Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Distorted Simulation of Reality - A Cultural Observance

Having read Baudrillard's ideas on Simulacra and Simulation I thought I would delve into the idea because it is certainly one that dominates the modern lives we lead. Rather than relay the works here I will attempting to provide my own perspective on the world in which we live, occasionally referring to Baudrillard's philosophical teachings along the way.

I thought I would start with advertisement. Switch on the TV and flick through a few adverts, what do you see? You don't see a black and white image of what the product is and what it does anymore, you see instead a series of images regarding the lives we lead. The John Lewis Christmas advert can be viewed by clicking here. If you were watching this advert for the first time, not knowing what John Lewis primarily sells you would probably come to the conclusion that John Lewis sells love at Christmas, or penguins.

What we see with the John Lewis Christmas advert are symbols within symbols and I will be using this video as my primary tool for exploring Western culture and Capitalism. Firstly it's important to address that John Lewis sells clothes, something that we all need but John Lewis in particular is an up-market high street chain selling rather expensive items - in my opinion on my average salary.

John Lewis is essentially a symbol for clothing so we already have the first representation of reality there, John Lewis is an image which we can easily associate with clothing. Fine. When you see John Lewis you automatically and subconsciously think of clothes, that is until you see this advert. The John Lewis brand image dissociates itself with clothes in this video, making a new representation of childhood, love and togetherness - all in time for Christmas!

The issue is that while John Lewis is creating new associations to do with concepts rather than products it is creating an image representation and tangible association with those concepts. For example, it is, on a subconscious level, easy to think that buying John Lewis products will automatically bring you happiness and love, as well as everything you want for Christmas. So let's break this down further.

The child in the advert is the primary subject, who is seemingly made out to have an imaginary friend - the penguin, which we find out later is his teddy bear. The child then observes that his imaginary friend feels lonely, so assumingly with the help of John Lewis he brings his imaginary friend another imaginary friend of the opposite sex.

As well as the John Lewis logo being a simulation of reality through its image, we also have the teddy bear being a simulation for the child's love. As the penguin is in fact a teddy bear we have to assume that the love and loneliness felt by this teddy bear is in fact a fabrication, or simulation of something deeper the child is feeling. Throughout the advert we see people communicating and being with one another, but throughout the whole advert the child is alone and there is no obvious acknowledgement that he is even there.

What we have is a complex representation of the child's life which he lives through his teddy bear/imaginary friend. What makes things more complicated is that John Lewis is seemingly advertising the penguin '#Monty the Penguin', which is odd seeing as they don't sell teddy bears or imaginary friends.

Through watching this advert the only conclusion I can make is that we have lost all concept of what is real, and have replaced this with a simulation, firstly of the John Lewis logo, and also of the penguin - the penguin being a misrepresentation of the child. We are replacing concepts with material possessions, and through this we truly lose a sense of worth, believing that the price of a John Lewis product will bring us all the things it is advertising.

We are manipulated by mass media because it is ubiquitous, there is no escaping advertisement or images representing products. We have no true sense of what brings us happiness and I am fully believing that this sort of thing has contributed to the increased depression rate as we are no longer able to dissociate ourselves from the procurement of material possessions in the hunt for happiness and togetherness.

Christmas is a good example of a corporatised festival which has no longer been about Jesus, Pagan tradition or even the coming together of family - or maybe the coming together of family being commercialised to the point where we need to bring eachother presents in order to see eachother.

The idea is that Capitalism has become cyclic and because there are so many representations within symbols withing symbols, within symbols (I hope you get the idea here!) we are no longer capable of establishing a connection to what is actually real. It is as though we cannot see beyond a material world which has imprisoned us into thinking that hard to find concepts, such as love, beauty and even justice, are all materially acquired, or materially dependent.

So that's it for now. I hope you've enjoyed reading this post and I look forward to any comments you might make. What are your thoughts on commercialisation? Do you agree that we are beginning to lose a sense of what is real? Comment below so we can discuss it.


  1. The mind is a great philosopher. And life is not a philosophy, life is a reality. And philosophy is an escape from reality; philosophy means thinking. Life is, there is no question of thought. You can simply jump into it. You can simply experience it. Visit my site for more information.Thank you.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sandra. For me philosophy is contemplation, so yes - thought, but it is s contemplation on how reality fits into the world as a whole. There is much more than what we perceive to be real and philosophy has a role to play in this sort of spiritualism, but philosophy is a way of understanding and perceiving in itself.

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