Jean Baudrillard passed away in Paris one day after the Scooter verdict.
One of his better known theories postulates that we live in a world where simulated feelings and experiences have replaced the real thing. This seductive “hyperreality,” where shopping malls, amusement parks and mass-produced images from the news, television shows and films dominate, is drained of authenticity and meaning. Since illusion reigns, he counseled people to give up the search for reality.
“All of our values are simulated,” he told The New York Times in 2005. “What is freedom? We have a choice between buying one car or buying another car? It’s a simulation of freedom.”
Lewis Carroll likely welcomes the company. Although many misunderstood Baudrillard (the Times unhelpfully dwells on The Matrix films), how rare it is for someone to see their theories vindicated on the world historical stage.
It's fitting that the ultimate male-bonding/romantic militarist story, Sparta's stand against the Persians comes to the screen as '300'. This doomed defiance is reverently invoked across the years, particularly from a related subset — from many in the American Movement military porn enthusiast community to the Corporal losing an entire army on Volga. Baudrillard would have appreciated transforming the already derivative comic book '300' into the completely non-existant realm of CGI effects.
“300” the movie could be the apotheosis of hyperreal imagining — it's current state of the art. Kid movies aside — you know the kind — fare designed specifically to replace cell-based animation with inside jokes as a sop to adults, Hollywood's CGI worlds in general, well, suck. And it is not just the specific actors. The latest Star Wars movies are too easy to cite because they were awful in so many ways. But others have failed, too — “Sky Captain”, “Final Fantasy”, “UltaViolet”, “Aeon Flux”, the last two Matrix movies. Now matter how compelling or awesome the initial CGI visions, no matter who is acting, after about 10 minutes a weariness sets in. The imagination rebels against mere pixels. Making matters worse, CGI is now available for everything. Special effects are no longer special.
Do politics follow our social imaginations? If so, what does a CGI imaginative cul de sac presage? Perhaps it is limited to flaws in that particular tool — CGI — and not against hyperreality per se. American Idol, for example, with its equally synthentic and hyperreal narratives remains a ratings juggernaut. As do stories about Britney's head shavings and the Anna Nicole Smith saga.
Tags: Hyper reality, Jean Baudrillard, 300, Sparta, Frank Miller