The happiest place on Earth?

April 15, 2007

Horkeimer and Adorno wrote “Real life is becoming indistinguishable from the movies” (1226).  On page 87 of Beginning Theory, Barry writes of Baudrillard, “Baudrillard  is associated with what is usually known as ‘the loss of the real’, which is the view that in contemporary life the pervasive influence of images from film, TV, and advertising has led to a loss of the distinction between real and imagined, reality andillusion, surface and depth.  The result is a culture of ‘hyperreality’, in which distinctions between these are eroded.”  What both sets of ideas are saying is that our reality isn’t real, but instead the reality from TV and movies.  The more I think about that, the more I see examples of it, at least in my life.  A perfect example is this class.  When writing blogs or trying to understand the material I don’t use real life examples, I use movie quotes and Seinfeld references.  In talking with my friends, if there’s a particular idea I want to get across, rather than come up with my own way of saying it I instead use a line from TV or movies.  That goes with what Baudrillard says on page 1733, “The real is produced from miniaturised units, from matrices, memory banks and command models– and with these it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times.”  All those episodes of Seinfeld are stored away in my brain and lines and scenes can be taken out at anytime for a quick one liner.

Just to illustrate the point even further, also on page 1733 he writes, “In this passage to a space whose curvature is no longer that of the real, nor of truth…”  I read that and this is automatically what I think of

Baudrillard brings Saussure and Jameson back into the equation when he writes, “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody.  It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself” (1733).  So when Saussure wrote, “The linguistic sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept and a sound-image” (963)  Baudrillard is saying that doesn’t apply anymore.  In mentioning parody, Jameson wrote “Parody capitalizes on the uniqueness of these styles and seizes on their idiosyncrasies and eccentricities to produce an imitation which mocks the original” (1963)  However, since there is no longer any original to mock, parody is not possible.  The only thing I can equate it to is making a copy of a copy of a copy. 

Like Jameson using the Bonaventure Hotel, Baudrillard uses Disneyland.  According to Baudrillard Disneyland and places like it were created to make us think that the real still exists.  We go to a place filled with characters and rides that don’t exist outside of Disney, we think we know a distinction between real and not.  Baudrillard writes on page 1741, “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation.”

One final thing, in Beginning Theory Barry mentions that Baudrillard believes the Gulf War never happened.  If I were Baudrillard I wouldn’t mention that around the VFW, some of those guys are pretty committed to the lie.


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