Slavoj Zizek commented on the “Gangham Style” phenomenon at a recent lecture in Vermont. He makes the case that the hysteria surrounding the phenomenon is a form of spirituality that creates its own kind of sacred space,
It’s disgusting, so you have to watch it 40 or 50 times a day. It makes fun of its own ideology, so it works. It makes fun of wealthy South Koreans, thereby reinforcing the greatness of wealthy South Koreans. Just like how Kung Fung Panda makes fun of sacred warriors in martial arts, thereby reinforcing the idea of sacred warriors in martial arts. The irony makes fun of something, thereby making it impossible to get rid of the something, thereby ultimately reinforcing it and making it sacred.
These observations begin at the 34:00 minute mark of this YouTube Video. If the “Gangham Style” teaser hooks you, keep watching. Zizek then asks the question, “Which form of spirituality fits well with our global capitalistic society?” His basic argument is that a tendency to separate material and non-material worlds are what characterize modern societies. This results in “spiritualities” divorced from the real material world. He concludes that forms of Buddhism are the perfect spirituality for an age of global capitalist consumerism. I would be remiss if I did not also suggest that this observation might easily be applied to popular gnostic forms of evangelicalism. Spiritualities divorced from our bodies and the world around us stand in tension with the historic Christian emphasis on Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection. This can be summed up nicely in the phrase, “Matter matters.”