ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 13, Number 1 (January 2016)

Reading “The Bling Ring” with Baudrillard:  Real Time Cinema and the Simulacrum of the Teenager

Dr. Kip Kline
(College of Education, Lewis University, Romeoville, Illinois, USA)

The immense majority of present day photographic, cinematic, and television images are thought to bear witness to the world with a naïve resemblance and a touching fidelity. We have spontaneous confidence in their realism. We are wrong. They only seem to resemble things, to resemble reality, events, faces (Jean Baudrillard, 1987: 3).

Not only are the Americans missionaries, they are also Anabaptists: having missed out on the original baptism, they dream of baptizing everything a second time and only accord value to this later sacrament which is, as we know, a repeat performance of the first, but its repetition as something more real. And this indeed is the perfect definition of the simulacrum (Jean Baudrillard, 2010: 42).

I. Introduction: The Lethal Transfusion

For Baudrillard, an admitted lover of the cinema (Gane, 1993), the last century of film has been a steady dilution of the image that has resulted in a shift from the fantastic/mythical to the realistic and hyperrealistic (Baudrillard, 1987: 33). This colonization of illusion by the hyperreal through the perfection of images is certainly an idea well known to Baudrillard scholars. Much contemporary scholarship has moved “beyond” the notions of simulacra, simulations, and the hyperreal because they have, in a sense, become “buzzwords” as Mario Rodriguez (2015) has recently claimed. In this article, I return to these foundational concepts in Baudrillard’s work. It is perhaps time to revisit them and wrest them from the bumper sticker status to which some view them as having been relegated. I do so by applying them to contemporary American cinema, in particular to films that are “based on a true story” and are produced and released with little to no chronological distance from that story -- a phenomenon I eventually refer to as ‘real time cinema’. Ultimately, I critique one such American film for its contributions to problematic discourses on youth and discuss the pedagogical dimension of the film’s simulacrum of the teenager.

One of the most popular starting places for discussing hyperreality and the disappearance of the real (due in no small part to the Wachowski brothers’ inappropriate placement of the text in their film)1 is the beginning of Simulacra and Simulation in which Baudrillard’s positing of the possible disappearance of structural reality references the Jorges Luis Borges short story, “On Exactitude in Science” (Borges, 1998: 325). Here the map of an empire becomes so exact as to replicate precisely the actual territory. But Baudrillard claims that in our contemporary moment the Borges fable is reversed. That is, what we have now is “the map that precedes the territory,” and instead of the real we have “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality” (Baudrillard, 1994a: 1). Today the world is characterized by hyperreality – the more real than real. Disneyland, mega shopping malls, television sports spectacles are all examples of the better, the more intense than ‘everyday life’ that constitute the domain of the hyperreal. Hyperreality is complicit in the disappearance of reality or, put another way, reality is displaced by the hyperreal. In his introduction, to the second edition of Fatal Strategies, Dominic Pettman describes it by saying, “Today, reality has been swallowed up and disappears in its own hyperbole, just as sex disappears in porn and events in the news” (Baudrillard, 2008: 13). In this article, I argue that hyperreality, contemporary cinema, and the phenomenon of real time come together to form real time cinema. I analyze and critique an example of a real time film, Sofia Coppola’s, The Bling Ring (2013), in which a group of teenagers burglarize the homes of celebrities. Finally, I conclude with some implications of the film with regard to hostile discourses about adolescents and how they contribute to the soft violence toward young people that is prevalent in adult-run social institutions (e.g., schools).

The disappearance of reality is the result of the ways in which the stability of meaning has changed through orders of simulacra and shifts in the relationship between the sign and the referent. The first order of simulacra is what Baudrillard refers to as The Counterfeit. It is associated with the beginning of conspicuous consumption and fashion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In this stage, there becomes a kind of play of arbitrary signs that “have the ‘appearance’ of being ‘bound to the world’ but are abstract, referential (re)presentations of it” (Pawlett, 2007: 74, 75). The second order is characterized by industrialization and Baudrillard says that the signs characteristic of it are “crude, dull, industrial, repetitive, echoless, functional and efficient” (Baudrillard, 1993: 57) whereas signs in the first order “were magical, diabolical, illusory … enchanting” (Pawlett, 2007: 76). It is in the third order of simulacra that we get to hyperreality. Here the sign goes through another transformation as representation starts to be replaced by simulation. William Pawlett puts it this way: “Simulation is distinct from representation because signifiers lose their attachment to signifieds (the mental ‘construction’ of meaning inside our heads) as meaning is generated by relations between signifiers (‘models’) rather than in our reflective or ‘inner’ dialectical thought processes. Further signs (or rather pre-modelled signifiers) are disarticulated from referents because models do not have referents”(Ibid, emphasis in original).

