Text: Simulacra and Simulations by Jean Baudrillard
- The map made of the Borgia’s empire is described. It was a perfect representation of the Empire, but then the Empire dissolved, and the map became a second-order simularcrum.
- Abstraction and simulation are not what we expect today- eg. Mirror images, maps, they do not contain a real at all. They are a real world made up by images, which have no real about them. This is the precession of the simulacra.
- In today’s world there is very little of the real.
- The charm, poetry and magic of the Borgia’s map is dependent on the lost reflection of the map and its territory, but today no such relationship exists and the simulacrum’s ‘operation is nuclear and genetic, and no longer specular and discursive’ (Stanford, 1999).
- The real now is all about miniaturization and reproducibility, and no longer has rationality, or an associated ‘imaginary’, so it is not real at all. ‘It is a hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in a hyperspace without atmosphere’ (Stanford, 1999).
An example?? What about the financial industry which deals with figures/computers/changing indexes, but has relation to the manufacture of goods ….
- Now we have got rid of any referent, and instead use the less precise system of signs, which is open to a different sort of language and algebra.
- Every real thing is replaced (substituted) by a sign, and this has none of the weaknesses or difficulties (‘visicittudes’) of the real thing.
In your BLOG…………….
• Watch Blade Runner, the director’s or final cut rather than the cinema release version.
• Is Deckard human or a replicant? Make notes as to the reasons for your conclusion. What are the visual clues?
• Watch The Matrix. Make notes as to how far the ideas of the simulacrum inform the film
Blade Runner Analysis
Some background Information
- Nexus 6 are replicants which are ‘at least equal in intelligence’ to the their human creators.
- They have mutinied on another planet- and several are missing on earth.
- The film is set in a ‘Metropolis’ like city in 2019
- We learn about 4 escaped Nexus 6 replicants- Roy Batty, Zhorn, Pris (a basic pleasure model) and Leon.
- Dr Tyrell says if they gift replicants a past (via memories, photos etc.) it makes them more controllable.
- Nexus 6 have a 4 year lifespan, as a built in fail-safe, because they can begin to develop emotions of their own after a few years and can lose their self-control.
- Deckard is a blade runner- he tests for whether beings are human or replicant, using a test based on pupillary response to questions. He is charged with destroying the Nexus 6 replicants.
- This analysis is based on my viewing only and not influenced by extensive discussion available about the film.
- Most of the evidence for Deckard’s human-ness is not conclusive, but revolves around just how sophisticated Nexus 6 are- how like humans they are. Much of the evidence suggests that Nexus 6 are very Human.
- It should be remembered that ‘absence of evidence (eg. a replicant yawn) is not evidence of absence
Evidence that Nexus 6 are very human-like
- The replicants want their freedom
- They show characteristics of humans – and because of his they will be self-destructed.
- We see in the first test, a replicant (Leon) who shows signs of humanness- eg annoyance, being irritating etc…
- We learn that the nexus 6 want ‘incept dates’- are they worried about their impending death???
- Rachel realises she’s a replicant and cries
- When we see Pris walk down a street-the music is jazzy suggesting a certain authenticity and sexiness.
- Batty tells Dr Tyrell ‘death’ is the problem. ‘I want more life fucker’…..this seems quintessentially human/real…………
- Dr Tyrell cant alter the self-destruct- suggesting a certain ‘unknowable’ difficulty here- akin to man’s inability to prevent his own demise
- Pris tells Deckard ironically that ‘I think therefore I am’, quoting Descartes central tenant of reality. This certainly makes her Real. To be human in this respect she would need to know she was thinking- and that certainly seems likely from the way the replicants act.
- Batty seems upset by the death of PRIS he cries. If even tears are possible it suggests that most human attributes can be shown by Reps (we are told tears are not really functional in humans-so suggests quite a complex mechanism)
- Batty makes a final soliloquy and then dies- a dove flies off as if it’s his soul. The dove is a universal symbol of peace. The film seems to be saying that this replicant should be pitied and is not BAD- perhaps though not human he still suffers.
