[(essay date December 2004) In the following essay, Miracky considers theme parks and the relationship between authenticity and reality, using the novels Jurassic Park and England, England, by Julian Barnes, as primary examples.]
In a sincere and optimistic foreword to the Longman Building Studies volume Theme Parks, Leisure Centres, Zoos and Aquaria, David J. Bellamy notes that theme parks and other leisure centers offer a public service and "can give hope for all our futures." Not only can they help relieve the pressure of overcrowding on more "natural" sites such as national parks, but "by enthralling, entertaining and educating, [they can also] teach the masses about the importance of the real thing" (v). Postmodern critics, eschewing Bellamy's clear distinction between the artificial and the real, would beg to differ. Perhaps most notable among these critics is Jean Baudrillard, whose collection of essays, Simulacra and Simulation, includes an analysis of Disneyland, which he presents as an example of what he calls "the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal" (1). This "hyperreal" or "third order of simulation" is neither a representation of the real (what he calls a "first-order" simulation) nor a blurring of the boundaries between reality and representation (a "second-order" simulation). Instead, it is, in the words of Richard J. Lane, "a reversal of order" in which "the model precedes the real" and yet produces "a detachment" from both reality and representation "whereby the reversal becomes irrelevant" (86, italics in original).
Writing from a neo-Marxist position, Baudrillard uses his analysis of Disneyland as a way of illustrating the effects of commodification in late capitalist culture. He extends his theory of "the hyperreal order and [...] the order of simulation" beyond Disneyland to all of America, claiming that American culture, like Disneyland, functions not as "a false representation of reality (ideology)" but as a concealment of "the fact that the real is no longer real" (Simulacra 12-13). According to Lane, Baudrillard fears that "hyperreality will be the dominant way of experiencing and understanding the world" and cautions against the day when we can no longer "negotiate the differences between a true and false state of affairs" (Lane 87). The postmodern capitalist culture epitomized in Disneyland ("digest of the American way of life, panegyric of American values" [Simulacra 12]) is an "overwhelming flood of signs and images which [...] is pushing us beyond the social" (Featherstone 20). The "depthless consumer culture" of theme parks reflects a world in which "the death of the social, the loss of the real, leads to a nostalgia for the real; a fascination with and desperate search for real people, real values, real sex" (Featherstone 85, paraphrasing Kroker 80).
Two very different novels of the 1990s take up the issue of what I will call "theme parking" and its nostalgic desire to replicate the past, and both texts offer representations of theme parking's dangers and critiques of its capitalist underpinnings. When examined in light of Baudrillard's theory, however, the novels locate...
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