Perspectives Lecture [8] 'Travels in Hyperreality'

Hyper-realism- A concept that addresses a phenomenon in modern society, wherein 'reality' is replaced by an alternative "hyper-reality". One that is seen as more 'preferable' or in some way superior to the one before.
The concept claims we've lost our ability to discern the 'true reality' from the 'simulation of reality'- particularly in technologically driven societies wherein appropriation, intertextuality, and hyper-rich content is seen as more appealing, more used, and thus, exposed more often to us than general 'reality' itself.
The issue of not knowing what's hyper reality and what's not, is not alone however....
The act of knowing that something is 'hyper-real', may make the rest of the world (the 'true' reality), just as hyperreal... as it disguises the fact that the reality before was also 'hyper-real to begin with.
As the 'real' may not reach our expectation of 'this' experience, or 'that experience', 'hyper-realities' become a more preferable reality to us, than the former.
Fig. 1
Jean Baudrillard introduced the concept in his essay 'Simulacra and Simulation' (1981), as a critique of our existing culture, and the problematic nature of 'hyper-realism', that has swelled within it.
While some people may reject the idea outright, as seeing 'post-modernism' ideas such as 'hyper-realism' as narcissist, or pointless (the belief we cannot change humanities tendency to do these things, or the end result of our actions, where we're too lost to find our way back)... 'Hyper-realism' is a vital means of reflection, for those who become victimized by these meta-narratives and beliefs. Because the thing is, knowing it empowers people to act on it. And in knowing, people can change existing ideas.
Is hyper-realism putting an element of stress on our existing culture?
Is it counter-productive to our advancements and growth?
Is knowing about it, then allowing us to stop things like 'fake news', and false-ideas around our limitations of our 'true reality', from appearing at this point?
Is the 'true reality' we live in, even a 'truth'? Is one reality simply as 'real' as the other? And is it simply a matter of understanding that facts from one reality, may not coincide across another?

These questions are put there so to allow us to deconstruct this self-destructive behaviour of 'hyper-realism', as our 'true reality' becomes grey and flat in comparison to the 'hyper-real' one... and the issues of moral implications (archiving social events), and the avoidability of death and destruction in war, where hyper-real beliefs (or a 'revealed, ultimate truth') such as "making American great again", imply there's a binary opposite (an alternative 'truth' that's in some way less preferable), that allows terrifying atrocities such as concentration-camps to eradicate an entire sub-category of people, when applying a structure of what's 'good' and what's 'bad' to a generalized populace. This idea of 'the final solution' and the attempt to make a 'better society', implies an inherent, teleological purpose.
Hyper-realism becomes that 'ideal', which may or may not be able to exist in the 'true-reality'.

Fig. 2
'Post modernism' tends to align with 'hyper-reality', as we see examples of existing society become more reliant upon symbols, and images of images, until they've lost contact with the reality that came before. Similarly to how postmodernism reflects upon itself and draws upon itself as subject to critique... Jean Baudrillard brought attention to the existing phenomenon of 'Hyper-realism', as a means of critiquing existing meta-narratives, and rules that we've unknowingly placed upon ourselves, that cannot physically be upheld in our 'true reality', but exist and expose itself upon the 'true reality' from the 'hyper-real' one (across any other text/medium with some ultimate intention).
Simulation- A representation that imitates an existing text, situation or process.
Simulacra- A "representational image" that derives itself from a simulation. There are, arguably, 3 "Orders of Simulacra" as stated by Baudrillard- the first see's us recognising a text is a counterfeit. The second, we can still critique, albeit with more difficulty. And the third, (and final), see's only the 'simulacra' remain. There's no longer any sight of the original text it derives from, and thus we are lost completely.
It's a text that 'deceives' and exists ahistorically.
'Fake News'- A newly emerged term used when referring to a text that communicates information incorrectly, out of it's original context, or is uninterpretable from different points of view, "under the guise of news reporting". It's often 'sensational', and far reaching across multiple technological platforms (and social media outlets).
The term's most recently associated with Donald Trump, in his campaign for electoralism, so to create a culture of distrust towards the news, and their true intentions (not in informing people correctly, but rather to damage a person, agency or co-operation's reputation so to gain politically or financially).
It differs from parody and satire, as it doesn't outwardly acknowledge itself as false, and isn't intended for humour. The reader isn't often aware of this 'alternative reality', and what it's doing.

Fig. 3 An extreme example of 'Fake News'

Recorded examples date back as far as the 1st century BC, in ancient Rome, wherein Octavian (the adopted son of Caesar) purposely fabricated a story in his campaign to take power as Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. Turning the strengths of Caesar's loyal general; Antony, who was also fighting for leadership, (what made him attractive to the populace; his appetite for drink, sex and luxury), into weaknesses. Octavian claimed he'd become a drunk, a womaniser, and corrupted by Cleopatra, for whom he'd a love affair with.

'The Truman Show'
Fig. 4

Five ways 'The Truman Show' is considered 'Post-modern':
1) 'Hyper-realism’
'The Truman show' deals, a lot, with 'hyper-realist' concepts.
The film could arguably be about the reality of 'real life', or the 'hyper-reality' of 'film' as a medium, and the problem for Truman at identifying one from the other.
In his attempt to break free from the structure of narrative, when he unexpectedly runs away with Silvia, (a critique on typical film structure), he ironically plays to the directors intentions- which is ultimately to entertain. It's true he causes conflict with his spontaneity, but that's typical of a narrative structure. Conflict's vital in fact. So technically, in rebelling, he's still abiding by the laws of 'the Truman show'. The dangerous driving, and near-death experience in the boat merely changes the genre to 'action/adventure'.
Additionally, we also have the reality of the film itself, and the fact the Director and Sylvia are also characters in a larger story, of our 'true reality'.
To us, 'the viewers', Truman is also a character within a character, who escapes his TV show, but is unable to escape the 'film' to our reality.

