The Culture of the Spectacle

Sports has long been a domain of the spectacle with events such as the Olympics, World Series, Super Bowl, soccer World Cup, and NBA championships attracting massive audiences, while generating sky-high advertising rates. These cultural rituals celebrate their society's deepest values (i.e. competition, winning, success, and money), and corporations are willing to pay top dollar to get their products associated with such events. Indeed, it appears that the logic of the commodity spectacle is...

Peg Aloi

Following the runaway commercial success of the low-budget 'fake documentary' The Blair Witch Project (1999), a number of American independent film-makers attempted to imitate the film's unique production elements and recreate its raw but subtle visual aesthetic. Despite its containing no trace of what might be called cinematography, art direction, or traditional narrative structure, the film does possess a signature 'look' (resulting from the use of hand-held cameras and the setting of key...

Cinma vrit and the authenticseeming

Commentators have noted how reality TV and The Sims take up aspects of the observational documentary (see, for example, Dovey 2000 Roscoe 2001 Winston 1999). From the late 1950s, practitioners of the US Direct Cinema movement asserted that shooting in sequence, the long take, the jumpcut and avoiding voice-over narration or the interview would permit a more accurate representation of r reality. Contact between subject and camera operator director was reduced to the absolute minimum to create...

Pleasure in the Unpleasurable The Allure of the Disaster Movie

Returning, then, to a consideration of the allure of the 'disaster movie', and the role of the spectator in respect of the pleasure of the representation, Sigmund Freud (in his account of 'Psychopathic Characters on Stage') suggests that the spectator is a person who experiences too little, who feels that he is a 'poor wretch to whom nothing of importance can happen', who has long been obliged to damp down, or rather displace, his ambition to stand in his own person at the hub of world affairs...

Cybernetics for modeling behavior

As systems for simulating realism, Big Brother and The Sims deploy different but associated cybernetic models or game rules for exploring and understanding human sociability and thus engaging audiences players. A typical simulation consists of a number of agents that are given an environment to live in and some rules to follow' (Ryan 2001 63). By changing variables the user can experiment with the model and experience different simulation outcomes. These simulation environments then conform to...

Notes on Contributors

Michele Aaron lectures on film int he department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham. She is editor of The Body's Perilous Pleasures (1999) and New Queer Cinema A Critical Reader (2003) and has published a number of articles, most recently on Jewishness and gender, and queer film and cinematic fiction. She is currently completing a book entitled Spectatorship the Power of Looking On. Email michele.aaron brunel.ac.uk Peg Aloi teaches creative writing and film studies...

Not as Fake as You Think The Real and the

Sharon Mazer characterises pro-wrestling as 'a sport that is not, in the literal sense of the word, sporting a theatrical entertainment that is not theatre' (1998 3). Even more paradoxically, it is 'the one sport in which participants lose legitimacy when they move from 'amateur' to 'professional'' (4). Amateur wrestling is an authentic (if not especially popular) sport, while the WWE has coined the phrase 'Sports Entertainment' for its staged grappling. Some pro-wrestlers are authenticated by...

Ethics of Emotion

There is no discounting the fact that by peddling the ideology of requited love, these shows foreground a certain moral imperative about how, and whom, one should love. And inevitably, a moral imperative attached to practices of love will have gender implications. Indeed, there is something quite uncomfortable about a programme which screens close-ups of women crying while the man at the centre of it all poses thoughtfully elsewhere and muses calmly about the seriousness of what he is doing....

Spectacle Economy

Since Debord's theorization of the society of the spectacle in the 1960s and 1970s, spectacle culture has expanded in every area of life. In the culture of the spectacle, commercial enterprises have to be entertaining to prosper and as Michael J. Wolf (1999) argues, in an 'entertainment economy,' business and fun fuse, so that the E-factor is becoming a major aspect of business. Via the 'entertainmentization' of the economy, television, film, theme parks, video games, casinos, and so forth...

Michele Aaron

According to psychoanalytic film theory, cinema, indeed any visual representation, depends upon the spectator's acceptance of an illusion as a form of reality. The relationship between illusion and reality, between the spectacle and the real, is a fascinating subject of considerable history with film studies, and, since '9 11' and its spectacular convergence of disaster movie and actuality, an ever hotter topic. My concern in this chapter, however, lies not so much with the qualities or...

