Essay: Baudrillard's Concepts of Simulation

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Simulacrum: The Truman Show and the Matrix

According to Baudrillard, the process of representation is one in which the copy increasingly diverges from the original and eventually takes the place of 'the real.' Of the genesis simulacrum, Baudrillard says, it evolves through a series of stages:

it is the reflection of a profound reality;

it masks and denatures a profound reality;

it masks the absence of a profound reality;

it has no relation to any reality whatsoever;

it is its own pure simulacrum (Baudrillard 6).

An excellent example can be found in the 'reality television show' depicted in the film the Truman Show. The show is a soundstage designed to perfectly mimic a suburban neighborhood. Only the perfection bears little resemblance to most 'real' people's everyday lives. Everyone is happy, cheerful, and life always proceeds smoothly. The only person who is not aware that the neighborhood is created by a television producer is Truman Burbank, who has been weaned since birth to think his 'hyper-reality' is real.

However, it could be argued that the nuclear family of America is itself a simulacrum. At first, sitcom art may aspire to depict reality -- the first television programs, for example, often had people like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz playing themselves as husband and wife before live audiences. However, in creating a parallel reality, 'real life' was masked, as people begin not to view the relationship on screen as fiction because of the appearance of a 'real couple' doing 'real things.' Gradually, people began to assume that the 'perfect' suburban home was what they should aspire to, despite its increasing idealization and lack of correspondence to any concrete reality on the screen. The Truman Show, however, is the ultimate simulacrum. The copy of 'real life' has taken on a life unto itself and actually subsumed the original reality it was supposed to imitate. The real human Truman has literally been swallowed up by the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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