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ISSN: 1705-6411

Volume 4, Number 3 (October, 2007).


Special Issue: Remembering Baudrillard



Life over the Edge: Baudrillard and the X-Treme Hyperreal1

 

David Hopkins

(The Next Wave website)

 

            Answers to the compulsion to seek the ultimate experience may be found in one philosopher’s theory of simulations and hyperreality. Contemporary French theorist Jean Baudrillard claims we live in a world saturated by simulations. Simulations are reasonable facsimiles, or authentic replicas, of the world produced by the media, advertising, television, motion pictures and other influencing factors.

            Just driving down the highway, I encounter these simulations. I listen to radio, playing back to me reproductions of music. I see bumper stickers with catchy phrases and political statements. I see billboard signs, trying to entice me with the latest restaurant. I see signs for McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, and Wal-Mart at every exit. None of these things are real in themselves, but symbols or signs for something else. How many simulations do you encounter each day? Baudrillard would say everything we deem as real is only simulation:

The only physical beauty is created by plastic surgery, the only urban beauty by landscape surgery, the only opinion by opinion poll surgery... and now, with genetic engineering, comes plastic surgery for the whole human species. (America, 1986:32).

 

            These simulations have invaded our consciousness so greatly we confuse the facsimile with the real. Would his conclusion then be by using reason and critical thinking we can overcome this deception? Surprisingly no, Baudrillard claims this is impossible. We are too saturated. Even our so called reasoning is infected by the simulations.

It is now impossible to isolate the processes of the real or to prove the real... all hold-ups, hijacks and the like are now as it were simulations... inscribed in advance in the decoding and orchestration rituals of the media. (Simulations, 1981:41-2).

 

            What is the natural response? Panic. We desperately attempt to escape this plastic world by embracing events, activities, and lifestyles which assure us of our reality. In the panic, we overcompensate with an obsession for the supposedly authentic. Baudrillard calls these events hyperreality or more-real-than-real. X-treme sports are an example of hyperreality. X-treme sports enthusiasts pursue the rush of adrenaline as a validation of their existence in a world outlined in neon lights. X-treme sports are not the only hyperreality. Body-piercing, tattooing, talk-shows, "real TV," giant video screens at sporting events or concerts, celebrity worship, surround-sound, virtual reality, self-help manuals, telephone psychics, and fad diets, these things could all find a place in our attempts for validation. Baudrillard ironically states these things are also just another simulation. They are hyper real.


© David Hopkins and the Next Wave website

 


Endnote


1 A longer version of this obituary appeared on the Next Wave website: http://www.next-wave.org/oct99/Deception.htm

 

 

 


© International Journal of Baudrillard Studies (2007)

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