Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 97

justification for this disquieting behavior. Explaining that he refuses to have a companion that does not correspond to his high standards of beauty, Butters asserts, “Well, Kim Kardashian is skinny and she just had a baby.” In an effort to teach Butters and others a lesson about the perils of artificial simulations of femininity that have no basis in reality, Wendy manipulates one of Lisa’s pictures using the software program Photoshop. The computer-generated image that Wendy fabricates in a matter of minutes hardly bares any resemblance at all to the original photograph. Although the message that Wendy is attempting to convey is rather transparent, her plan backfires. The alluring image of Lisa substitutes itself entirely for the real Lisa who in essence ceases to exist outside of the realm of simulacra. Lisa inexplicably becomes an overnight celebrity at her school and a sex symbol that all of the other girls desperately strive to emulate. III. Contextualization of the Baudrillardian Theory of Hyper-Reality The main premise of “The Hobbit” is that many people have a difficult time discerning the difference between concrete reality and its symbolic representation in the modern world. This idea mirrors the theory of hyper-reality developed by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in numerous canonical works. Constantly immersed in a carefully manufactured hyper-real space in front of one digital screen or another, Baudrillard wonders, “What is real? […] have we mistaken the image for the real thing?” (Root 237). Underscoring the importance of the central concept of hyper-reality throughout Baudrillard’s diverse œuvre, Martin Weiss notes, “Jean Baudrillard illustrates the increasing indistinguishability between ‘reality’ and what he calls ‘simulation’” (n.p.). For the characters of the aforementioned South Park episode with the exception of Wendy, seductive images of what it means to live a glamorous life of opulence, allegedly rendered possible by a myriad of useful inventions endlessly lauded by the corporate, mainstream media, appear to be on the verge of replacing reality itself. “The Hobbit” is an example of the phenomenon of hyper-reality that Baudrillard laments in texts such as La Société de consommation, Pour une critique de l’économie politique du signe, Le système des objets, Séduction, and Amérique. According to Baudrillard, hyper-reality is so pervasive that it now concretizes nearly every facet of our quotidian existence. As Richard Smith highlights, “signification has replaced reality to such an extent that the world is no more than a giant simulacrum or simulation where signs refer only to other signs within a closed system. This is a world of semiotic models where there 92