Pawlett goes on to use the example of brand names in fashion such as ‘Prada’ and ‘Gucci’ to demonstrate that in the third order of simulacra meaning is fully determined by signifiers’ relationship to other signifiers. In an illustration that is useful for the purposes of discussing hyperreality and film, he says, “Most of us are familiar with the virtual signifier ‘Lara Croft’, but when this simulation was simulated by the celebrity signifier Angelina Jolie, the latter, already improbably proportioned, was digitally enhanced to resemble the former.” Therefore, “It is meaningless to search for the ‘real’ world referent of either ‘Lara Croft’ or ‘Angelina Jolie’” (Ibid, 76, 77). In the first and second orders of simulacra the reality principle remains intact. But in the third order the difference between the real and representation becomes increasingly unstable.

Media today are replete with third order simulacra. When it comes to the image and hyperreality, Baudrillard’s reason for lamenting certain aspects of contemporary cinema is this passage into the virtual that Pawlett discusses above (the virtual, for Baudrillard, is totally constitutive of the fourth order of simulacra). In photography the image is two-dimensional and comes closest to a pure image. “It simulates neither time nor movement and confines itself to the most rigorous unreality” (in Coulter, 2010: 7) according to Baudrillard. On the contrary, with high-definition, enhanced character generation, and so on, that characterize contemporary film and television “images have passed over into things” and therefore the image “can no longer transcend reality, transfigure it, nor dream it, because it has become its own virtual reality” (in Zurbrugg, 1997: 12). An illustration of this might be the phenomenon of watching American sporting events on television. It is not uncommon to hear a commentator assert about a particularly spectacular play that a player made “a video game move” thereby demonstrating the loss of a real world referent. Instead of the video game simulation referring to an actual player, the images of the player in the game on television are signified by the video game. Or, as Baudrillard says, the map precedes the territory. That is to say, meaning is generated by relationships between signifiers that have no ‘real world’ referents. And so it goes with movies. Gerry Coulter points out the difference between the hyperreal 2006 version of the James Bond film, Casino Royale and the original from 1967 by saying that in the former “Bond often has more in common with a video game character than a human actor due to the proliferation of virtual stunts” (Coulter, 2010: 16).

These ideas about cinema intensify in Baudrillard’s work when he describes the film/reality relationship as a “lethal transfusion” (Ibid, 15). As Coulter puts it, “Baudrillard understands some cinema to be ‘abolishing itself’ with ‘hyperreal’ technology” (Ibid, 9). As the tools of cinematic technology expand and refine, the magic and illusion of film disappear in a constant cortege of perfect simulacra. This results in what Baudrillard has called both an “empty perfection” and “pornography of the image” (Zurbrugg, 1997). In this milieu, both cinema and reality lose their specificity when technology allows films to get closer and closer to a kind of technical perfection. And because film is so vital to our contemporary social and cultural understandings, there is a direct impact on the understanding of history (Coulter, 2010: 15).

II. Real Time Cinema

The definition of real time for Baudrillard is “instantaneous proximity of the event and its double in information” (Baudrillard, 2008: 32). And as Coulter has established, there are specific implications of Baudrillard’s commentary on cinema for the relationship between film and history. “Whatever relationship the image and reality may have been said to share in historical time is now stretched beyond credulity in the age of real time media” (Coulter, 2010: 12). In Baudrillard’s fourth order of simulacra, media “acts out” in a way that “opens on to a generalized virtuality which puts an end to the real by its promotion of every single instant” (Baudrillard, 2008: 31). The confluence of the phenomenon of real time and cinematic technical perfection (hyperreal film) and its relationship to history results in what I am calling real time cinema. In this type of cinema, the stories of contemporary events are depicted in film almost immediately after their occurrence. One such movie is Sofia Coppola’s, The Bling Ring (2013). It tells the story of a group of teenagers in southern California who burglarized the homes of several celebrities between 2008 and 2009. They successfully stole approximately $3 million in cash and belongings. The primary targets of the burglars were Paris Hilton and other hyperreal celebrities (i.e., those who are famous for being famous). I argue that this kind of film operates with a particularly troubling pedagogy regarding youth. While the film itself is, in Baudrillard’s terms, a simulation and full of simulacra, the particular simulacrum of the teenager is problematic in that the adolescents in the film are clearly constructed as incredibly vacuous, hyper-materialistic, and remorseless. Instead of the adult celebrities who might just as easily be simulated this way or perhaps even positioned as the enabling grounds for the teenagers, the sardonic statements in the film are all concentrated in the simulacrum of the teenager. This is important since, as Coulter paraphrases Baudrillard, “Cinema plays an important role in our passage into a hyperreal where the very repetition of images, when it is not simply tiresome, is also convincing” (Coulter, 2010: 14). If the simulacrum of the teenager in films like The Bling Ring is convincing, then we are being convinced of a variety of pejorative characteristics of the teenager. While there are certainly other problematic effects of real time cinema, the simulacrum of the teenager in The Bling Ring is noteworthy.

