Critical Perspectives on Western and Eastern Cultural Traditions

“Dodesukaden” is a film without plot, comprising instead a series of episodes in the lives of a village of slum dwellers… Kurosawa abandons the normal onomatopoeic word for the sound of a trolley, gatan goton, for an imaginative fantasy word. “Dodesukaden” is shouted by a retarded boy named Rokkuchan who runs along the “streets” of this slum conducting a make-believe streetcar.
Donald Richie, “The Films of Akira Kurosawa”, Univ. of California Pr., 1996, p. 185

– Remember, you can’t get ahead in this world unless folks think you’re both a cheat and a killer…. you have to kill a few men or folks won’t respect you.
Donald Richie, ibid, p. 151
The time of the Demiurge

Retarded boy Rokkuchan as a Demiurge of global civilization

Rokkuchan personifies the very psychological engine of the technological advance, the very sparkling gene of ontological nomadism. It’s difficult to refrain from comparing this admirer of streetcars with the Primal man from Gnostic mythology, who has fallen into vanity because of his desire to rule the universe.

Kurosawa’s film is dedicated to the problem of how imaginary reality is digesting and displacing existential reality (the logic of living and the taste for life). This poster of the film addresses the radical disproportion between brightness, juiciness and aestheticism of today’s global civilization’s technological fetishization (signified by endless representations of streetcars as a symbol of industrial and post-industrial nomadism), and the high price we are all paying for this multicolored fantasy (represented by a homeless boy [with a blue face on a dark background] personifying the new generations of today’s society – at the end of the film he will die because he is left unattended by his pauperized father and by society, culture and history).

This poster of “Dodes’kaden” represents to viewers what happens to the reality of human life when human intelligence and vitality are projected outside life – in the past, to various gods of human cultures, and inside our epoch – to technical idols and obsession with power, might, fame, luxury and consumerism. In this situation, as we see here, real life becomes monotonous heaps of excremental pluralism of broken up human destinies (of people who are forgotten or never learned that they are human beings).

That’s how mentally deranged Rokkuchan every morning looks out at the passing streetcars – that’s how we all, inhabitants of today’s world, look at technological miracles around us, that’s how we look at every technical toy we buy or lay our hands on just to melt in the bliss while playing with it.

That’s how scientists and engineers look at technological tools they are hired to improve, to create and to use (see, how much disinterested curiosity and creative concentration is expressed on Rokkuchan’s face?) in order to satisfy and to protect the Dukes of Money – one percent of population ruling over us.

That’s how we every day serve our technological fetishes (instead of using them for our benefit), these despotic automatons which enslave human soul by distracting and isolating it from the needs of human beings and our moral potentials.

This is how Rokkuchan and we start our daily work.

Rokkuchan, like we all, works hard in any weather: during rain and wind, cold and storm, amidst poisons in the air and in our food and water, and vain and shallow images bombarding our imagination as monstrous hail – the crop.

Rokkuchan in the film personifies the autism of blind belief. He, with his pathetic seriousness, as our modern civilization in general, is a fundamentalist in his dedication to technology. What was done to this child to make him interested in one thing only – a nomadic technology (symbolized for him by the glorious and beautiful streetcars which are his god, his superheroes and superstars)?

Instead of improving our earthly life, our treatment of one another, we are rushing off to cosmic space to look for and to consume more minerals and sources of energy to get stronger and stronger and, finally reach immortality. Rokkuchan for Kurosawa is the very psychological energy of our technological delirium that seduces us with humanistic promises while destroying our environment, our bodies and human soul.

That’s how Rokkuchan brakes to slow down his trolley, under enthusiastic applaud of the items of garbage all around.

We transform life into trash, spirituality into artificial excrements. We become fakirs of technological garbage, yogis of self-digesting and self-excreting imagination.

While Rokkuchan and his mother, instead of trying to understand one another, are praying to Buddha and asking Him to improve each other’s mental health, we learn how to dominate the world through technical science and each other through privatized power and wealth.

Aesthetics of scientific age – we are fascinated with mobility, and we don’t have the ability to grasp that in relation to our individual lives we are “sedentary” and our task ought to be nurturing and comprehending human life, not aggrandizing and wasting it.

Our technological and technical-scientific yearnings suck dry our libido, our ardor, vitality and talents and leave us to give ourselves to our idols instead of serving our real needs.

