In the Society of the Spectacle by Guy-Ernest Debord, the “spectacle” is the reflection of reality or at least what the reality can be. The spectacle is an abstract representation of all commodity objects; things that we have high demands and desire for in society. Debord states, “its [the spectacle] manner of being concrete is precisely abstraction.” The spectacle is not a clear image yet, but its real existence in our reality is inevitable.
In The Era of Crowds, Gustave LeBon describes how the spectacle will begin to be tangible objects. He said that the ideas of the past will be replaced with other ideas of the modern age and it will represent a period of transition. He was right. As Barbara Kruger points out, “narrative has leaped from the page to the screen, music demands to be seen as well as heard, computers have jumbled our relationship to informations, surveillance and money and television has merely changed everything.” The reality has merged within the spectacle and the spectacle is now real. It is no longer an abstract figure that reflect reality, it is reality.
In the age of popular culture, an idea-prespective-celebrity-image-driven time in society, images are everywhere! As the spectacle became visible in the form of commodity objects such as the latest Apple product, we became the consumers, the spectators who these images/products are made for. All of a sudden, consumption, the concept of taking in images, products, ideas, etc. has become a way of our daily life. Debord states, “‘What appears is good; what is good appears.’ The passive acceptance it demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of appearances, its manner of appearing without allowing any reply.” Debord is saying that images are always presented to us and we can’t deny them. The representation, or how the image is presented to us demands our attention and our desires. Times Square in New York City is filled with bright lights, bill boards with celebrities, ads with products and catchy words; all of this are representation of an image to grab out attention as consumers, so we might want to see that movie or buy that product. As the image demands our attention, we in return demand its existence.
In Ways of Seeing, John Berger states, “the act of seeing is active; it is an act of choice.” This means that even though images are everywhere and we have no choice but to see them, we do have a choice in which ones we want to keep looking at. It is this idea of pedagogy, or what we are taught. We are taught to look at images and think about them. Berger also states, “there is always a distinction between what we see and what we know.” Let’s take an ad from Budweiser where they used a good looking, seductive woman to advertise their product. A man or a consumer of the product sees the woman in the ad but knows that when s/he buys the beer, the woman doesn’t come with the purchase. Knowing the difference between what the image is presenting and the reality of the image is one of the ways of looking, or one aspect of seeing an image.
A man or a consumer of this Budweiser ad is the one doing the gaze. The gaze is “a concept of how an audience views the people presented” (artandpopularcuulture.com). A man looking at this photo is doing the male gaze. This means that the man is characterizing what he sees (the woman) in a perspective of a heterosexual man. Images like this raise issues such as racism or sexism, a gender discrimination. Although companies tend to use ideas like the one presented in this image to sell their product, society is taught ideas of sexism and racism. “Sex sells” and this woman is depicted as an object that can be had if consumers were to buy Budweiser. Even though there is a distinction between what we know and what we see, there are underlying ideas that form in our mind.
In this culture of popular belief, ideas, perspectives, celebrities, consumption and images, it is inevitable to have hegemony. According toViewers Make Meaning by Sturken and Cartwright, hegemony is “a state or condition of a culture arrived at through a negotiation or struggle over meanings, laws, and social relationships.” With so many ideas and images everywhere and anywhere we go, there is this cultural hegemony. Sturken and Cartwright also states, “the concept of hegemony allow us to acknowledge the role that people play in challenging the status quo and effecting social change in ways that may not favor the interests of the marketplace.” We are not only the consumers of images, we are also producers of images. As the spectacle generated itself to commodity objects, we found a way to take part in the image. Berger said, “we also become aware that we can be seen, and so are aware we are part of the visible world.” We have become part of this speculation in society, which shows how images hold power, or control over our thoughts and demands.