When Baudrillard discusses the notion of real time, he seems to primarily be thinking of television, 24-hour news cycles, etc. He specifically refers to CNN as “instant news, which is the exact opposite of history” (Baudrillard, 1994b: 90). He later claims that “we are no longer in historical time; we are now in real time, and in real time there is no longer any evidence of anything whatever” (Baudrillard, 2014: 117). The idea is that when “news” coverage is instantaneous, the media becomes the event and thus any sense of history or historical evidence disappears. Baudrillard’s noted writings on the first Gulf War include examples. During CNN’s coverage of the war, the anchor desk cut live to reporters in the Gulf revealing that they were assembled around televisions watching CNN’s coverage of the war (Baudrillard, 1995: 2). Real time, then, is a paradoxical term since it is a dimension in which the real disappears. “And not just the reality of the present event, but also that of past and future events. Everything now runs out its course in a state of simultaneity, so that acts no longer find their meaning … and history can no longer be an object of reflection,” he says (Baudrillard, 2014: 117).

Real time media lies in close relation to the “media event” or what 1960s historian Daniel J. Boorstin called the “pseudo event” (Boorstin, 2012). Although Baudrillard quite clearly leans heavily on Boorstin’s 1961 book, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, William Merrin was the first to analyze Boorstin’s influence on Baudrillard with regard to media theory (Merrin, 2006). “More real than the reality” is a phrase that Baudrillard takes up directly from Boorstin. In The Image, Boorstin claims that a generation television viewers “see[s] the Western cowboy as an inferior replica of John Wayne” (Boorstin, 2012: 14). Baudrillard’s radicalization of Boorstin results in his claim that pseudo-events no longer just refer to a bounded range of events that are staged by media. In fact, for him, “all events are pseudo-events by virtue of their instant passage into the media” (Merrin, 2006: 65).

At the nexus of the lethal transfusion of reality and cinema and the dimension of real time media and the pseudo-event, is real time cinema. No longer is this state of simultaneity reserved for 24-hour cable news television stations. We are now in an age of cinema in which the disappearance of both reality and cinema includes the evaporation of a sense of history or historical evidence. Now we have films that are made with enough technical perfection, and that are made and released in such close chronological approximation with the events on which they are based, that they disappear these historical events in real time. In addition to The Bling Ring, examples include the story of Mark Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook that was made into a film (The Social Network, 2010) so quickly that the event of the film and the event of Zuckerberg and Facebook happened nearly simultaneously. As Baudrillard says, “With instant information there’s no longer any time for history itself. In a sense, it doesn’t have time to take place” (Baudrillard, 1998: 8). The result of this is that historical films or those “based on a true story” movies are no longer imaginary signifiers that have historical referents. The real time film and the “true story” on which it is based both become signifiers without ‘real world’ referents. Baudrillard might call real time films “obscene” because they are (nearly) “instant replication[s]” of the event and, as such, they displace any “delay, pause or suspense” -- those processes that are “essential to thought and speech” (Baudrillard, 2007: 33).