Imagination vs. being (pauperized architect and his doomed son)

The delirious father (whose life of specialist is dedicated to competent imagination, to information and understanding) and his small son who cares about him – can be compared to the images of the existentially impotent god-father and self-sacrificial Christ.

The father of this boy has lost interest in life (what is life in comparison with creativity?). Being a specialist in history of architecture and a person with philosophical bent he is exclusively occupied with imagining (constructing in his mind) houses of the future and explaining to his son psychological context of various architectural ideas. He is completely giving himself over to his profession, and his son begs for food for both of them.

The little boy is used to his father’s stories about various architectural styles and tastes, and has even learned to enjoy them. He doesn’t know that he is also entitled to have interests of his own and deserves to be understood by adults. Education for children more and more becomes centered on the interests of the socio-politically dominant adults (what an “alpha adult” is to a subordinate adult, any adult even our homeless and pauperized architect is to a child).

The following is six examples of super-beauty of professional imagination of the father whose wholehearted dedication to his profession becomes a schizophrenic split making him unable to concentrate on his son’s needs (in our global civilization today the new generations being cut off from intellectual and emotional contact with parental intelligence are given away to mass culture and become dangerously infantilized and unable to rationally understand the world they live in).

This shot presents the vain human dream to live in a green-blue architectural paradise. To imagine something like this is much more pleasant than to live in the real world. To have an addiction to beautiful dreams instead of trying to improve the world we live in, has been with us for whole our history, but technological prowess of today’s civilization only reinforces and enhances this regressive need.

Crisp green-blue grass-gate into future happiness we all today work for

Sunny grass and lilac-pink entrance into future prosperity, elegance and freedom

Ideal comfort in pink crowned by the nature bowing in front of human genius

Improved (by the creative extra-effort) idea of the ideal comfort in pink

Sunny future for human race

The son of the creative architect collects leftovers from restaurants. Don’t think that behind him you see just cars. It is the very aristocracy of today’s life – living technology of nomadism inspired by and inspiring back our nomadic itch. Cars are dukes, marquises and counts on wheels with their shining armors, whom we worship while feeling happy. Cars are what is left of human beings when they become obsessed with success and prosperity – when they are leaving their souls unattended, abandoned, “banished” to live in a giant dump which Kurosawa depicts as a gravitational center of modern life and where the small homeless boy symbolizing the very soul of the future generations is living with his over-educated and super-intelligent father who has no time for real life.

This shot shows that father’s reaction on his son’s death is only somatic because all his intelligence is kidnapped by his professional imagination. According to the film, humans are apes with specialized thinking (architect’s middle finger is like ape’s). Kurosawa obviously disagrees with the cliché that humans are apes with a more developed brain. For him today’s humans are of special kind of apes appeared when humans have lost their psychological wholeness (intellectual equipment of humanity) and became specialists – creatures with fragmented (technical) minds for work in exchange for salary and career.

In the memory of his son the father imagines/constructs a magnificent swimming pool. Was the relative prosperity, that global middle class was allowed to live in, until recently and that can be signified by this pool, meant to distract people from their humanity and natural intelligence? Then the physical death of the architect’s son from food poisoning can be a metaphor of the death of the future generations’ soul because children of today live amidst entertainment and technological toys instead of being in communion with adults who have time, interest and ability to share with children their adulthood and knowledge how to attend the human needs and not to be distracted from search for truth of the reality.

Proclivity of totalitarian people to share and mix their identities

A pair of industrial workers is given by Kurosawa as two circus clowns. We see how under the influence of meaningless work and goalless life their very humanity is slowly disappearing from their personalities and how emotional barbarization takes the place of their identities.

The hard working husband is blissfully drunk, and his wife is feeling forgotten and abandoned. But take a look at the seductive pantomime of her feet. Her seduction has a warning aspect. Soon, in addition to the husband she’ll get the neighbor, their friend (she has two tender feet, hasn’t she – what do they signify?).

