Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Jean Baudrillard: Philosophy's Funnyman

Here's a New Yorker piece on Jean Baudrillard speaking at the Tilton Gallery.

Baudrillard is one of those "French philosophers" who often gets lumped in with Foucault and Derrida by both editorialists who worry that "postmodernism" is wrecking academia, and a few actual academics who think that "theory" still has some life left in it. But, Baudrillard doesn't really fit in because he's quite a bit sillier than the other 70s Gallic thinkers. Sort of the Jerry Lewis of that particular rat pack.

Here's why he's silly. As the New Yorker writes:
"Baudrillard, the French philosopher, is best known for his theory that consumer society forms a kind of code that gives individuals the illusion of choice while in fact entrapping them in a vast web of simulated reality."

Okay, well that's interesting. But, basically, all of his books make this same argument. So, if a book comes out entitled: "Puppies" by Jean Baudrillard, it will be Baurdillard arguing that puppies do not exist; they are only the simulation of puppies in a matrix of 'hyperreality' in which we all live. And then, he will say something about Disneyworld. In fact, he says the same thing about Disneyworld in this article that he does in every single book.

“We say that Disneyland is not, of course, the sanctuary of the imagination, but Disneyland as hyperreal world masks the fact that all America is hyperreal, all America is Disneyland.”

Right, but without the balloons.

And, of course, editorialists get mad about this stuff. "How dare he say that we don't exist!" But, really, we all need to lighten up. Baudrillard belongs in a sit-com.

Mrs. Baudrillard: Honey, I'm going to the store!

Mr. Baudrillard: You know that there is no store; only the simulation of a store in a hyperreal media environment.... But, please get some Cheetos!

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