III. The Bling Ring and the Simulacrum of the Teenager
Sofia Coppola’s (2013), The Bling Ring is an example of real time cinema. The film is based on Nancy Jo Sales’s (2010) Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” (Sales published a book with the same title). It tells the story of a group of teenagers in wealthy neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area that burglarized the homes of several celebrities between 2008 and 2009. The film begins with Marc, a new student at an alternative high school being befriended by Rebecca, a celebrity worshiper. The two bond over a professed love of fashion, but soon their connection involves stealing money and credit cards out of unlocked cars parked on the street at a party in a wealthy neighborhood. Soon after, this escalates into the pair breaking into the home of a rich friend of Marc’s when the family is away. Rebecca steals an expensive handbag that is the same brand and model that she knows her idol, Lindsay Lohan, owns. Rebecca and Marc later meet up with Rebecca’s friends Nicki, Sam, and Chloe at a trendy Hollywood club that their celebrity idols, including Paris Hilton, frequent. While looking up some information about Hilton on the Internet, Marc and Rebecca find out when she will next be out of town. The two then hatch and execute a plan to go to her home during her absence. They fortuitously find a key under the doormat. They take expensive clothes and accessories and report their exploits to Nicki, Sam, and Chloe. Nicki requests that Marc and Rebecca take the rest them back to Hilton’s home. They use the Internet, again, to determine when Hilton will be out of town and the group returns, stealing more clothes, etc. They expand the operation to other celebrities whom they admire for their lifestyles and fashion until news reports surface of burglaries and they are eventually caught on home surveillance cameras. They are all arrested. Marc is most cooperative with the authorities while Nicki repeatedly suggests that she just got caught up with the wrong crowd. Each of the group ends up receiving some amount of jail time for the crimes. The film ends with a scene months after the arrests in which Nicki is being interviewed by a television crew and she proudly announces that her jail cell was, in fact, next to Lindsay Lohan’s.

The movie is “based on a true story” that continued to unfold after the film’s production and release. It is also full of simulacra that are characteristic of Baudrillard’s third or (potentially) fourth order. Therefore, it falls directly into the category of real time cinema. Both the movie and the events that it is “based on” are caught up in the play of signs and the perfection of the image, the result of which is that both become signifiers without referents. Meaning is produced only in the relationship between signifiers. Another way to think about this is that instead of historical events being (re)presented in film, it is the film that presents the events, leaving us with no history or historical evidence, as Baudrillard says is characteristic of the dimension of real time. So, in this case, what we take as real is the particular simulacrum of the teenagers involved which, in turn, creates a rather unfortunate contribution to discourses about teenagers. Baudrillard makes clear that the simulacra in hyperreality and thus the images in contemporary film are most often understood as resembling reality.

The real time film discussed here is particularly discursively hostile to teenagers. As previously noted, in The Bling Ring, the simulacrum of the teenager in the movie is characterized by hyper-vacuity and moral bankruptcy. The teens are exclusively motivated by a lust for hyperreal fame and are aware of little to nothing else but their celebrity obsessions. The constant play of signs (images) in the movie attests to this. And the result is a set of convincing, though hyperreal, teens. The simulacrum of the flat, remorseless, entirely unreflective teenager colonizes The Bling Ring, leaving few if any opportunities to simulate the adults in the story or for exploration of the enabling grounds of the simulacrum of the teen. In short, the film’s hyperreal teenagers disappear any evidence that might complicate the story.

Steven Mintz (2004) argued in Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood, that there are a number of myths about childhood in the United States. One of those myths is that the U.S. is a particularly child-friendly society. For Mintz, a closer look at historical reform efforts suggests that Americans are deeply ambivalent toward youth. In my view, this is understating the case. Ambivalence may be the mark of public policy developments about children, but discourses about youth/adolescents are increasingly hostile and violent in the United States. Evidence of this can be found in the treatment of young people in adult-run institutions such as the police force or schools, both of which have shown the capacity to treat teenagers in any number of pernicious ways. Here I am not just thinking of the unwarranted physical violence, but also of the soft violence that is often found in the treatment of young people in schools and is all too familiar in the case of interactions between adolescents and law enforcement officials in public spaces.It is a particular disappointment that educational institutions often function this way considering the ideals with which American schooling discourse suggests it operates. This kind of soft violence in schools has multiple iterations. Too often the adults working in them function with an inability to imagine youth as meaningful political actors, an insistence on taking teenagers to be, by and large, morally impoverished, and a propensity for viewing them as thoroughly heteronomous. While there are certainly pockets of resistance to this, the discourses that dominate institutional practices in schools are those that contribute to the soft violence mentioned above, as Henry Giroux and others have argued (See for example, Giroux, 2013 or Giroux, 2009). I am not arguing that such violence is created by films like The Bling Ring, but that this kind of movie does reinscribe, exacerbate, and sustain problematic discourses about youth that promote the kind of violence I have in mind here.

