The Real World Denver was a unique display of Althusser’s points. While Althusser does not tackle sexuality in his actual theory, it was very applicable to the Real World: Denver clip which we choose to analyze. The strongest point that Althusser brings to this piece is his definition of the ISA and the power that it has to control people. In this specific case, it is even more specific in defining Althusser’s idea that the main branches of the ISA are schooling and religion. Both of these apparatuses are at work in the clip of Davis’ announcement of his homosexuality.
Although Althusser does not address sexuality in his piece, he still includes many of the factors at work in the social order of sexuality. He states on page 1485 that a child learns the “job he is ‘destined’ for: rules of morality, civic and professional conscience, which actually means rules of respect for the socio-technical division of labour and ultimately the rules of the order established by class discrimination.” This applies to the section of the clip where we see Davis explain his mother’s initial reaction to his homosexuality. He explains that she sent him to Christian counseling in order to help cure him of his gayness and his sinful sexual preferences. In applying Althusser’s theory, we can see how Davis’ mother was pushing Davis back into the oppressive ISA system and forcing him to sit back into the class discrimination. While in Davis’ case, it is not a matter of actual “class” discrimination, we can assert that Davis’ “class” is his sexual class, based on his sexual preference. When viewed in this way, we are able to see clearly how Davis’ is being taught by a Christian school and his mother, how to act, how to fit his role as a man and to abide by the ISA “rules of morality.”
The family ISA is obvious in this respect as well. Davis’ family contributed greatly to his oppression. He talks about how his mother told him that he was going to “go to hell for this. This is a sin.” She shows here that she is a product of Althusser’s system. She has been conditioned by both religion and schooling to believe that Davis’ homosexuality and in turn will continue the oppressive nature of the system by pressing the beliefs she was taught on her son. By doing this she is perpetuating the oppression and continuing its cycle.
Although the acting ISA’s attempt to repress Davis’ sexual preference, he seems to be a blind spot in Althusser’s theory. Althusser suggests that “there is no practice except by and in an ideology” (1502) but Davis seems to outgrow this. He is suppose to be the product of religion, the subject of religion, but he has not conformed in the way he was intended too even after religious classes. The family ISA has failed to change his sexual preference, and his schooling, including his frat brothers who are conditioned at a school, have accepted him. Althusser does not confront this in his theory, suggesting, perhaps, that the homosexual community has escaped the repressive nature of the ISA.
Other members of the house have not done so. At one point Tyrie explains, ” The majority of the black community is homophobic…Its not something that’s really discussed in our community.” By not discussing homosexuality, Althussser’s ISA is achieving exactly its goal. This is creating a taboo around homosexuality and the black community, according to Tyrie, is continuing the cycle of oppressing homosexual behavior by not talking about it. They are taught by society and family influences that it is acceptable and encouraged to be homophobic and that even conversing about the subject is off limits. The system is then, cyclical. The many ISA’s at work are preaching what was preached to them and subjecting the different generations to the same standards previously set.
The Real World: Denver was a strong example of the repressive nature of Althusser’s ISA. It shows how controlling the system can be and how it can continues to cycle through even though we do not realize that we are perpetuating it. Althusser’s theory, specifically in this work, asks if we will ever break free of the continuous flow of repression. Davis shows that it can be done, that one person can go against the masses and outlive the theory. It also shows how easily influenced and how easily taught the theory can be. We see both Steven and Tyrie oppressing Davis further through the teachings of their faith and their schooling, representing the mere subjects that are tools to the ISA.