Life as Show Time: Aesthetic Images and Ideological Spectacles

Film and Philosophy 7:110-125 (2003)
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On September 11, 2001, many of us experienced life as what it is not: we lived an extreme instance of the spectacle, of the sublime outside the realm of ethics. Starting with a few compelling questions that the media representations of the attack on the New York World Trade Center inevitably raise, this paper explores a series of similarities, continuums, and extrapolations of the aesthetic in different types of discourse from Friedrich Schiller to Guy Debord. My assessment of the individual‘s dissolution in the ritual (former dissident and present Czech President Václav Havel‘s phrase) rejects the bleak Marxist theories of manipulation, without overlooking, at the same time, the potential dangers of unfreedom that the process of surrendering to the spectacle implies. Living life as show time may ultimately, and oxymoronically, prove to be the only option toward an infinitude of choices.
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