As I read Baudrillard’s reading, I felt a little uncomfortable because I am not used to this angle of thinking about America. In the reading, Baudrillard started with a statement that he has “no truth of America” (27). At first, I did not understand what he meant, but gradually it became clear. Baudrillard used many negative words in his reading and many of them were used as an irony. However, I felt interesting at the same time because this way of looking at America was pretty new to me. In this Reading Response, I will discuss about the places Baudrillard visited in America, my favorite line and his three statements he argued about American society.
He stated his thoughts by mentioning the places he visited in America. When Bausrillard described Las Vegas, he stated it as a “beam of light” (30) that makes up America as a fantasy world. Nowadays, Las Vegas is known for casinos, gambling, and shopping. Therefore, although it was hard for me to understand his intention, I figured that he wanted to say that the lights in Las Vegas looked like an unrealistic thing, which led him to use the word “phantasy” (Baudrillard 30). In other words, the artificial unnatural lights made the city look mechanical and made it far from reality. In the case of Santa Barbra, he described the villas as a funeral and the calmness as fake. Bausrillard maybe thought this way because there were not many people in Santa Barbra and everything looked too peaceful and too ideal that conversely, it seemed odd to him.
My favorite part of the reading was when he mentioned about how Americans “keep America clean”, and then moved on to his interpretation of “smile” (Bausrillard 33). First, I will discuss about “keeping America clean”, in other words, “mania for asepsis” (Baudrillard 33). I figure Bausrillard wanted to highlight how America emphasis on cleanness. He used two examples for the term about asepsis. The first one was the Getty museum. They treated the old painting very neatly and make it look as if it is brand new. Although he stated a little irony in this explanation, I thought this is not a point to criticize because keeping a historical product is an important thing to do. Another example is about an incident when police raided a sect called ‘MOVE’. MOVE had extreme ideas so the Philadelphia police department wanted to get rid of them. The police surprise attacked them and killed eleven people and damaged thirty houses. Unfortunately, some houses were not even ones from MOVE. Then, Baudrillard stated about ‘smile’. He explained smile as an expression when you do not know what to say and to show “zero degree of joy and pleasure” (Baudrillard 34). I felt this was actually interesting because I never recognized a ‘smile’ as he did. To me, smile was an expression to show your happiness or go through awkward moments.
Moreover, Baudrillard had three statements about American society: obsessional society, phobic society and anorexic society (40). In these three, phobic society was the easiest to think about. The main idea about phobic society was saving. When I think of saving time and saving energy as an example, many things pop up in my head. For example, a huge dish washer or dryer, that almost every American household has, are products that saves time and energy. It will wash dishes and dirty clothes, and people could use that time to do something else and save energy to do something else. Another example is a big store like ‘Target’. Target is one of the largest convenience stores in America. There is everything people need in their daily lives so people do not have to drive their car store to store. This saves time and energy as well.
Through Baudrillard’s reading, I found many interesting new views for me to think about America. Some were too unique ideas for me to understand, but some made me think. I think I have to learn more about the dark side of America or its history to know the country better.
My Discussion Questions are:
- Why did Baudrillard use the phrase “end of the world” several times?
- Was criticizing America was his main point in this reading?