Fig. 5

Truman is seen as a victim of meta-narratives and 'hyper-realism', enforcing the idea that such disconnect between real life and expectations can victimise certain minority groups.
He persists however at asking questions, and deconstructing the world around him, despite the fear of becoming worse off. As the director says, "There's no more truth out there, than there is in the world I created for you ", suggesting this desire for/culture of an inherit, ultimate truth that explains everything, in 'The Truman Show' project. This modernism attitude however does nothing to stop Truman's postmodern need for chaos- a more truthful depiction of life than the orchestrated show he's a part of. With the Director's argument (through means of subliminal messages on TV), that "You don't have to leave home", Truman at times attempts to deny his involvement, ("he prefers his cell"). Trying to ignore this scepticism, as the 'hyper-reality' where the 'world' is always shining on him, is seen as a 'better' and more 'preferable' alternative.
Ultimately he grows sceptical however, once he's noticed this behaviour. 

Fig. 6
2) Simulation
This emphasis on 'true reality' therefore gives debate to things like 'simulation'.
Truman's fake relationships with his parents, wife and best friend (etc.), was, arguably, good enough for him for the longest time. This suggests that the 'hyper-reality' was, in fact, a more preferable option for him, and partially why he puts the possibility of it being a lie, from his mind.
However, the film quickly makes out that this isn't the case, as Truman is seen to feel uneasy about his life, (i.e. suspecting his wife not loving him). Therefore, arguably, 'true reality' is argued in the film, as the more preferable option. Truman goes through all the suffering he did, -nearly dying at one point-, to get out of this "cell". We, as the viewer, are urging him on, and the moment the camera loses him, and he exits from our view, we feel glad of his absence.
The irony in this being the fact he (Truman himself) is forever stuck in the actual film itself- a story about his story. So technically he never leaves. Knowing it's a simulation, however, is paramount for the film- as they have a whole speech explaining the concept, from outside Truman's limited P.O.V.
Again, enforcing this idea that the film wants us to recognise the concept of 'simulation' and 'hyper-reality'.
3) Meta-narratives and Idealism
This film exhibits a post-modern distrust towards meta-narratives and 'ideal' truths. Despite Truman ultimately abiding by them, he shows this need to question, and 'escape' existing 'truths', even at his expense. To him, at least, it's seen as a more truthful depiction of reality.
The meta-narratives, and belief that meaning orients around man-kind, is challenged with Truman escaping the world that orients around him, to one where life is more challenging, and unbiased.

Fig. 7
4) The unreliable narrator
For the most part of the film, we interpret the happenings of 'Seahaven Island' through the eyes of Truman Burbank, whose unaware of his role as 'star' on 'The Truman Show'; a reality TV program that broadcasts his life 24-7, across the globe. We experience the odd-happenings, and querying moments of his involvement right up to the moment where we see the director himself discussing the project to us, 'the viewers'.

Fig. 8
When he leaves, he leaves us with no explanation of an ending. No idea how he coped once he left. This ambiguity, and warped narrating is typical of post-modern film.
5) Pastiche
The film appropriates a nostalgic style of cinematography from the 50's and 60's for the fictional 'Truman Show' of 'Seahaven Island', and then referencing 90's technology for the team who controls the dome (who stand for the 'true reality'- but in actuality are also appropriating from other films and their 'realities' of the time- 1998).
'The Truman Show' (1998) Directed by Peter Weir [Film]. USA, California: Paramount Pictures. Proietti, Francesca (2017), 'Baudrillard's Hyperreality in Cinema: "The Truman Show"', [Online Image]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig 1. 'Disneyland Paris Main Street', (2016), [Photograph]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 2 'Andy Roddick - Men's Fitness Cover Comparison', (No Date), [Online Image]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 3 'BBC newsbeat', (2016), 'The problem with fake news on Facebook - and how to spot it', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 4 Mistry, Charlotte (No Date), 'Film Poster for The Truman Show', [Online Image]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 5 'bu7129', (No Date), 'The Truman Show (DVD, 2005, Special Collector's Edition)', [Photograph]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 6  'The Truman Show - Screenshots', (No Date), [Screenshot]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 7 'The Truman Show', (1998), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Fig. 8 'The Truman Show', (1998), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]

'Collins English Dictionary', (2017), 'Definition of 'Fake News', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Flood, Alison (2017), 'Fake news is 'very real' word of the year for 2017', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Gentzkow, Matthew and Allcott, Hunt (2016), 'Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election', 
[Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Holan, Angie Drobnic (2017), 'The media's definition of fake news vs. Donald Trump's', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Kaminska, Izabella (2017), 'A lesson in fake news from the info-wards of ancient Rome', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Kokonis, Michael (No Date), 'Postmodernism, Hyperreality and the Hegemony of Spectacle in New Hollywood: The Case of The Truman Show', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
'Merriam-Webster Editors', (2017), 'The Real Story of 'Fake News', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]
Steinmetz, Katy (2017), 'The Dictionary Is Adding An Entry for 'Fake News', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 11/11/2017]


  1. Yep - I think you got under the skin of this film, Rachael :) As I said, it's one of the most intelligent, literate and layered of films. It should be standard issue in schools!


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