among the younger generation in search for spiritual guidance. The ridicule of this Vatican intervention, sustained by a barely concealed longing for the good old times when the infamous Index of prohibited books was still operative, should not blind us for the fact that, while the form is wrong (one almost suspects a conspiracy between Vatican and the publisher to give a new boost to the sales of the book), the content is basically right: Da Vinci Code effectively proposes a New Age re-interpretation of Christianity in the terms of the balance of the masculine and feminine Principles, i.e., the basic idea of the novel is the re-inscription of Christianity into the pagan sexualized ontology: the feminine principle is sacred, perfection resides in the harmonious coupling of the male and female principles... The paradox to be assumed is that, in this case, every feminist should support the Church: it is ONLY through the "monotheistic" suspension of the feminine signifier, of the polarity of the masculine and feminine opposites, that the space emerges for what we broadly refer to as "feminism" proper, for the rise of feminine subjectivity. The femininity asserted in the affirmation of the cosmic "feminine principle" is, on the contrary, always a subordinated (passive, receptive) pole, opposed to active "masculine principle."

This is why thrillers like Da Vinci Code are one of the key indicators of today's ideological shifts: the hero is in search of an old manuscript which would reveal some shattering secret threatening to undermine the very foundations of (institutionalized) Christianity; the "criminal" edge is provided by the desperate and ruthless attempts of the Church (or some hard-line faction within it) to suppress this document. This secret focuses on the "repressed" feminine dimension of the divine: Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, the Grail is actually the female body... is this revelation really such a surprise? Is the idea that Jesus had sex with Mary Magdalene not rather a kind of obscene secret of Christianity known to all, a Christian secret de polichinelle? The true surprise would have been to go a step further and clam that Mary was really a transvestite, so that Jesus' lover was a young beautiful boy!

The interest of the novel (and, against the suspiciously fast dismissal of the film, one should say that this holds even more for the film) resides in a feature which, surprisingly, echoes The X-Files where (as Darian Leader noted) the fact that so many things happen "out there" where the truth is supposed to dwell (aliens invading Earth) fills in the void, i.e., the much closer truth that nothing (no sexual relation) is going on between the couple of two agents, Moulder and Scully. In Code, the sexual life of Christ and Mary Magdalene is the excess which inverts (covers up) the fact that the sexual life of Sophie, the heroine, Christ's last descendant, is non-existent: SHE is like contemporary Mary, virginal, pure, asexualized, there is no hint of sex between her and Robert Langdon.

Her trauma is that she witnessed the primordial fantasmatic scene of the parental copulation, this excess of jouissance which totally "neutralized" her sexually: it is as if, in a kind of temporal loop, she was there at the act of her own conception, so that, for her, EVERY sex is incestuous and thus prohibited. Here enters Robert who, far from being her love-partner, acts as her "wild analyst" whose task is to construct a narrative frame, a myth, which would enable her to break out of this fantasmatic captivation, NOT by way of regaining "normal" hetero-sexuality, but by way of accepting her asexuality and "normalizing" it as part of the new mythic narrative. In this sense, Da Vinci Code is not really a film about religion, about the "repressed" secret of Christianity, but a film about a frigid and traumatized young woman who is redeemed, freed of her trauma, provided with a mythic frame that enables her to fully accept her asexuality.

The mythic character of this solution resorts clearly if we contrast Robert as its proponent to Sir Leigh, the counterpoint to Opus Dei in the film (and novel): he wants to disclose the secret of Mary and thus save humanity from the oppression of official Christianity. The film rejects this radical move and opts for a fictional compromise-solution: what is important are not facts (the DNA facts that would prove the genealogical link between her and Mary and Christ), but what she (Sophie) believes - the movie opts for symbolic fiction against genealogical facts. The myth of being Christ's descendant creates for Sophie a new symbolic identity: at the end, she emerges as the leader of a community. It is at this level of what goes on in terrestrial life that Da Vinci Code remains Christian: in the person of Sophie, it enacts the passage from sexual love to desexualized agape as political love, love that serves as the bond of a collective.