Evidence that Deckard is human
|He eats noodles and drinks
|Do replicants eat? I can’t find any evidence in the film. He does get Rachel a drink at her place, but we don’t see her drink- though she does smoke|
|He suggests to Rachel (the secretary) that replicants are a hazard and he needs to destroy them.||If a replicant , he does not seem to be aware that he is . However- Rachel is a replicant and does not know initially)|
|At Rachel’s flat D is tired – he yawns||Tiredness is very human- machines do not get tired (though they do wear out and overheat !). No evidence that replicants get tired.|
|Deckard feels sympathy when Rachel realises she’s a replicant.||Accompanying soft poignant piano music.
|Deckard rings Rachel and is upset that she previously disappeared on him- a very human characteristic.||Feeling romantic and sexual rejection, and Love is quintessentially human. Can replicants also feel love ?- We know Pris is a ‘basic pleasure model’.|
|When he tracks down and meets Zhorn, he embellishes an ironic comedic act –pretending to be a health and safety guy who is worried about her exploitation and working environment.||Irony is often very sophisticated and so is rather Human.|
|During the pursuit of Zhorn filmic devices are used to reinforce the chaos of the situation Deckard feels.
|This chaos is not ‘real’-but mainly perceived by Deckard.-and seems a very human reaction. Chaos of his chase is suggested by lots of quick edits/cuts, strange mechanical noises, babbled unintelligible foreign languages, and repetition (eg of ‘Don’t walk’).|
|When Leon finds Deckard and attacks him, leon does not obviously bleed- but Deckard bleeds copiously from his mouth later.||Do replicants bleed or feel pain?|
|He tells Rachel he would not hunt her because he ‘owes her one’.
|This suggests an ability to reprioritise eg. Need to kill a rep V need to demonstrate thanks. This is not typical algorithmic thinking that might be associated with a machine.|
|When PRIS suddenly begins to convulse and self- destruct- he shoots her.
|Perhaps he feels this is ‘kinder’, otherwise an algorithm may suggest that the job of destruction is already in hand.|
|Batty fights Deckard and breaks his fingers. Deckard cries out in pain.
|Do any of the replicants feel pain? It’s not clear that they do. Batty seems not to feel any obvious pain though at one point he seems pointedly to say ‘that hurt’ . This is sort of humorous in a complicated way!
There is also an interesting issue here about the fact that Hero’s very rarely seem to feel physical pain during fights in Hollywood movies (eg. James Bond, Matthew Bourne) – the ideology of Hollywood.
|During the fight Deckard gets out of breath, and experiences other filmic perceptions of ‘human-ness’ (adrenaline/fight/flight). Batty seems not to.|
|Batty tries the same jump that Deckard failed and makes it easily.|
Evidence that Deckard is a replicant
|He sees some of his own photos which include the same room as in Rachel’s ‘memories’.
|He sees the same photo as he saw at Leon’s flat and at Rachel’s. The implication is that this is a stock photo given to all replicants to provide memory- so he is a replicant too.|
|At the piano Deckard has a sort of reflection/dream involving a unicorn.
|We see the unicorn at JF’s- suggesting that JF engineered Deckard too.|
|He sees Zhorn naked, but appears not to look at her body puts on a comic act similar to a H and S worker re her ‘act’.
During this encounter Zhorn also appears to smile warmly and recognise the irony of the situation.
|– rather unnatural (or at least restrained) for a heterosexual man)
She acts with human characteristics her- though she Is a replicant.
|At his flat he kisses Rachel-who does not reciprocate. He tries again and this time she kisses him very ‘naturally’.
|Does Rachel feel sexual attraction or put it on? If she does it’s indirect evidence that Deckard may also be a replicant. Roy and PRIS kiss like lovers later on …..
|During his fight with Batty Deckard climbs out of a window and hangs by a ledge-despite having broken fingers.
|This is either evidence that he is a machine, or (more likely) evidence that this is how most heros act in movies. In this film this Holywood ideology is therefore ironic.|
|Rachel asks Deckard if he ever took the test himself||This casts some doubt that deckard’s human-ness can be taken for granted.|
Sources of ambiguity
|Sources of Ambiguity.|
|The owl witnesses Dr Tyrell’s death and we clearly see his pupils change size.
|We are told that the owl is a replicant so can we therefore believe anything in this film?|
|At the end of the film the policeman sees Deckard with Rachel and says ‘It’s too bad she wont live- but then again who does !’.
|As a final statement this suggests that Humans and Replicants are not all that different.|
Ideology and simulacra in the Matrix
Opening statement: Ideology and simulacrum are very similar as Ideology hides the reality of the situation from the subjects.
summary of ideology in the matrix:
- Religion- Neo as Messiah, one who will save the people
- Work- He works for a corporate firm, looks like finance/capitalist/global firm (commodity and capitalism). He’s told off by his boss for being late too often, and told the benefits of working at the corporation.