By introducing the archetype of mixing identities and wives (and by stretching its depiction through the whole film) Kurosawa parodies Soviet Socialism with its feature of producing underdeveloped individual identities (versatility among average Soviet individuals was smashed by mandatory ideology and standardized values). Kurosawa‘s sarcasm here goes very far – by representing comradeship between the two married couples he, as if, depicts two stages of their relationships: “Socialist” and “Communist”. When the two workers drink together, become drunk and fall onto the floor together in a kind of barely differentiated primordial bodily blend – it is, as if, still “Socialism”, but when they start to exchange wives and living quarters (or their wives exchange husbands) it’s already the advanced – “Communist” phase of their relationships (when the logic of non-differentiation is confused and upgraded with exactly their ability to differentiate).

The knight of the absolute love

Here is a knight of the idea of cosmic alliance forever between a man and a woman – he, solemnly suffering, proudly left his wife because of her infidelity. Now, moved by her tormenting guilt and concern for him, she came to ask for his forgiveness.

This close-up of Hei registers his emptiness as a reaction to excessive trauma (his soul disappeared with the woman he loved). His love belonged not to her-the real person, but to her-the image he internalized and incorporated into his soul. He, as if, mentally purchased her, made her his ideal property. By daring to be a real person (with her real problems) she, as if, betrayed his ideal: her image inside him, the image of her as his best self. With losing his need to worship her image (with his disappointment in her) he has lost his humanity – he became a wandering ghost, without life, without being, without world.

The life of ex-husband and ex-wife has dried up like the sick tree. But she is still capable of keeping her intelligence intact (and of tolerating much more suffering than he is able to).

Homely Buddhism

Ryo has a wife who is “bored to death” with him and his work to support their family. She saves herself from ennui by sleeping with neighboring men.

Sexual aspect of things makes life more tolerable.

The husband is left to serve the supreme value of the family hearth to recover from his wife’s behavior and to help children (of the humankind) not to be too upset about being teased in the school that their father is not their father.

The absolute (absolve-able morally and criminally) monarch of the family

It’s not easy to keep the household under control when wife is in the hospital and the step-daughter is lazy.

Kyota as the head of the family has the right to be tired while his step-daughter works at night.

Real man is not supposed to lose the opportunity to enforce his leading role and to enhance his feeling of being responsible for everything in the house. Real man is like a soldier who by killing or/and raping justly solidifies his image as a victor, conqueror and benefactor.

The girl, as exhausted as she is, must understand that responsibility of the leader deserves to be recognized and appreciated even when it’s not easy to bear it.

The photo is not available

While sitting at the pub, Kyota is philosophizing about the femininity’s ambiguities and seductive power. He doesn’t visit the bar very often. But this time he has a special reason, a psychological one. The repeated rape of his wife’s niece made him verbally excited to develop a narration about the devilish nature of women. He became a mini-Hegel. His intellectual improvisations move towards insisting that what he does with Katsuko is a result of being seduced by her witchy power, that he himself could have never done anything like this with his proven responsible stance in life and his well known opinion about her “ugliness”.

The chorus of “gossipy wisdom”

The “gossipy wisdom” has its own passions, its own fun, its own kicks and its own pride and ethics.

Gossiping people are amateur sociologists – they follow their (disinterested) curiosity to understand what’s really happening with life of their neighbors.

Sacred domesticity

Shima is incarnated into domesticity as Hei is a knight of romantic love. He invites his colleagues to let them feel a taste of a proudly stable household.

But Shima’s wife is not too friendly with his co-workers.

When one of the guests felt insulted by the hostess’ “welcome”, Shima tries to explain why his wife has an ambivalent reaction to guests.

Shima has an epileptic tick that is symmetrical to (although psychologically more complicated reaction than) his wife’s not-friendliness. Tick attack happens every time he crosses the symbolic border between his personal life (home) and his social life (work), and another way around – between social and private. Shima is a martyr of the very contradiction between these two worlds between civility (based on his desire to be socially recognized) and deeply seated fear not to be able to survive (that he shares with his wife as a partner in this fear).

Zen-man of the slums

Mr. Tamba has found a way to take the sword away from drunken neighbor without any technical prowess, just by the psychological trick. But it is not his only glorious act depicted in the film.

Everything, even a slum, even a murder and torture can attract a genuine artist with his voracious need for sublime inspiration

Slums attract the creative attention of artists (people with advanced aesthetic sensitivity) who are “interested” in “real life” as stimulus for their inspiration. They are those who can look, for example, at Francis Bacon’s paintings without becoming horrified because art for them doesn’t have an existential aspect – for them art is just pure form, an autonomous configuration of elements, fluids from inside projected outside, as for technical specialists is object of their study, for professional athlete his/her athletic form or for money-schemers their profit.