Debord and the Spectacle A Critical Engagement

In using the concept of spectacle, I am obviously indebted to Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle and the ideas of the Situationist International so acknowledging the debt, I might also say that there are three major differences between my engagement of the concept of the spectacle and Debord's model. First, while Debord develops a rather totalizing and monolithic concept of the society of the spectacle, I engage specific spectacles, like McDonald's and the commodity spectacle, the Clinton...

Guy Debord and the Society of the Spectacle

The concept of the 'society of the spectacle' developed by French theorist Guy Debord and his comrades in the Situationist International has had major impact on a variety of contemporary theories of society and culture.1 For Debord, spectacle 'unifies and explains a great diversity of apparent phenomena' Debord 1967 10 . Debord's conception, first developed in the 1960s, continues to circulate through the Internet and other academic and subcultural sites today. It describes a media and consumer...

Lisa Purse

The Matrix 1999 is a generic hybrid an action film that engages with a number of concerns familiar from science fiction literature and science fiction film. Certainly since its inception science fiction as a genre has been directly concerned with human beings' social and physical relationships to and interactions with technology. In contemporary science fiction, current and currently imagined technological developments inflect these concerns in particular ways. Mark Poster observes that,...

Artful reminders

Primarily, these highly self-reflexive films inhibit the spectators' ability to do that 'artful forgetting' by consistently reminding us that we are watching a film. We cannot suppress our status as spectators for the films are all about spectatorship. The radical charge of this spotlighting of the spectator's experience as the films' self-consciously merged-perspectives make evident is a fundamental avowal of the real. However, this radical charge is not a given in all self-reflexive films....

Viral Strategies

Baudrillard, for his part, suggests that the spectacle's prostitution of the Real compels what he calls 'evil' to re-emerge in new, terroristic forms. Attempting to write the other out of the world, we have forced it to take on a secret form, a form that we will be unable to tame and pat on the head 'What springs up in order to combat the total homogenization of the world is the Alien - monstrous metaphor for the corpse-like, viral Other the compound form of all the varieties of otherness done...

Michele Pierson

The Australian film critic, Adrian Martin, put his finger on something when he suggested in a review of Moulin Rouge Baz Luhrmann, 2001 that the film was 'all set design but no real mise-en-scene' 2001 A3, 5 . Here we have one of those risky, 'what if' propositions whose very formativeness is their most productive quality. As is so often the case with this kind of writing and not only film reviewing but academic writing too , there is less fun to be had in dismissing Martin's claim as obviously...

Waking Life rotoscoping and the optical unconscious

As Susan Buck-Morss points out about Benjamin's Arcades Project, it is underpinned by a theory of 'modernity as a dream world, and a conception of collective awakening from it as synonymous with revolutionary class consciousness' 253 . In other words, people are 'enchanted' by the specific conditions of capitalism, and modern life is very much analogous to a dream state. Underneath the surface of increasing systemic rationalization, on an unconscious 'dream' level, the new urban-industrial...

The Reality of Representation from Liveness to Embeddedness

In television's obsession with reality, where ordinary people are showcased as actors, and mundane situations as drama, we are asked increasingly to see ourselves as though on television, or video at least. This is not the same thing as being virtual, but rather occupying a feedback loop-living 'live'. This is a shift in terms of how we understand ideas such as simulation and spectacle a shift that emphasizes, not the disappearance of reality, but rather a reversal of how the problem is posed....

Part The aesthetics of amateurism

The caught-on-tape video-clip show proliferated, as legend has it, in the late eighties as a burgeoning number of cable stations, hungry for supply, came up against a screenwriters' strike in Hollywood. An abundant, United States-wide resource of pre-recorded images from personal handycams, store security cameras and police video archives proved the antidote, and much to the chagrin of the writer's union, 'unscripted TV' was born. Short extracts from these video tapes were quickly formatted...

The Passion for the Real

The seminal work on the spectacle is, of course, Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle 1999, originally 1967 . Debord proposed that under late capital social reality is visually organized. More than this, the modern media spectacle dispossesses humans of the use of their powers of creative praxis and immerses them in a wraparound imagistic consumerist environment that alienates them from 'real life' - that is, their constructive relation to social reality. Since Debord, some commentators...