Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 105

appropriated by the majority of the earth’s inhabitants in the age of globalization. Additionally, the philosopher muses that the only way to understand contemporary American culture is to enter into this enticing fantasy world. In his often misunderstood essay Amérique, Baudrillard also asserts that celebrities are an important cog in a larger, hegemonic framework that is on the brink of abolishing all meaning through the proliferation of symbolic paradises. As the philosopher explains, “C’est pourquoi le culte des stars […] les idoles de l’écran sont immanentes au déroulement de la vie en images. Elles sont un système de préfabrication luxueuse […] Elles n’incarnent qu’une seule passion: celle de l’image […] Elles ne font pas rêver, elles sont le rêve” ‘This is why the cult of the stars […] the idols of the screen are an inherent part of the rolling out of life in images. They are a system of prefabricated luxury […] They only embody one passion: that of the image […] They don’t make people dream, they are the dream’ (Amérique 57). According to Baudrillard, stars and divas are the ultimate incarnation of a dream that indoctrinates consumer citizens. Intoxicated by the force of an artificial spectacle, the masses endeavor to imitate airbrushed images that have been manufactured and retouched in a studio before being released to a public with an insatiable appetite for consuming these signs of a good life. Several scenes from “The Hobbit” mirror the anxiety articulated by Baudrillard in Amérique concerning the hostile takeover of reality through the conduit of American culture and its celebrities. First, it is not by chance that Butters identifies Kim Kardashian as the stunning embodiment of female beauty. Although the footage of so-called “reality television” is contrived, edited, and scripted, millions of faithful viewers have been duped into caring about the lives of personas that they know nothing about. Some viewers might question the authenticity of certain scenes, but they still become emotionally invested in these hyper-real fictions. In fashion magazines and shows that glorify stars, these images, regardless of how far-fetched they are, take on a life of their own. 2 It is evident that Butters does not critically examine the image of Kim Kardashian that flashes across the screen in “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” When Wendy originally tries to convince him to date Lisa before her digital makeover, Butters states, “I have a different standard when it comes to my women. I want a woman who has perfect skin […] and perfect Christopher Wright explores the hegemonic function of reality TV through the lens of Baudrillard’s philosophy. See “Welcome to the Jungle of the Real: Simulation, Commoditization, and Survivor.” Journal of American Culture 29 (2): 170-82. 2 100