Jean Bauldrillard’s philosophy is defined around the heart of two main ideas: Hyperreality and Simulation. These two ideas help in forming the way our thoughts develop over time, as we plunge deep into the ever-changing techno world. Baudrillard’s philosophical background helps explain the way we understand things. For example, we know a dog is a dog but that’s not only because of our understanding that he is a dog. We know a dog is a dog because it is not a cat, and neither it is a goat nor a tree. We tend to take in our surroundings and compare objects with each other to realize their existence.
According to Bauldrillard, Simulation is the process in which representations of things come to replace the things being represented. Confused? Take it like this. We understand a dog is a dog because it is not a cat. And when we are told that a dog is not a cat, yet we have a firm understanding that it is a dog. This is because it is reality that a dog is a dog and not a fish, a snake or a cat. Take simulation’s literal meaning: imitation, replication, and recreation. Sometimes, absence of reality is masked through the portrayal or a replication of something specific. An example would be the creation of the Disney World. Things like this serve a purpose to create a simulation. We tend to believe them to be real because of the way we perceive them, but in reality they may not be real at all because they are merely man-made creations.
Hyperreality, according to Bauldrillard, exploits simulation to create a world that has not even one ounce of reality. This has been made possible through media. For example, movies like the Matrix, X-Men, Alice in Wonderland, Avatar and the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter franchise have led us to believe that such worlds do exist, even only if we are imagining them. When we imagine, we automatically believe and I’m not just talking with my experience. Another good example would be the Disney movies as they create a world of their own. However, the above-mentioned films create a world that is not entirely true, or real in life.
Hyperreality can also be used to represent the way society shapes our opinions to buy products that we don’t necessarily need or things we will hardly benefit from. Take advertisements for example. Like the Pakistani Fair and Lovely ads that are, sadly, quite a popular trend in the country.
Such advertisements show an unnaturally beautiful girl with unnatural skin as white as snow, and gaining success in every point of her life from getting the best grades, landing the perfect job, and bagging the best marriage proposal as opposed to the girl with unnaturally dark and dull skin. Also, celebrity endorsements by women who are born with fair skin are also hyperreal. These type of advertisements use excessive Photoshop, no doubt about that, and mislead their consumers into thinking they have to buy the product, or else fail in life. They force young girls into loathing the way they look like, the way God made them, and try wanting to become more like the stereotype our society has in mind.
However, aside from all that, what I think can define the true phenomenon of hyperreality is the Harry Potter franchise.
When the books first came out, there was no cult trailing the novels. They were simply stories. Brilliant, yes, but they were just alive on paper. However, as they became popular and more popular, the books were made into films, merchandise and videogames. As if that wasn’t enough, which it isn’t, the cult culture went a step further into creating a hyperreal amusement park where Potterheads like me can experience the Wizarding World firsthand.
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” opened in 2010 within Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Just like Disney World, but much better in my opinion, it creates a feeling of simulation but we don’t stop two minutes to think about it. We believe them to be real because we want to see them as to be. Although I’ve never been to the Wizarding World yet, even I have to admit that just the mere photographs and videos provided me the feelings of such excitement and contentment that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. You can go inside the huge, yet exact replica of Hogwarts castle and visit Hogsmeade, the tiny Wizarding village. You can look into Hagrid’s hut beside the Forbidden Forest and order glasses of Butterbeer, a Wizarding drink, at the Three Broomsticks, which is a local pub at the Wizarding village.
Another example of hyperreality in the Harry Potter craze is seen at King’s Cross Station in London, where parts of the films were shot.
A sign has been created on the wall, indicating Platform 9 and three quarters, between platform 9 and 10. If you don’t know what that means, it is the hidden entrance witches and wizards use to get to the Hogwarts Express that will take them to the school, and the reason it’s concealed is to keep off Muggles, er, non-Wizarding people, I mean. Also, very noticeable, is the trolley halfway wedged into the wall, which gives tourists and fans a chance to take photos if they are passing by.
This amusement park is hyperreal because it promises something impossible, yet delivers something that seems slightly possible. When we walk through the evidently fake streets of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade at the Wizarding World, we let the fake become more real than the real. This, for me, is the very definition of hyperreality. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter fulfills every Potterhead’s wish that the Harry Potter universe could be real and that fans could be a part of it.