- Drugs-Neo sells drugs as a side-line in the Matrix life. Using drugs alters our reality (from a non-drug like reality- but this too is a programme in the film therefore several layers !).
- Love- Trinity falls in love with Neo. Both are attractive ’Hollywood’ style characters, and Hollywood needs to represent the ideology of LOVE.
- Software- ie the Matrix itself. There’s a disconnect with the real. Matrix is a programme which gives people an existence like the 21 st C developed world…. work, city, capitalism……. All replace reality. The actual world here does n’t exist …… the world is a desert where humans are kept as batteries for the machines and Zion is a remaining outpost of humans. The matrix is therefore a third order simulacrum. so it’s a third order. Other representations of software in the film include computer screens and binary code (coding information)- such as in the opening credits.
- All experiences within the Matrix software- city life, Neo’s kung fu fights etc. are to some extent ideology and simulacra.
- Memory- Neo has a memory- suggesting an attack (perhaps here a fault in the programme). In other films memories are used to help subjects through their experience (replicant’s in Blade Runner, or Douglas Quaid and Recall in Total Recall). Memories can sometimes hide the truth of the situation from us (such as when we feel nostalgia for lost times- when those times were bad!)
Opening sequence: We see numbers on the computer screen- these are binary numbers and code information.
- Software and technology as simulacra
Policemen storm Trinity’s flat
She kills them all. She speaks to Morpheus on the phone.
The woman flees- she seems to be faster and stronger than the pursuing humans. She completes a superdive with no damage or injury.
- Trinity is within the Matrix here, which is a simulacra. Additionally she acts heroic and superhuman which is often a characteristic of Hollywood heros.
Neo is also Thomas Anderson (2 identities within the matrix)
When the druggies come to his flat we see text description before the ‘real’ event (knock-knock text before we here and see the knock).
- The text description is a Saussurian signifier. In one sense it is a first order simulacrum- the text represents the action like a painting represents the subject. There is a strong link between simulacra and language- arguably from a postmodernist Baudrillardian view, without language to describe it, our reality doesn’t exist (Felluga, 2011).
Neo gives the people drugs. He says it’s difficult to know sometimes whether he’s awake or still dreaming. Neo chooses between going out and enjoying himself or staying in bored (so as to be able to get up for work).
- Dreaming is a simulacrum of ‘real life’. Some dreams are simple representations of real life, and would be considered first order simulacra. Freudian psychoanalysis would consider most dreams to be more symbolic, and second order simulacra. The real which they represent is hidden within signs (or symbols), and this real is our existence, but contains both behaviour and also emotions.
- Drugs allow ‘out of body’ experiences where we leave a reality behind.
- Work is an ideology and a simulacrum. The real is hidden behind an ideology. Neo chooses to go out to enjoy himself, despite the consequences for work the next day.
Neo’s boss reprimands him for his awful punctuality at work. He tells him everything which work has to offer him. He works in a highly corporate, modern business- an icon of the capitalist working environment.
- Here we have a representation of the ideology of work. Marxist analysis would say that work is a false consciousness. The boss is bourgeoisie ruling class and hides the real truth from Neo/Anderson (a second order simulacrum). Actually the worker is used simply as a means to accumulate Capital for the Bourgoisie, and everything that it might offer to the worker is a ‘sweetener’ so they stay in their place.
- Neo’s employer looks like a multinational corporate finance firm. These firms remove us from reality even further than the Marxist view of workers and their bourgoisie rulers. In Neo’s working environment it is difficult to perceive any kind of maker of a physical product with a use-value, buyers and sellers are hidden in a complex capitalist system. This could be interpreted as a third order simulacrum (Felluga, 2011).
After the reprimand Anderson is given a phone which rings- Morpheus tells him how to escape from the men who are already looking for him. He tries to escape but is captured.
- Neo is not in control here- Morpheus has the information and extra perception which will allow him to escape. This enhanced perception of the situation is a vehicle of the processes of software which is part of The Matrix.