I want to be clear that this violence cannot be pushed back on with claims that movies are representing teenagers falsely. Ultimately, the problem is not that the depictions of the teenagers in The Bling Ring are false or unreal. They are in a state beyond this binary, beyond dialectics, in which oppositions like true and false implode. They are not (re)presentations of teenagers. They are simulations of teenagers. The teenagers in the film are not unreal. The teenagers in the film are hyperreal. This is precisely why critiques that charge representations of youth in media as being stereotypes or false depictions are inefficacious. The simulacrum of the teenager in The Bling Ring rests on the implosion of the true/false distinction, (Pawlett, 2007: 80).

Many Marxist education scholars and/or critical pedagogues have championed the discipline of critical media studies in an attempt to resist problematic representations of youth (see for example, Kellner and Share, 2005). While their ultimate goals are laudable, the methods are specious. Their idea is to teach youth to “deconstruct” media and to recognize “distortions” in representations (or perhaps more precisely, to convince educators of the importance of teaching their students this type of critical approach to media messages). It also assumes second order simulacra status with regard to signs. As Kellner and Share (2005) put it, critical media literacy is meant “to help students distinguish between connotation and denotation and signifier and signified,” (374). None of this works in Baudrillard’s reading of media, in the third (and certainly not in the fourth) order of simulacra when signs have no real world referents and images do not function dialectically; a world in which the real/unreal distinction has imploded.  Simulations are not “distortions” nor can they be “deconstructed” through a clear distinction between signifier and signified. So, a Marxist or critical pedagogical approach to media turns out to be impotent in the face of third and fourth order simulacra.

IV. Conclusions: The Irony of The Bling Ring

Coppola's iteration of real time cinema contributes to existing discourses that are unfortunate for teenagers. The adults who tell the story of ‘The Bling Ring’ (here I am including Coppola’s film version as well as Nancy Jo Sales’s version on which the film is based) seem to find it abhorrent. Both Sales and Coppola’s narratives are full of sardonicism and yet the irony that is present in the stories seems to be lost on both of them as well as the adult hyperreal celebrities whose gross wealth and accumulations were raided by the teens. When one of the teenaged burglars told police that the group found approximately five grams of cocaine at Paris Hilton’s house, a “representative” for Ms. Hilton responded sharply, “I don’t know why anyone would listen to allegations made by a self-confessed thief” (Sales, 2010). Presumably “self-confessed” is not nearly the predictor of reliability or unreliability as “thief” is. We should rather take the word of a hotel chain heiress of hyperreal celebrity status, famous for being famous and for possessing intoxicating levels of material goods. Even more ironic was the response of one of the so-called victims of the burglaries, hyperreal celebrity Audrina Partridge. “They took bags and bags of stuff,” Partridge said. “They took my great-grandma’s jewelry, my passport, my laptop, jeans made to fit my body to my perfect shape … [referring to one of the burglars] She’s a little obsessed girl, I gotta tell you. She’s going to get what she deserves” (Ibid, emphasis mine). This statement reveals that Partridge must be operating with what seems to be a rather selective application of the notion of “obsession".

There is a kind of meta-level irony going on as well. Nowhere in Sales’s article or in Coppola’s film is there any hint of acknowledgement that the celebrity fashion and lifestyle obsession that is the prima facie motivation of the behavior of the teenagers is only possible in a world of Sales’s and Coppola’s making! And there is a degree to which Coppola and Sales owe their own name recognition (read: fame) to the obsession with fame of the teenagers – Coppola and Sales have a professional dependency on the very phenomenon to which they respond incredulously. The film industry certainly contributes to the possibilities of celebrity obsession and Sales works for Vanity Fair magazine, which, at the time of this writing boasted its top two stories of the moment as “The [Gwyneth] Paltrow Affair” and “The Queen Wants Kate Middleton to Wear Longer Skirts” ( At the arraignment of one of the teenagers “Camera crews from local news stations, Good Morning America, Dateline NBC, and TMZ were waiting outside Department 30 on the third floor of the courthouse” (Ibid). Even more telling, Alexis Neirs, one of the teenagers on which the movie is based, was actually being filmed for a potential (so-called) reality TV show. “On November 16, Neiers arrived at Los Angeles Superior Court for her arraignment with an E! reality crew in tow. Her show, originally intended to be about her life as a party girl on the Hollywood scene, had now become a chronicle of her effort to stay out of jail” (Ibid). Sales declared in her article on ‘The Bling Ring’ that she “unfortunately” might turn up in the show as she was “around while they were filming” (Ibid). And yet, for someone who makes a living off of making stories out of celebrity worship gone wrong, it doesn’t necessarily seem unfortunate (and presumably Sales would have to give permission for her images to be used on the show, rendering her “unfortunate” claim a bit disingenuous).

