‘Spectacle in the media’ is such a broad term as it mends itself with many facets of our society and life. However, the definition of the word itself can have a different meaning to how it is applied to the media world. Before looking into how it applies to the much larger concept, it is necessary to see what the definition of the word ‘spectacle’ actually is (according to Google).
“1. a visually striking performance or display.”
“2. an event or scene regarded in terms of its visual impact.”
Both of these definitions are somewhat applicable to ‘spectacle in the media’, although there is a much larger meaning to the term. One way in which it makes sense is that a media story can be blown up to such proportions that it becomes visually memorable and thus causes as much impact as the event itself. For example, the 2011 London Riots started as a peaceful protest against the shooting of Mark Duggan. However, this soon descended into huge nation-spread riots that were purely based on looting and antisocial behaviour and this image soon stole the spotlight to the point where many people did not even know why it started in the first place. From the burning Reeves furniture store, to images of looting and riot police, this soon became the known image as the event was turned into a ‘spectacle’.
However, ‘spectacle’ can also have a very different meaning. The ‘spectacle’ can refer to the world around us that has been so mediated and constructed through images and advertising, that the ‘real world’ is no longer real as everything is constructed. It can also be argued that“The spectacle is not a collection of images, it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images.” (Debord 2009: 24) This once again shows that people can be controlled by these images and this false reality has become our new reality. One area in which spectacle can be seen is in branding, marketing and consumerist culture. We are all consumers of the media. We witness it on a daily basis at an almost unconscious level as many of us have been raised on it since birth. Nowadays, media is everywhere we turn, on 24 hour television, internet, and print media – whether this be through newspapers, magazines or on billboards. All of this information can be viewed on easily accessible portable devices so that we can never be away from the media’s presence and control. People have the ‘freedom’ to choose which media they wish to access and engage with, although this is often futile as the people who run the media know that we are predictable and gravitate to certain ways in which news is presented to us. For example, broadsheet papers tend to be more factual in their information and sources and deliver the news in an unbiased way. Tabloid newspapers, however, tend to be a lot more popular with the mass media consumers. The use of language and image that is generated on page immediately captures the attention of the reader, with its bold text and often catchy slogans and headlines. These newspapers often create media folk devils, crafted by the capitalist leaders of the media in order to scare, shock, or influence the thoughts and behaviours of its reader. These news articles, like broadcast, often use language and image in order to generate a visual impact with the reader. This therefore harkens back to the very definition of the word ‘spectacle’.
Debord, G. (2009) Society of the spectacle. Eastbourne: Soul Bay Press LTD.
Google (2013) Spectacle [online] available from: http://www.google.co.uk/#q=spectacle+meaning %5B25 October 2013].
Unknown. n.d. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody wallpaper’. [image online] available from: http://starspage.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Queen-Wallpaper-HD-bohemian-rhapsody-a-person.jpg [25 Oct 2013].