Concluding ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real’: Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day…

“Today cinema can place all its talent, all its technology, in the service of reanimating what it itself contributed to liquidating. It only resurrects ghosts, and it itself is lost therein…” – Jean Baudrillard

The quandary facing any potential navigator through the desert of the real as it is presented in postmodern cinema deals with the hyper-realistic nature of any mediated communication. The questioning of reality, and the potential apocalypse, in the films dealt with here is duly problematic. Is it possible that Fight Club, The Matrix, and Twelve Monkeys may all fall victim to the Cassandra Complex by presenting the annihilation of the human race as entertainment? Are these films foreseeing the future yet not being believed when they foretell it, or can we take a more positive outlook towards their significance?

The prevalence of mediated communication such as the cinema has surely, as Baudrillard asserts, assisted the cunning of the simulacrum. It is a contributing factor in the replacement of reality in our society with a mediascape that is governed by the dynamic logic of hyper-reality (Kroker Possessed 65). The postmodern apocalypse will occur because the airless atmosphere inside the simulacrum has asphyxiated meaning, as “…[w]e breathe an ether of floating images that bear no relation to any reality whatsoever” (Massumi 1). As we have discussed, apocalypse is mere banality to a society that feels so close to it, and as a result we have ceased to fear dystopic future visions. What purpose, then, the probing of the simulacrums’ boundaries which we have been undertaking here? Quite simply, these films are crucial to shaking us out of our tendency to live ‘history in suspense’. They recognise that “[o]ur Apocalypse is not real, it is virtual. Neither does it belong to the future, its incident is in the here and now” (Baudrillard Hystericizing 10).

Postmodern society may indeed have reached the End of History; a claim which Fukuyama believes has sealed us into a permanent position of capitalist contentment. By locating the apocalypse within the sphere of our daily actions, the films dealt with here present a different story. We are a society disenfranchised by the realisation that “[w]e’re the middle children of history…we have no purpose, no place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives” (Fight Club). That even minor choices made by us could affect the outcome of the human race is as empowering as it is terrifying to a generation that feels it is changing nothing. By laying before us the nature of the simulacrum and the consequences of escape from it (The Matrix, The Truman Show); or the potential outcome of acting in certain ways (Fight Club, Twelve Monkeys), postmodern cinema is unveiling our choices. Where “…the dystopic projection of a hyperalienated future coincides with a utopic hope for spiritual survival, salvation and redemption” there is a crucial decision to be made (Best Robocop 28). We have not merely wandered through the desert of the real. We have been asked to provide (and make possible) an answer to postmodern cinema’s crucial question: what version of reality do you prefer?

As we have explored, the cause of our demise is located in our outgrowth from our intended ontological spheres in our various attempts to be like God. Earth Inc. has succeeded in cutting away the foundations of belief itself “…in a sequence of clean surgical strokes that beheaded all our totems and left … nothing but bare plains and empty sky” (Wagner 11). Now, in our cathedrals to consumerism, we no longer offer ourselves up to an infinite deity but rather consume arbitrary commodities from infinite consumption possibilities. Rather than buy into afterlife insurance, this new religion allows us to buy present day gratification. Simultaneously, the new religion of technology is turning us into monkeys trained to merge with machine in a myriad of different ways.

Most significantly for society, our appropriation of God-like qualities “… desacralises apocalypticism by replacing divine mediation and salvation with human effort, thus relocating the apocalypse entirely within the sphere of human activity and concern” (Dailey 1). Through rampant consumerism, environmental destruction, and the very real possibility of the creation of artificial intelligence, we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction. Jeffrey Goines makes the connection, cautioning that “[m]y father is going to be really upset and when my father gets upset the ground shakes! My father is God!“- his father, of course, being the eminent virologist whose research will inadvertently lead to the apocalypse of Twelve Monkeys. It is the collective attitude of postmodern society that created the problems and the horrific consequences we have discussed: and their solution resides there also. Those who created the simulacrum may also shape the desert of the real into a more desirable prospect. To conclude with the decision of one critical dystopia, postmodern cinema shows us that there is “No Fate but what we make.”


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