They have a file on him- which represents his life
He has 2 lives
- Thomas Anderson (normal)
- Neo (an unlawful computer hacker)
These men think Morpheus is dangerous and wish to use Neo to get to him (‘a terrorist’). Neo says he wants his ‘phone call’.
- Here we have a exposition of the difference between a terrorist (who the angent’s call Morpheus) and a freedom fighter (we might consider him when we know the full story). The saying goes ‘one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’. In terms of the simulacrum, this has increased the cryptic nature of Morpheus to represent either one or the other- depending on your point of view, and can be thought of as a second order simulacrum.
- Anderson’s reference to his phone call presupposes an ideology of a Lawful society, including lawful arrest, access to a lawyer, a system of justice and the rule of Law.
Neo is bugged
Suddenly Neo’s mouth morphs, he can’t speak- and they put a bug in his body, ….then he wakes up. All this seems to be manufactured by the Matrix software. Can anything be manufactured by them? Do they have to conform to consistent rules?
Later we are told by Morpheus that sentient programmes are sent into the matrix world, and are dangerous and need to be fought- but they are based on rules. However, Neo does not need to act within these rules- he can dodge bullets etc…..this is essentially a supernatural quality suggestive of God and Religion.
- This a little like the religious idea of a omniscient and omnipresent God who creates the World and Man, but creates rules such as gravity, disease and Death which are the rules of the game…….
Neo meets Morpheus
Morpheus calls Neo and tells him he’s ‘the one’ he’s been looking for. They use a machine to find and expel the bug from Neo. Morpheus mentions ‘Alice in Wonderland’- a famous book which explores logic and semantics in the guise of a children’s fairy tale. Neo tells him he doesn’t believe in fate- he likes to think he’s in control of his life.
- The idea of a messiah, who is believed to be all-powerful by some but not others, is very suggestive of religion, particularly the Christian story of Jesus as the Son of God.
The rebels look for the Bug in Neo using a machine which resembles an Ultrasound machine in medicine. This has interesting connotations about the several ways which we can use different image modalities (which show a different picture of reality) in medicine to detect disease, such as Xray, ultrasound, computed tomography etc. Each is a different image of the real, and therefore second order simulacra.
Morpheus says the Matrix is Ideology !!
- Here Morpheus exposes the reality /framework of the film. The truth is that Neo, like most other humans, is a slave/prisoner. He’s offered choice of a. a blue pill-wake up as normal and b. the red pill-continues ‘down the rabbit hole’. He chooses red.
- Neo is seen gestating in a strange world (the real world), and seems to be born through a tunnel/water. He’s picked up, and has no hair and is naked. This seems to be the nearest thing to ‘real life’ within the film. ‘This is the real world’ they tell him.
- Morpheus says: its approx. 100 years in the future, on the hovercraft Nebucadnezzar. They plug into Neo’s brain- and we see a sort of blank canvas/operating system – presumably the programming which allows the Matrix.
- What is real ? Neo asks….
- Morpheus replies: The real is the desert, AI was born, humans are grown as power sources for machines. Matrix is control- a computer generated dream world in order to keep humans under control, whilst they are used as chemical batteries for the machines.
- A man is described who promises to free them all- Morpheus thinks Neo is he. Zion (reference to the ‘true’ jewish homeland) is the last human city near the earth’s core.
- Tank puts Neo through some programmed training- through a port at the back of his skull.
The Kung Fu scene-
- This is like a computer game. Their bodies are actually on a chair and they are plugged in- so this is a ‘virtual reality’. In this scene the actual fight does not exist. It is an example of Baudrillard’s precession of simulacra, or the hyper-real. It is a third order simulacra, because no equivalent real exists- real is defined by the programme.
In the sewers
They see a ‘search and destroy’ programme. Neo is told he’s here to save the world. One of the crew, Cipher, is plotting with a ‘sentient programme’ . He wants to deliver access codes for the Zion maintenance, so it can be destroyed.
Neo meets the Oracle
Neo is back in the city, a normal large built up environment.The ‘Oracle’ tells people who they are. Neo goes to her flat. There are several ‘potentials’ there. She is a ordinary looking black woman who’s been doing some ‘home-cooking’.