As a person who is creatively dedicated to human life Kurosawa had a conflict with past and the present conditions of human existence and with the state of human soul in general. Being sensitive to human suffering not less than to human stupidity (when thinking retreats from the world even though the person continues to interact with reality), Kurosawa thought about the necessity to build an alternative life on earth, more congruent with the best potentials of our specie. Most films of his first period: “Sanshiro Sugata” (1943, 1945), “They Who Step on the Tiger’s Tale” (1945), “No regret for Our Youth” (1946), “One Wonderful Sunday” (1947), “The Quiet Duel” (1949), “Ikiru” (1952), and “Seven Samurai” (1954), were impregnated by creative energies of his belief that the kingdom of greed for power and power of greed, and accompanying them phenomena of grand dumbness and petty smartness should and can be surmounted.

In these films the human soul was able to break through the enslaving circumstances into freedom to act to improve the human lot and understanding of the degraded condition of human soul. But with “Hidden Fortress” (1958), “The Bad Sleep Well” (1960) and “High and Low” (1963) of his second period, Kurosawa stopped believing that other kind of life for human being can be achieved in the near future, that the human psychological condition is part of the problem, not only systemic structures and traditions (that human psychology is in tune with inhumane conditions of life). Even though many people can be considered as victims of the evil-doers there are always in them some psychological features which make them participate in their own repression and victimization. From this point on Kurosawa starts to insert into his socially critical films characters who without meaning to can’t stop helping the system, first of all, the young, the simpleminded, the psychologically hurt or simply stupid people who act against their own interests because their mind, soul and heart are made irrational by their life and by cultural conditioning.

This tormenting disappointment pushes Kurosawa to creative rejuvenation of his critical thinking and artistic imagination, to a new level of mastering the human understanding of life and the very cinematographic tool – the result was the films of his third period – “Yojimbo” (1961), “Sanjuro” (1962) and “Red Beard” (1965) – the exceptional achievements depicting circumstances and conditions when victory over human maniacal greed for power and wealth could still be imagined possible in an objectively impossible circumstances.

Most people who are gifted enough to get a problem with factual life and intelligent enough to be disappointed with super-optimistic belief in reasonably easy correction of the problem, couldn’t survive this crushing transformation of hope into despair (they would drink themselves to death, become drug addicts, go mad or commit suicide). Kurosawa found the internal strength to live on and to create.

Today, with mass protests against Wall Street’s and corporate abuses of the American population, when conservatives openly call for direct reversal of democracy, we can understand better Kurosawa’s personal drama of his frustrated moral decency. Now much more people can empathize with Kurosawa’s passion for social and psychological change when he saw that the monolith of anti-democratic forces with brutal radicalness usurped technological and economic development for its benefit and against the interests of the majority, and with his suffering when he felt that it is impossible to successfully tackle with this money-monolith because there are too many people on the bottom of social pyramid who despite all sense will support and protect the masters who fool, exploit and sacrifice them.

“Dodes’kaden” marks the beginning of the next, the fourth period of his creativity, even more philosophically and aesthetically charged than before. Now Kurosawa creates for himself a new posture vis-à-vis the real world – that of an anthropologist observing human life with scholarly, philosophical gaze, almost that of a zoologist studying human psychological and behavioral patterns through the magnifying glass of his creative observation.

From a scholarly artist whose compassion for human beings deprived of their chance for psychological development was the existential basis of his talent of an artistic form, he managed to transform himself into an artist-a distant (albeit as compassionate as before) observer of the miserable condition of the human soul. He stopped to use plot that before expressed human attempts to adapt to the reality and still to keep some modicum of moral decency intact. “Dodes’kaden” (DDSKD) is Kurosawa’s anthropological map of human psychological condition in circumstances of stubborn moral un-changeability marking the formal democracies. DDSKD is congruent with exactly today’s conditions of American society when neo-conservatives try to reverse our life to pre-democratic conditions. It is the beginning of an entirely new style and approach to life in Kurosawa’s creativity.

