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Friday, October 03, 2008

From The Archive: So, This is Real Life

From The Archive is a special Friday feature. It features posts from my earlier (now-deleted) blog: Stuff & Nonsense and a few items from previous versions of A Tangled Rope that I feel deserve reprinting here, mainly as a way of archiving them. The dates are only approximate, I’m afraid, and there is a possibility that some links may no longer work (although, I will try to remember to test the links before republishing the piece).

So, This is Real Life - 02/08/2005

Movies Just Don't Matter in the LA Times (Link through Arts Journal).

It is something I first thought about ages ago now. The way that 'celebrity' lives have taken over the entertainment landscape and become the dominant form of entertainment today, eclipsing film, TV entertainment programmes, pop music and… well, just about everything.

So much so, that even the 'arts' are defined in terms of 'celebrity' - think Tracey Emin, JK Rowling, Franz Ferdinand - well, anyone on the culture pages of the posh papers, really, and how - almost invariably - they are presented in a similar way to any other reality TV 'star', latest pop sensation, soap opera actor and so on.

It seems as though, if you are willing to play the 'celebrity' game - enter into this symbiotic relationship with the media where each of you feeds off the other - then you must accept that your life will become a form of soap-opera played out in the pages and on the screens of media land. It ceases to become a 'real' life, and more a sequence of images and scenes and fantasies played out in front of an audience. Forget street theatre, performance art and all those other shallow simulacrums - the 'celebrity life' is now the popular culture art-form of the age. As the LA Times article says:

Watching a movie used to tickle viewers to want to know more about its stars. Today, knowing about the stars is an end in itself.

I suppose the irony of it all, and what the article misses, is that these so-called real celebrity lives are as much a work of fiction as the latest Hollywood blockbuster. There are created through PR with the witting (more often than acknowledged), or unwitting, connivance of the media, in the creation of the narrative of the 'life'.

I suppose this also explains the rise of 'reality' TV (In itself, as much of a fiction as any other media construction). Where the viewers see the story unfold right in front of their eyes. It even gives the illusion that the viewers (voyeurs) have some influence in the unfolding of the narrative, and why its 'stars' later are often promoted into 'celebrities' themselves.

Of course, if you read J.G. Ballard (and if not, why not?), none of this will come as much of a surprise to you.

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