As is well-known, Zizek delights in obscenities, in references to toilets, pubic hair, sexual acts, in dirty jokes and examples from popular culture. Nearly every commentator on his work emphasizes his combinations of high and low culture, of philosophical engagements with the German Enlightenment combined with observations on cartoons, Coke, the Gap, and Kinder-Eier. For some readers, this engagement with popular culture marks Zizek as necessarily unserious or not worth taking seriously.
Other readers of his work criticize less this engagement with popular culture than Zizek's own self-popularization. He seems not to take himself seriously, so why should we? So, he has all sorts of popular pieces in the London Review of Books and In These Times, not to mention a feature length documentary film all about him. The moves in the popular writing seem both too simple and too hard; too hard if to defend them requires references to twenty other books; too easy in their quick reductions and simple equations. Shouldn't serious philosophers do better? If they can't make the argument in a short space, then wouldn't seriousness require them not to make it at all?
How might one think about these two themes of unserious and popular culture, of having popular content and being popular content? The key, it seems to me, is objet petit a, the object-cause of desire, or ambiguous kernel of excess jouissance. I want to explore this by looking at a couple of passages from For They Know Not What They Do.
Zizek says that, at the 'center of the theoretical space' of this book is 'of course the author's (and, as the author hopes, also the reader's, enjoyment of popular culture.' So, his enjoyment, and possibly ours, is at the center of his thinking (in this book). It's the excess around which his thinking circles and which permeats it. It makes sense, then, to think of popular culture as objet petit a.
Zizek also says that 'the analyst refuse to offer the analysand any support in the shape of ideals, goals, and so on.' One should keep in mind that the discourse of the analyst begins with objet petit a, that remainder is the place the discourse starts. This suggests that Zizek is in the position of the analyst. He begins with excess enjoyment and refuses, deliberately, to offer his readers ideals and goals.
If this is plausible, then Zizek's making of himself into popular culture seems a necessary component of his emphasis on popular culture and enjoyment. He is making himself into the object of enjoyment, an excess that cannot be necessarily or easily recuperated/assimilated. And this excess, moreover, is unavoidable, an unavoidable component of any philosophical effort (though many try to deny it). So Zizek emphasizes the inevitable stain on philosophy, on thought, demonstrating a thinking that traverses the fantasy of 'pure reason.'