How a big dump where the slum-dwellers crawl about the surface of the earth, becomes a metaphor of the psychological condition of human soul we need to ask Kurosawa’s miraculous intuition. Contrary to the prosperous urban life of cars and restaurants (for cars?) and police force (to guard the interests of cars?) – there are no pedestrians who could deserve to be noticed by Kurosawa in DDSKD, the life of the slum-dwellers is full of vitality and even… existential enthusiasm reflecting creative crystallization of the psychological archetypes which Kurosawa enumerates in the film. The paupers living in the slums are not realistically depicted characters (they are defined too cognitively densely, as if they are essences of themselves). They are, as if, the souls of the people living in the city in more decent neighborhoods. It is, as if, the more successful and prosperous people (when they have succeeded in becoming successful and prosperous) have banished/sent off their own souls into a dump to roam about, while people as such are occupied with success and prosperity (they are, figuratively speaking, transformed into… cars).

The decisive feature of these archetypes of banished souls of those who are busy making a decent living, is that they are psychological configurations of the very inadequacy of human perception of the reality. But the situation is not that success-oriented people (of successful adaptation to the conditions of surviving) are putting their archetypes aside to function more rationally – they just put aside their psychological wholeness in order to function only on the level of their psychological fragments (their functional/technical capability for doing certain tasks, for which the system is ready to pay). But their very transformation into a partial humanity motivated by their psychological fragments is itself result of certain configurations of psychological archetypes depicted by Kurosawa through the life of dump-dwellers. By showing us these archetypes in action Kurosawa helps us to understand better the life styles and worldviews of modern urbanism (life in the slums shades light on the prosperous life of the upper middle class and rich decision makers, invisible in the film). The reality of a split between “decent citizen” and dump dwellers as well known feature of modern life became the very logic of Kurosawa’s creative thinking in DDSKD. The “not successful“ people living near/on giant garbage become in his film people more gifted (in their orientation on psychological wholeness and being more averse to psychological split demanded by today’s condition of production and consumption) than socially more normalized ones. In other words, being a pauper in Kurosawa’s film is not completely a negative condition. From the point of view of having/keeping a human soul not fragmented, these people are ahead of those oriented on social and financial success. Yes, the archetypes they live by are that of various types of fragmentation, but in our exotic garbage dwellers these archetypes are part of their psychological wholeness. They are, indeed, carriers of these archetypes while the successful people are their victims – they are programmed by them. The very majesty of Kurosawa’s dump-dwellers is that they as human beings are paradoxically motivated by the fragmentary logic that is part of the reactions of their psychological wholeness (they represent the intermediary condition between humans of the historically pre-industrial past and that of today’s fragmented specialists motivated by partial drives). This peculiar type of human beings Kurosawa has created specially for DDSKD.

Kurosawa examines these archetypal figures to help us understand what motivates our lives and our society. There is no barbed wire separation between settlers in the dumpster and inhabitants of the city – some of those who dwell in slums work in the city. The location of the giant garbage of DDSKD is rather not on the periphery of the city but in its “enthralls” – it is its anthropological center. And then there are those who don’t live in the slums but visit it – thief, police investigator, police officer, guests of Shima, sake delivery boy, schoolboys teasing Rokkuchan, the artist who came to the slums to paint it. And then there’re those whom we observe outside the dump – the foreman in a factory, employees of the restaurant where the little boy-the architect’s son collects the leftovers for his father and himself.

The residents of the slums are privileged by Kurosawa as human beings (alive souls), while those who just visit the slums or whom we observe outside he treats as they deserved – as either robots or ghosts (robots while working and ghosts after/before work). It is only because his protagonists are “poor/bad survivalists” (souls without bodies, psyche without soma) they are able to keep their humanity alive (whom Kurosawa prefers, in other words, are personages of art and their prototypes in reality). In DDSKD Kurosawa comments on the ultimate dilemma of humankind today – fight for professional survival in conditions of today’s world means de-humanization: stopping to be human. The only way to stay human and to survive in a genuine sense of the word is to dismantle the very paradigm of “survival” according to bourgeois canon – according to what is implied by the one percent of the population as measure of human wellbeing in general – the concept of human life as appropriation, consumption and possession.

By showing the paupers as the only humans in today’s society (as people occupied with their humanity, not with their social success), Kurosawa reverses the traditional view that equates materially prosperous life with what it means to be human. Being marginal becomes a progressive condition. Here Kurosawa’s formal (stylistic) solution for DDSKD to make the paupers’ den not the margin but the heart of the modern city, “reflects” the paradoxical idea of a centralized marginality. Kurosawa wanted us to like his garbage inhabitants but he didn’t want us to completely identify with them. That’s why this film is so difficult to watch. That’s why it’s so rewarding when you watch it again and again.

