Empire Of Illusion : The End Of Literacy And The Triumph Of Spectacle, By Chris Hedges

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We are a society that feeds off the image of perfection and the ideal self presented to us by the media; an unobtainable image that we continuously strive towards and are willing to do almost anything to achieve despite the fact many of us are aware of its impossibility. When Guy Debord, author of the philosophical and Marxist critical theory The Society of the Spectacle, states “The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images” (Society of the Spectacle), he is implying that the spectacle is not the images themselves, but how we have interpreted those images as an ideal self and use them to shape our perception of ourselves and other human beings. In his critical essay Empire of illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges exposes how the spectacle shapes our society and mediates our social relations by exemplifying our overwhelming willingness to intensively distort our physical appearances revealing how spectacle has warped our sense of reality as well as the way celebrity culture has altered our perspective of ourselves and other people in order to emulate the impossible ideals integrated into modern society. The spectacle is a representation of an ideal human mediated through the lives and images of celebrities; an image that people endless strive to achieve. People are so obsessed with this image that they will often take drastic measures, such as, plastic surgery, liposuction, and extreme dieting to achieve an impossible standard of beauty. Hedges exemplifies this phenomena with the reality television show The Swan, a program where two “ugly ducklings” are given a professional plastic surgery team, dietician, physical trainer, and a thera... ... middle of paper ... ...can always be overcome by tapping into our hidden inner strengths. They encourage us to bow down before the cult of self” (2009, 53). If we change our appearances and perceptions we can be like the celebrity and have a wonderful triumphant life. Within all of us there is a potential celebrity and if we put enough work into ourselves we can crawl out of the gutter that is our mundane everyday life and be worshiped and idolized by everybody else. We have allowed ourselves to become a culture of self-absorbed narcissists. Everything is about us and as a result our concern for the welfare of others has been completely disregarded. Working towards a common good is irrelevant because as the spectator we believe we are entitled to a carefree and happy life. We are entitled to the life of the image of celebrity that spectacle has permanently engrained in our minds.

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