When Freud spoke for the first time about the Oedipus complex, the Viennese society insisted that this enigmatic Oedipus was presented to it. But Freud believed that the Viennese society was not prepared to hear the true meaning of the “Oedipus complex”. Psychoanalysis was just taking off and a concept like that (child’s incestuous desire for the opposite-sex parent and hatred for the same-sex parent) could ruin everything that had been achieved until then. When Freud was invited to give a public lecture on the Oedipus complex, he panicked. He could not openly expose his theory without running the risk of being stoned or shot or both. So, when he learned that Viennese society believed that Oedipus was one of his star patients, a brilliant idea occurred to him. “If what they want is an Oedipus, they will have an Oedipus,” he told his disciples at the Wednesday meeting. “Let’s see: who volunteers to be Oedipus?”. All his disciples ran to hide except one: Von Stroheim.
But who was Von Stroheim? To tell you the truth, neither Freud nor his disciples knew. It wasn’t easy to enter Freud’s inner circle. But this circle had grown bigger and, although it was still difficult to sneak in, it was not an impossible task anymore. Especially if one possessed the bearing of a royal as was the case with Von Stroheim. He had been attending Wednesday meetings for five or six weeks and no one had dared to ask him who he was and who had invited him. The truth is that he was an idle aristocrat with curiosity about psychoanalysis. In any case, during the few weeks that he had attended the meetings of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, he hadn’t made head nor tail of it. He thought it could be a kind of esoteric club or Masonic lodge or maybe something related to the postal service. In any case, he saw in Freud’s request his opportunity to become an initiate in whatever it was. So he raised his hand.
On the day of the lecture, Freud was a bundle of nerves in contrast to Von Stroheim who remained as calm as ever with his monocle and his impeccable English cut suit. Freud had tried to explain him what his role in that farce would be, but Von Stroheim had merely smiled with an idiot’s face, so Freud chose not to insist. If he played that same idiotic role during the lecture, everything would be fine. However, Freud still wasn’t quite sure about it. The huge Musikverein Golden Hall was crowded when Von Stroheim burst into the stage followed by a trembling Freud who was reciting in a low voice a Jewish prayer learned as a child. When they reached the center of the stage, the master of ceremonies gave Freud the floor. “Ladies and gentlemen (this one began), I have the pleasure to introduce you to Oedipus.” And saying this, he turned to Von Stroheim who received with his usual idiotic smile the warm applause from the elegant audience that filled the concert hall. When the applause ceased, several voices from the audience exclaimed: “What’s your complex?!” Freud remained paralyzed and only managed to say: “Oedipus, show them your complex”. Then, Von Stroheim, still smiling idiotically, pulled his pants down and started urinating on stage.
I don’t need to describe the commotion that arose in the concert hall, as well as the sudden setback that the embarrassing debut of “Oedipus” meant for the prestige of the psychoanalytic movement, which took several years to recover from the blow.