“Operational” definitions of human psychological archetypes in “Dodes’ka’den”

DDSKD’s archetypes as basic psychological schemes of behavior and worldview consist of certain patterns of human relationships when people’s togetherness is ripped by either their symbiotic fixation on one another or on their beliefs and complexes.

1. Mother and her son-“Trolley-the crazy” and his delirious symbiosis with technology through his love affair with the imaginary streetcar he drives and with the beautiful images of streetcars. He plays out for us the main nomadic rituals and pantomimes of the humankind today. Mother and son don’t have any mutuality. But they have their own individual rapport with Buddha by the channel of praying. They pray simultaneously and use the same prayer, but praying is separating them from each other, not uniting. Their use of praying signifies the fragmented condition of global religious community – when each believer or group symbiotically connects with a particular image of god.

2. Wise-Zen-man, his neighbors and his strategies of handling difficult situations. His wisdom is like his ritualistic tea-drinking – as if each drop comes directly from the generous hands of the creator. All his humanitarian efforts are oriented on the preservation of the status quo. Kurosawa’s emphasis here is on the conserving, the passive and reactive role of Eastern schools of wisdom including Zen Buddhism, in a world which is dominated by Western models of existence and quickly changing without asking the permission from Eastern traditions.

3. Architect-philosopher and his little son. The father’s absolute dedication to science is like that of today’s society where science exists and flowers to the neglect of human context of scientific knowledge – with disastrous consequences for the future generations.

4. Tic-man and his inhospitable wife. Their domestic togetherness is mediated by psychological complications which balance their negative reactions on one another (her belligerency to other people and his tick). Behind their eccentricities we feel their life difficult to the degree of being impossible. In the moments of nervous fit the tic-husband looks like a cob swan dancing around the pen.

5. Buddha-the-husband, his giving endless births wife and her/their endless children. Without perfectionist absolutization of his work (without sitting in front of it like Buddha under the tree) he couldn’t tolerate his wife’s endless lovers while without her affairs and pregnancies she couldn’t tolerate him. But the balanced atmosphere in the family is good for the children. Truth is much less important than happiness.

6. Katsuko, her “uncle” and sake delivery boy. Katsuko’s uncle transforms himself into an amateur Hegel to justify his sexual indulgence while her potential boy-friend (sake delivery boy) is powerless to protect her. “He can go to hell” – says the boy about her uncle who will not go to hell and will continue to abuse her until reality twisted by the imaginary, will not push her to try to take the life of her not-realized boy-friend. But the uncle comes up with virtuoso reading of the events to self-servingly explain her criminal act by alleging the boy’s guilt in getting her pregnant.

7. Gossipy chorus of women. Gossiping women are the creators of domestic sociological knowledge embellished by their prejudices. The prostitute among them is like an investigative reporter about behavioral motivations and bizarre yearnings of some neighbors.

8. The knight of “romantic love” and his previous wife who “violated’ his sacred trust and allowed herself to be a human being with her own complexes and problems. Hei’s estrangement from the world has religious and ascetic coloration of suffering about human sinfulness and of his general aversion for human nature. Kurosawa marks this character with a particular lighting – in a decisive scene between husband and wife he directs the whitish light beam at Hei’s eyes to emphasize the reactive, existential nature of traditional spirituality (that contradict its psychologically defensive posture claiming its religious status as “objective truth”).

9. Two drunkenly symbiotic workers (united by proletarian comradeship) with their wives using the opportunity to have fun.

10. Suicidal man ready to live on for the sake of keeping alive his memories (non-reality of imagination triggers reality of life).

11. Thief, Zen-man and police investigator. Positive/benign lie as wisdom vs. the unbearable or empty truth of reality

Posted on Sep/4/’14 –   “Dodes’kaden” (1970) by Akira Kurosawa  by Acting-Out Politics

Posted on 11/19/’17 – Imagination vs. Being (The Spiritually Pauperized Architect And His Doomed Son) – From Akira Kurosawa’s “Dodes’kaden” (1970) by Acting-Out Politics