‘being the one is like being in love- no one can tell, you just know it …..’ she says. She tells Neo he isn’t the one, but Morpheus does not believe this. He’s prepared to sacrifice himself for Neo (just as Jesus sacrificed himself for us?). Oracle says either Neo or Morpheus will die….
- Cities, global capitalism and technology as simulacra
- During man-kind’s development, he went through hunter gathering, agriculturalization, and finally into built-up city living. Marx considered that these cities were a type of loss of reality- a getting further away from true needs and desires (Felluga, 2011).
- Today’s modern cities and the accompanying global capitalist economy which accompanies them, are becoming Baudrillard’s third order simulacra. In the modern capitalist world discussed by Baudrillard, we have Hyper-reality, an inversion of the Marxian idea that Human Needs and Production drive Consumption. Consumption is now the basis of a person’s position in society, a development of commodity from physical items whose use is based on need/use value, or exchange value, to include commodity as a ‘vehicle of information’ which has a ‘sign-value’ divorced of human needs, but determined by the capitalist system (Mendoza, 2010).
Neo’s deja vu
In another programme Neo gets a feling of déjà vu, suggesting that the Matrix has set a trap. They leave Morpheus, who fights with Smith (a ‘sentient programme). Within the rebel group Cipher asks the question whether the red or blue pill is the best? He says he’d prefer to be back in the Matrix and feels his new reality is to be ordered about by Morpheus.
- This may reference the idea that as humans try to rebel against the ruling classes, the subsequent systems always seem to fall down and become as bad as the previous (see the Communist party after the Russian or Chinese revolutions.)
We learn that the first matrix was designed to be perfect with no suffering. But the matrix was redesigned and became imperfect- which humans found was more easily manageable (perfection not easy to live by). The ‘sentient programme’ tells Morpheus that they believe humans are not mammals but bacteria- they spread, overpopulate, like a virus, and must be cured. He hates the plague of humans, and feels that once Zion is destroyed he need not be in the Matrix.
- The first matrix suggests the Garden of Eden before fall. Man found it too perfect to live by, and there was a fall. The less perfect Matrix is more manageable, just like humans cannot be ‘perfect’ in God’s world.
- MAN is summed up in a very negative light, but one cannot help but agree that Man is not good, and has very unpleasant traits. We have overpopulated, killed millions of species, killed and imprisoned our own kind, and may well live to kill the planet we live on.
- This is the simulacrum of human-life. The real hidden truth (reflected in the film, and of now 21st Century living), is that as top of the ‘food chain’ we never get to hear much about how, without man, the world might be better and safer. This might be thought of as against the Human-centric ideology of the world we live in.
Neo saves Morpheus.
He goes in to bring Morpheus back and believe’s he can do it. what we believe is possible…). He seems supercharged and invisible (he can stop bullets and send them back etc….). Neo is the one but ‘there’s a difference between knowing and walking the path’. Neo begins to believe and fights the agents. During the fighting Neo is shot and seems dead, but Trinity says she loves him (ideology of love-it can transcend bounds of distance and time and death ! ) and he comes to life!
- This suggests the ideology of both Hollywood movie stars/heros, and computer virtual reality games.
- Neo succeeds when he believes in himself-not when he believes he’s the chosen one. This is very good personal psychology. It is well known that to believe in oneself helps us achieve what we want-to an extent, and that it’s not dependent only on who we are (as far as genes, intelligence, random luck etc…..).
- Perhaps this is an Enlightenment answer to the ideology of Religion. The Enlightenment would argue that in the broadest sense how we are is determined by ourselves (through science and knowledge), not by a supernatural idea of something outside ourselves which control’s us.
At the conclusion of the film Neo contacts the matrix and tells it that he’s going to begin a different way of living for people, the matrix is disabled. He returns to the programme……………..
Felluga, D (2011) “Modules on Baudrillard: On Simulation.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. (2011) http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/postmodernism/modules/baudrillardsimulation.html [accessed 18 january 2018].
Mendoza, D (2010) Commodity, Sign, and Spectacle: Retracing Baudrillard’s Hyperreality [online] at https://www.kritike.org/journal/issue_8/mendoza_december2010.pdf [accessed 18 january 2018]
Stanford (1999). Jean Baudrillard Simulacra and Simulations [online] at https://web.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Baudrillard/Baudrillard_Simulacra.html%5Baccessed 26 August 2017]