In-Flight Fantasies of the Unapproved Kind

We have at least two kinds of fantasies aboard airplane flights, the approved ones and the unapproved ones.  Some fantasies can lead to your arrest. Others are structured into every commercial flight. Slavoj Zizek tells us about the latter:

We indulge in the fantasy of society as an organic whole kept together by forces of solidarity and cooperation…. Recall the safety instructions prior to the take-off of an airplane. Aren’t they sustained by a fantasmatic scenario of how a possible plane crash will look? After a gentle landing on water miraculously (it is always supposed to happen on water!), each of the passengers puts on the life-jacket, and, as on a beach toboggan, slides into the water and takes a swim, like a nice collective lagoon holiday experience under the guidance of an experienced swimming instructor. Is not this ‘gentrifying’ of a catastrophe (a nice soft landing, [flight attendants] in a dance-like style graciously pointing with their hands towards the ‘Exit’ signs) also ideology at its purest? (p. 91 of “The Zizek Reader”)

Zizek points out this approved fantasy creates the very horror it is designed to conceal.

The unapproved fantasy, meant to be concealed during the flight, also involved a lagoon, the familiar one from the television show “Gilligan’s Island.”  This fantasy, according to CNN, came from the pen of Joseph Hedlund, a passenger on a flight to Hawaii.  Here is the fantasy as it was written out, though it seems as if Mr. Hedlund did not expect anyone to read what he wrote until the flight had been concluded, as might be clear from the verb tense of Mr. Hedlund’s first sentence.

‘I thought I was going to die, we were so high up,’ the card said. ‘I thought to myself: I hope we don’t crash and burn or worse yet landing in the ocean, living through it, only to be eaten by sharks, or worse yet, end up on some place like Gilligan’s Island, stranded, or worse yet, be eaten by a tribe of headhunters, speaking of headhunters, why do they just eat outsiders, and not the family members? Strange … and what if the plane ripped apart in mid-flight and we plumited (sic) to earth, landed on Gilligan’s Island and then lived through it, and the only woman there was Mrs. Thurston Howell III? No Mary Anne (my favorite) no Ginger, just Lovey! If it were just her, I think I’d opt for the sharks, maybe the headhunters.’

photo of figures from Gilligan's Island

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

It is interesting that the pilot interpreted this fantasy as “threatening,” and threatening enough to turn the plane around after it had been in the air for 90 minutes on its way to Hawaii, island of yet more fantasies.  Mr. Hedlund’s fantasy was a political fantasy from the pilot’s perspective, though the pilot’s fantasy regarding the threat — he imagined a scenario involving what Mr. Hedlund might do –, is what became real for everyone involved.  Perhaps one connection here, a hypothetical one, is that the pilot’s fantasy linked the 72 virgins in paradise mentioned so frequently in journalistic accounts of Islamic terrorists to other women, Ginger and the apparently dreaded Mrs. Howell from the television show.

We have evidence about the telos of a collective fantasy. Some men’s fantasies about airplane disasters are narratives that conclude with an experience with particular kinds of women.  What is being revealed and concealed in that collective fantasy?


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