If the actions of the adolescents in the pseudo-event of The Bling Ring are in some sense ridiculous, they are matched or surpassed by the pseudo-event of the narration of those actions. Sales and Coppola’s book and film attest to this much. Perhaps easiest to take aim at sardonically, though, is Officer Goodkin who worked on the criminal case against the teenagers in Sales’s version of The Bling Ring. Goodkin called the crimes “stalkerish” and asked rhetorically, “It may be a stretch, but is wanting to wear somebody’s clothes that different from wanting to wrap yourself up in their skin, like that guy in The Silence of the Lambs?” (Ibid).
My goal in the last part of this article has been to employ the beginnings of a version of what I understand to be Baudrillard’s “fatal strategies.” I do not claim that teenagers are represented falsely in The Bling Ring. I do not wish to argue against the use of sardonic statements in film, rather, I seek to push those statements deeper and back onto the adults who were involved in the case of The Bling Ring and its instantaneous passage into media. It is just as easy to target Nancy Jo Sales, Sofia Coppola, Paris Hilton and Audrina Partridge and Officer Goodkin as it is to target the teenagers. And perhaps there are ways to push it even further. If the world is cynical, Baudrillard suggests, we must push on it with even more cynicism. It could be the case that this is what is called for in response to the simulacra of the adolescent in films that end up informing discourses about youth as really shallow, really immoral, really ineffectual. Traditional forms of critique of such discourses may fall short of their intended goal. For, as Pawlett says: “Eccentric and improper styles of thought and writing are vital, for Baudrillard, because the system is so adept at absorbing critique, at neurtralising resistance. The capitalist system actively encourages critique while neutralising it by transforming it into sign…” (Pawlett, 2007: 85).

Douglas Kellner was not able to forgive Baudrillard for moving past Marxism (Kellner, 1989) and accused him of celebrating that which Baudrillard was clearly critiquing. Kellner was convinced that Baudrillard was not interested in resistance. But many Baudrillardian scholars have corrected Kellner’s misreading since (Several authors have been a part of drawing attention to problems in Kellner’s reading of Baudrillard. See especially Pawlett, 2007 and Baudrillard, 1998b: 45). 
In place of Marxist strategies, Baudrillard offered the more radical, fatal strategies. Kellner mistakenly understood Baudrillard’s radicalism as a kind of nihilistic acceptance of the postmodern world. But, as Baudrillard would say later, “Radical thought is never depressive. On this point, there is a total misunderstanding” (Baudrillard, 2007: 104). “[O]ne must fight all charges of irresponsibility, nihilism or despair,” he says (Ibid).  The reason that modern forms of critique are inefficacious in the third/fourth order of simulacra is because they are absorbed into the code and become signs to be consumed. This is what Kellner’s Marxism does not account for.

Sofia Coppolla’s The Bling Ring is a real time film that disappears historical evidence and disallows for delay and suspense, which, for Baudrillard, are indispensable for thought. And, in addition to its “murder” of the historical evidence the film’s simulations of teenagers are, unfortunately, convincing and contribute to the reinscription of narratives about young people in the U.S. that end up fueling soft violence toward youth. Critical media literacy advocates find this soft violence undesirable and, no doubt, can find media’s pedagogical influence in it. The shortcoming of critical media literacy in these matters, though, is that it does not recognize third order simulacra (and therefore real time cinema as I have conceived of it here). As a result, critical media literacy’s emancipatory strategies are impuissant. Instead, real time cinema and the simulacrum of the teenager requires a fatal strategy – one that fights sardonicism with even more sardonicism, one that pushes conditions until they flip.

Kip Kilne is Professor of Philosophy of Education in the Department of Educational Leadership at Lewis University, Romeoville, IL. His work centers on philosophy of youth and media and post-institutional philosophy of education. His book on Baudrillard and the portrayal of youth in American film is forthcoming in 2016.


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1. See (Genosko and Bryx 2004). Here, Baudrillard said, about The Matrix “The most embarrassing part of the film is that the new problem posed by simulation is confused with its classical, Platonic treatment. This is a serious flaw.” That is, the world of “the perfect crime” in which there is no trace of the real, is decidedly not the world of Plato’s Cave. In that world, it is still possible to locate the distinction between the illusory world of the images on the wall and the real world outside of the cave. In another attempt to suggest that his work was misplaced in the film, Baudrillard said that The Matrix is the sort of film the Matrix would make about the Matrix.