Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jean Baudrillard on Disneyland and Watergate

In Simulacra and Simulation Jean Baudrillard gives two famous examples to the way simulation destroys the real and the distinctions between reality and representation to produce a hyperreality. For Baudrillard, Disneyland and Watergate are sites of simulation that function in the same manner. Is it the difference they establish (between reality and imagination in the case of Disneyland and truth and lies or reality and ideology in the case of Watergate) which uncovers how this difference collapses inwards to reappear as hyperreality.

Disneyland produces a clear cut distinction between reality and imagination. Disneyland can be thought of as a second order simulacra, one in which reality is somehow reflected in its representation and the way American ideology is manifested there can be studied. But this distinction between the real and imaginary in Disneyland is nothing but a desperate attempt to hide the fact that there is no difference. According to Baudrillard, all of America is Disneyland. Reality is not distorted in some Marxian fashion (see The German Ideology), it is the cultural code that pre-establishes life in America which is manifested in Disneyland. Disneyland doesn’t let you be a child; it hides that fact that you are a child.

According to Baudrillard Watergate constitutes the same type of illusion which hides the workings of a simulation. The scandal serves to reestablish order, and it is therefore not a scandal but rather a cover-up for some other unspoken scandal. Watergate for Baudrillard serves as the illusion that the unruly and blind force of capital can be haltered. With all of economical reality hanging on the limb of capital's recklessness, we use Wtergate to imagine that evil can be uncovered and justice can be obtained, and thus we are blind to the true destructive force of capital. Like Disneyland, a hyperreality creates the illusion of distinction between right and wrong, truth and lies, and the illusion that order can be restored.

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