7.5 billion faces. 15 billion eyes. 60.000 thousand thoughts per day – or ‘clues’ into what one’s mind appreciates as being real, THE reality. The result is an overwhelming number of unique perceptions of the real world. But, what is that seeds them, waters them, carves them and gives them colour? Media, maybe? Jean Baudrillard, an academic genius, explains if and how it does this.
In his book, Simulacra and Simulation (1981), Baudrillard explains how the postmodernist culture’s dependence on models and maps of the real-world lead to a replacement of the reality with a simulacrum of it. This simulacrum is a dynamic and animated fresco that replicates the real world in all its textures and patterns. The line between the reality and the representation are blurred in such way that the simulacrum grows bigger than the reality itself, breaks from it and becomes the “only existing reality” for all people (the third order of simulacra).
In this game of perceptions, impressions and illusions, media is both a stage director and an actor organising / playing vivid spectacles on the global stage. These spectacles are forwarders of the simulacrum, and as noticed by Debord, they promote a mediated way of life – teach people how to live but distracting them from living. Since they already set the guidelines for living, why bother looking by yourself?
Take as an example the fashion magazines constantly suggestion outfit options or making list of the best beauty products on the market. This prevents people from experiencing an in-store shopping session with the purpose of buying clothes since somebody already picket the right items for them. Similar happens with the cosmetics as people won’t try as somebody told them which are the best ones. In case of my magazine, there are articles that teach people how to start their own business or how to go online with the one they already have. In both cases, we tell people the best way to do it so they can follow and be successful in the way we taught them to be. There is no need for to look for the extra information.
I picture media as a giant factory of spectacles. It goes beyond reporting, and interprets the ideal self through the colourful spectacles it displays to the public, thus building up a hyperreality. Such a reality is generated from ideas and creates simulations place based on the models of the real. In other terms, a certain aspect is picked from reality, then it is upgraded through, so in the end it would become a layer of hyperreality. It is media’s responsibility to exhibit these representations natural and raw, so the reality matches with its representation. However, in many cases this doesn’t happens.
As most publications around the world, the fashion magazines advocated for the Thin Ideal – the concept of ideally slim female body. They include powerful, extraordinary pictures with skinny females. In most of these pictures there is a super model posing, and each one of these pictures is photoshopped to look irreproachable. The problem is editing threatens the authenticity of the picture and even the smallest alteration of someone’s appearance can lead to a detachment from reality. Even though the person in the picture can be recognised it doesn’t exist.
To sum up, media has the power to project impressive spectacle of reality and simulacra. It can either portray the reality as close to the truth as possible, or distance even more from what is real. No matter its decision, the real is unlikely to be captured and then presented to the world.