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Psych

Pacman, Football and the Two Triangles: Analysis of a Child’s Picture, Aged Seven

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N. drew this picture today by himself, using some ready-made stickers. The picture is structured by a division between what is underground and what is above ground, so there is an implicit comparison between the two domains. Above ground, we see a game of football with three players, one of them a goalie on a skateboard on top of the goal mouth, defending the goal. Underground, we see a representation of the game of Pacman, structured around the idea of the self-enclosed maze.

The picture is interesting on several levels. Firstly, there is the structural opposition between the world of the economy and the world of leisure. The world of leisure, represented by the game of football is above ground, visible to sight. Underground, out of sight, is the world of the economy, since Pacman is involved in collecting food and what seem to be tokens, or coins.

Another structural opposition is between the representation of culture and individualism. Above ground, we see the representation of a game which requires three players in order to take place. the game requires a community of people to have existence and involves co-operation. Speaking of the game, N. told me that one player is about to pass to another over the goalie’s head in order to score a goal against the keeper (his brother observed that this tactic reminded him of ‘Piggy in the Middle’). Underground, however, Pacman is solitary and unaided, trapped in his self-enclosed maze of economic signification.

What is interesting from a psychological or psychoanalytic point of view is how the co-operating figures above ground in the picture are figured. These handless freaks are shaped exactly like the phallus. They even have testicles attached to themselves in the form of their ‘feet’. If therefore, above ground, we are seeing a game of men and masculinity, then the open mouth of Pacman takes another signification in contrast. If the full, social person achieves the status of phallus, the incompleteness at the heart of Pacman, the missing sector, takes on the resonance of a fundamental emptiness at the heart of his being, a lack of completion, a negation of self. What he is missing is perhaps the sense of the social, of community, an inability to merge with the bodies and selves of others in order to achieve a goal. It is worth mentioning here, that the sector that is cut out of his mouth forms a triangle, with three sides. Above ground, we also have the triangular relationship mirrored in the positions of the three players. We are seeing the comparison between the triangle of emptiness and the triangular relationship of completeness.

The goalie in the middle of the players who are conspiring against him in an unspoken bond of sport is interesting because he hovers over the goal mouth, balanced on a skateboard. He is standing atop of the empty gaping open mouth of the goal – is this an implicit connection of the empty, open vacuum of Pacman’s mouth with the ‘mouth’ of the goal? Why is it this figure that the two players have to bypass with their game of ‘Piggy in the Middle’? Is it the figure of mastery, of balance, of perfection? The opposition between the empty space of the mouth, the vacuum and the phallus-like shape of the goalie is figured in terms of metaphor of above and below which is structural to the piece as a whole. The vacuum is below, the phallus is directly above it.

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