When hyperrealism gets real

Hyperrealist images as role models in three films of the 10’s

Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)                                                                                                   Page 2

Pain & Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)                                                                                                                      Page 3

The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, 2013)                                                                                                             Page 4



“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen.” 

Alex DeLarge (A Clockwork Orange, 1971)


“Television is reality, and reality is less than television.” 

Brian O’Blivion (Videodrome, 1983)

After a century of cinema and half a century of television, it is fascinating to see how those media have invaded the world so heavily. They have affected the perception of reality since “the medium has become the message” (McLuhan, 1967). The public tends to focus on the obvious content while getting tricked into the subconscious process of adapting to unrealities. People these days connect more and more deeply to film, television shows, news media, music videos, virtual reality games and social networking sites. However, these virtual constructions embody hyperrealist environments that merely simulate reality. Still, life seems to resemble increasingly to hyperreality, in the same way as the world of The Matrix (Wachowski & Wachowski, 1999) corresponds more to our surroundings than their real world does. People turn confused like Schwarzenegger’s character in Total Recall (Verhoeven, 1990) or like Ted Pikul in eXistenZ (Cronenberg, 1999):

“I’m not sure here, where we are, is real at all. This feels like a game to me. And you, you’re beginning to feel a bit like a game character.”

The mass rather embraces, mostly subconsciously, the new postmodern reality by accepting that “the television screen has become the retina of the mind’s eye”. Entering the 21st century, Videodrome’s “New Flesh” (Cronenberg, 1982) invades reality hence the impossibility to distinguish the “authentic fakes” that corrupt the society (Eco, 1990). Similarly, Woody Allen’s character in his movie Husband and Wives (1992) stated that “life does not imitate art, it imitates bad television”. Now that the crowd loses themselves in copying mindlessly, not only did we stop questioning the meaning of banalities and hardships in life, but also there is no original referent to the representations of our reality (Baudrillard, 1994: 1). Various postmodern thinkers end at the same thought, namely images seem to refer to nothing but to themselves (McQuire, 1998: 92), the simulacrum “is an image without resemblance” (Deleuze, 1990: 295) and evolves from copy to truth in its own right (Baudrillard, 1994: 1). In short, the simulations of reality in the cultural space of television, film and computer images have lost their connection to their physical realities. Although in the meantime, they have become more real than the physical reality they are simulating (Mann, 2007).

“Representation is no longer shaped to fit what is real; instead the world is called on to live up to its images”

Scott McGuire (1998: 101)

Hyperreality detaches itself from emotional depth because of its superficial and artificial reproduction of empty images. Genuine and innocent emotions cannot be expressed without being ridiculed as naïve. It becomes for instance impossible to act romantic without several classic love stories coming to mind. Umberto Eco’s solution to this problem embraces the postmodern attitude of quoting with irony, for example “being madly in love” by mentioning “Barbara Cartland would say it like that” (1994: 67-68). That way, hyperreality intermingles with reality and get “woven together in one and the same fabric” (Shaviro, 2010: 7).

Cinema and television spawn numerous nonexistent hyperrealist role models that, although being extreme stereotypes at times, conquer an audience and change them in many ways. Film usually needs these typical and kind of bland characters to make a complex story easier to follow. Life seems to imitate art already for a long time (Wilde, 1891) but now, art reduces progressively to simple simulacra like those. This essay describes three films released in 2013, where the protagonists eagerly enter a world of hyperrealism but eventually hit the wall of reality. In addition, these satiric movies are wrapped up in a beautiful and shiny but excessive and therefore hyperrealist cinematographic form to dazzle the ordinary filmgoer even more.



Videodrome (Cronenberg, 1982)