Through the Eyes of the Spectacle

Kristine Villanueva

There’s no way of escaping our image oriented society. Each day, we are bombarded by images without choice. Both Guy Debord author of “Society of the Spectcale” and Barbara Krugar author of “Remote Control” were able to recognize the rise of television as a paradigm for mass communication and technological advancements. Krugar writes, “…television has merely changed everything.” Television was surely a leap into the vast and ever changing mediascape, opening discussions on how mass communication constantly changes the world.

People began to part take in watching what Debord calls “The Spectacle”. Debord explains, “The spectacle is not a collection of images; it is a relation between people this mediated by images.” People have an emotional connection to images and what they represent. Edward Bernays, for example, made sure that women would have an emotional connection to fashion.

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Prior to consumerism, people only bought what they needed rather what they wanted. Bernays instilled a desire for beauty in women. Bernays emphasized that in order to reflect inner beauty, a woman must have a certain aesthetic appeal. In this way, fashion became a trend. Fashion became popularized because “We are bound to resign ourselves to the reign of the masses,” as Gustave LeBon writes. People partaking in “The Spectacle” or processing images then become part of the crowd, or the majority.

Bell Hooks best explains this phenomena by saying that “popular culture is where learning takes place.” Popular culture becomes a means of pedagogy or learning about subjects such as sexism and racism. Miley Cyrus is but one example of popular culture and its subconscious influence on the masses. Not only did Miley Cyrus arguably submit herself to the patriarchal system through her performance with Robin Thicke during the Video Music Awards, her performance also reinforces images of sexism and racism through cultural appropriation. Her act could also be an act of hegemony, or cultural dominance over another culture. Cyrus tried embodying a culture that was not her own, namely, African American Culture.



This misogynistic view of women falls under “the gaze” or a way of objectifying women. John Berger in Ways of Looking writes, “Men survey women before treating them. Consequently how a woman appears to a man can determine how she will be treated. To acquire some control over this process, women must contain it and interiorize it. That part of a woman’s self which is the surveyor treats the part which is the surveyed so as to demonstrate to others how her whole self would like to be treated. And this exemplary treatment of herself by herself constitutes her presence.” Women know that they are being watched. Her value then becomes dictated by men. According to this Huffington Post article, for example, certain phrases from men’s magazines sound like convicted rapists. 

The spectacle relies on our consumption. Without it, the spectacle cannot live on.  Although the spectacle may be beneficial to us – it continues to shape society. People who question the spectacle might help change up the game. In all, the spectacle is something that we all love – maybe for all the wrong reasonsMaybe we should care to stop the spectacle. Maybe being part of the spectacle is just too much fun to let go.


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