hyperreality. A term associated with the effects of mass culture reproduction, suggesting that an object, event, experience so reproduced replaces or is preferred to its original: that the copy is 'more real than real'. In the writings of the French social philosopher and commentator on postmodernism, Jean Baudrillard (1929- ), and of the Italian semiologist Umberto Eco (1932 ), hyperreality is associated especially with cultural tendencies and a prevailing sensibility in contemporary American society.
In Baudrillard's discussion hyperreality is synonymous with the most developed form of simulation: the autonomous simulacra which is free from all reference to the real. In the essay, 'The Precession of Simulacra', Baudrillard writes of Disneyland as 'a perfect model of all the entangled orders of simulation' (1988: 171). Its function is less the ideological expression of an idealized America than to disguise the fact that 'all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and simulation' (1988: 172). Baudrillard therefore sees the hyperreal of selective imitation and image-making presented by Disneyland as the rule rather than the exception. The resulting 'society of the image', prompts a panic-stricken attempt to shore up the real that has been eroded. This, so Baudrillard believes, is futile, since the attempt to produce meaning and save 'the reality principle' in a media-saturated society can only produce its opposite, an exacerbated experience of hyperreality.
Umberto Eco's theme, in his essay 'Travels in Hyperreality' (1986) is 'faith in fakes' (the American title of the volume containing this essay). He goes 'in search of instances where the American imagination demands the real thing and, to attain it, must fabricate the absolute fake' (1986: 8). His travels take him to the Lyndon B. Johnson Library, where he finds proof that in America 'the past must be preserved and celebrated in full-scale authentic copy' (1986: 6), to heritage villages, the Madonna Inn, seven wax versions of Leonardo's ~Last Supper, William Randolph Hearst's museum-castle (the Xanadu of Orson Welles' film Citizen Kane) and Disneyland, the home of the 'total fake' (1986: 43). Unlike Baudrillard, Eco does not suggest the real is supplanted or erased, but that imitations - because newer and more complete - are preferred to their ancient or unavailable originals. He is therefore more critical than Baudrillard (Baudrillard would say in an outmoded fashion). Thus 'the Absolute Fake', writes Eco, derives from the vacuum 'of a present without depth' (1986: 31) and Disneyland he sees as the 'quintessence of consumer ideology' (1986: 43). Moreover, Eco detects a different, more modernist culture and attitude in New York and New Orleans. In the latter he finds that 'history still exists and is tangible' (1986: 29), concluding that, 'The sense of history allows an escape from the temptations of hyperreality' (1986: 30). [from: Brooker, 1999]