‘Spectacle in the media’ is such a broad term as it mends itself with many facets of our society and life. Although initially what came to mind was to create an artefact that was visually impacting and striking to the viewer, it was also important to look at the alternative meaning of ‘spectacle’; the false-reality and media-constructed world we live in.
Building on from the ideas posed by Guy Debord in terms of the ‘Society of the Spectacle’, the theme of control and living in a fully mediated world is a fascinating concept; albeit one that has been reproduced a number of times. For example, The Matrix (1999) and its two sequels The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003), directed by The Wachowskis, all borrowed heavily from key theorist Jean Baudrillard in terms of spectacle, and even used direct quotes from him throughout the films.
One quote that was the most inspiring was taken from Baudrillard’s book Simulations, where Baudrillard writes: “Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible.” (Baudrillard, 1983:38). This again harkens back to Debord’s argument that the world is controlled and constructed by media images, thus creating a false reality based around icons and mediated living. This was again reinforced by Baudrillard on ‘Simulacra’, which also theorised about the same issues. The first Matrix film was and still is a spectacle in many terms of the word. It showcased groundbreaking special effects and action choreography that still holds up well today from a visual standpoint, yet also deals with complex themes of control, reality and the human condition. After watching The Matrix once again for inspiration and reading into the themes more, this element of a virtual world is a fascinating concept, and one that everyone can be aware of.
With the initial idea for the tone and theme now in place, the original idea developed as the topic of ‘virtual world’ was deconstructed. The virtual world can immediately make one think of computers and/or video games. The ability of a games developer is to create a world that transports the player into a new world, putting them in the shoes of a new character and making them achieve a certain objective – all of which is not real and is entirely constructed. This therefore has many comparisons with living life through the ‘spectacle’. When thinking about video games that graphically look as real as possible, the application of motion-capture came to mind. Motion-capture has been used in games for a long time but it is arguably the game developer of Quantic Dream that are the most renowned for using it. Their work on the critically acclaimed games such as Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls have both utilised the motion-capture technology in video games to full effect and have helped craft much more believable emotional depth within their characters. Quantic Dreams’ games always tend to use ‘reaction commands’ or ‘quick time events’ as their core gameplay and let the story and characters reinforce the rest.
Debord’s and Baudrillard’s theories on spectacle seemed to fit well into this idea, with the resounding question of ‘who is playing whom?’, bringing in themes of control, false-reality and media-manipulation.
Baudrillard, J. (1983) Simulations. New York: Semiotext(e) Inc.
The Matrix. 1999. [film] United States: The Wachowski Brothers.
The Matrix Reloaded. 2003. [film] United States: The Wachowski Brothers.
The Matrix Revolutions. 2003. [film] United States: The Wachowski Brothers.
Unknown. 2012. Heavy Rain – Hassan’s Shop – Gameplay Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ee4sQispHQ : [26 Oct 2013].
Unknown. 2009. “The Matrix” (1999) — ‘Construct’ Scenes Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGZiLMGdCE0 : [26 Oct 2013].
Unknown. n.d. ‘The Matrix wallpaper’. [image online] available from: http://6269-9001.zippykid.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Matrix-Live-Wallpaper-For-Pc.jpg [26 Nov 2013].