I'm reading In Defense of Lost Causes. The second chapter has some wonderful readings of movies and Kafka letters. The basic idea involves the core Oedipal drama, a narrative that persists underneath all sorts of other stories. One of the strongest and most detailed discussions is of Frankenstein and the French Revolution. It's straightforward, so I won't summarize it here. It interests me, though, because of the way Lars and the Real Girl can't be reduced to an obvious familial drama but instead only works as an account of a supportive community, or more specifically, of the supports that community provides, the community on which people's identities depend.
The familial drama: Lars enters into a delusional psychosis. The triggering factors include the death of his father, the return of his brother after years of being away, Lars' consequent feeling like a stranger in his own home and his moving to the garage, the pregnancy of his sister-in-law (Lars' mother died giving birth to Lars), and the arrival of a new woman at work who stirs up suppressed feelings of desire. Lars orders a sex doll, Bianca, and treats her as his girlfriend. But he doesn't have sex with her. Because both he and Bianca are religious, Bianca sleeps in the room that was his mother's in the house now occupied by his brother and sister-in-law.
The charm of the movie consists in the willingness of the entire town to take Lars' delusion absolutely seriously. He takes Bianca to church, to a party. Bianca gets a job modeling for a local store. She volunteers at the hospital reading to children. She's elected to the school board. She is more than an object for Lars. She is an object for the entire community. So it's not simply that Lars displaces all sorts of feelings and desires onto Bianca. Rather, the community gives her a place. It lets her take a place and in this taking place to enable Lars to see that there is a place for him. More than a domestic drama about guilt and reconciliation, psychosis and recovery, the film is an allegory for the Symbolic as a providing place and meaning.
Of course, Bianca has to die. As Lars gets better, becomes more integrated, acquires a sense of place, learns more about what it is to be man (a lesson which has to do with accepting responsibility and which he demonstrates having learned in a wonderful scene where he performs CPR on a strangled teddy bear), Bianca becomes ill and eventually dies (she might even drown, but this wasn't clear to me). There is a funeral for her and priest remarks, without irony, that she has been loved, that she has contributed, and that she was truly helpful and unique.
Bianca was Real. A Real object for everyone. The gap or space she opened, occupied, and left as an object enacts subject as lack in the structure, the Real of the subject. The drama of the film, then, concerns the Symbolic order of the community providing a place when one of its members feels itself displaced (in one scene, as Lars' brother and sister-in-law go to the church to ask that its members help out and make Bianca feel welcome--the psychologist has advised them to go along with Lars' delusion--as one member voices aversion to treating a sex doll like a person and to socializing with a psychotic, another reminds them that they all are close to people with idiosyncracies and disorders; it's as if she reminds them all that even as deviance and transgression are the underside of the community, they are nonetheless part of the community; perhaps once could say that she is not so naive as to disavow the 'nightly law' but instead recognizes its inseparability from the bonds of sociality; or maybe it's better to say that all nights or all nightly laws are not the same; they can be differentiated, acknowledged, or disavowed in different ways).
Some theory friends (I'm thinking about Jane Bennett here) draw from Latour to extend and develop the agenic properties of objects. At times, that theoretical orientation seems at odds with a Lacanian one. I've wondered, though, if the Lacanian object might suggest more possibilities for convergence or intersection than often seems to be the case. Here, the material object Bianca animated relationships, friendships, opportunities to help, support, be together, speak, and eat that had otherwise seemed less alive. And she did this not simply as an object onto which fantasies or delusions were projected but as a material object and as a Real object. Her materiality incited various physical events (she weighed 125 pounds so dressing and bathing and moving her wasn't easy). And her insistence as a gap/lack and as an excess inscribed or reminded everyone of the prior inscription of a place in the community for Lars.