Adorno ... Baudrillard ... Jerry Springer

Zachariah Boyle

There is no real, there is no imaginary except at a certain distance. (121)

With Baudrillard's postulations upon our existence in our world, a certain amount of depression can be felt. Are we merely copies of copies, due to a preprogrammed existence? Baudrillard's words, and the potential feeling of depression that accompanied them, seemed similar to the feelings I got when reading theorists such as Althusser and Adorno. Adorno's culture industry is the perfect example. Adorno sees the world of today as a place of nothing new; instead, society spends its time packaging and repackaging, in different formats, elements of the culture industry. It is, in effect, niche-making in which no person can not slip in between. Everyone is accomodated in the pre-formed facets of a completely commodified society.

Each product [of the industry] affects an individual air; individuality itself serves to reinforce ideology, in so far as the illusion is conjured up that the completely reified and mediated is a sanctuary from immediacy and life.

With the media, the supposed new products are hyped up to the hyperreal level but are merely simulations of something come before. In a sense, it is a culture of plagiarization. Here, we must ask--what is the matter with that? And it's true--such is the story of human development.

I enjoyed Matt Pillsbury's comments on media like COPS, the Real World, snuff films, etc. Being a viewer (I wouldn't say I'm a fan, but I enjoy the show sometimes with a certain amount of guilt) of Jerry Springer's talk show, I can understand what Baudrillard is talking about with the simulated real. With most talk shows (but Springer especially), the subject is conflict between one or more persons. The show revolves around certain characters in the story or plot--because it really does seem that way sometimes -- confronting other characters. For example, in a recent edition of Springer, a woman first told her boyfriend she was a call girl. Later, a regular customer was introduced, then her "manager" (...pimp) and finally her mother. The stories are real, but there's a certain amount of detachment from reality that Springer's show features. Violence and confrontational behavior are encouraged on the show to almost an excess; would these people act this way in normal life, or is it the influence of the show? On top of it all, camera shots alternate between the violence and Jerry Springer's facial expressions, which suggest his supposed incredulity that fights would actually break out on his talk show. The conflict-oriented talk show is a detachment from the real world, that's obvious. I still have no idea exactly how they do them.

To a certain extent, America's Funniest Home Videos is another show in which that ambiguous question of reality exists, in the same way as the Real World did. Are the blunders that the home videos film real or staged? The directors of the Real World didn't allow the camera men to converse, interact or the like with the characters, but nonetheless their presence must have been felt.

[To other discussions of Baudrillard by members of English 111, Cyberspace and Critical Theory, Spring 1998.]

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