One way Philip K. Dick’s novel the Simulacra demonstrates the convergence of political power in America and the spectacle as defined by Guy Debord is through the character Richard Kongrosian. This character displays both of these characteristics and is greatly affected by these aspects throughout the text. Debrod’s text focuses more on presenting specific ideas of the spectacle and relates them with different segments in society. While Philip K dick addresses some of the ideas presented by debrod and presents them in his own manner.
I will discuss how Kongrosian’s relationship with the spectacle affects him and ltimately how he is more powerful than he realizes, just like people who are consumed by the spectacle in society. Richard Kongrosian is a soviet pianist who can play the instrument with his psychokinetic powers and performs for Nicole Thibodeaux is the First Lady and holds the most political power in this text. Nicole plays a critical part in the text, especially in regards to Richard Kongrosian. Nicole is seen as the figure head of the USEA, which dominates most of the power on earth within the text; she is also seen as one of the most famous celebrities.
Since, she is the First Lady everyone adores her and ecause she is so ubiquitous she is the perfect paradigm of the spectacle. The spectacle as presented by Debord can have many interpretations, however within the Simulacra the spectacle can be defined as the following: “As the indispensable decoration of the objects produced today, as the general expose of the rationality of the system, the advanced economic sector which directly shapes a growing multitude of image objects, the spectacle is the main production of the present-day society (Society Of The Spectacle, 3)”.
Present day Nicole is more of a decoration than anything else because the real Nicole has long ied and has been replaced by countless individuals in order to maintain power. Society sees her as the ultimate figure head but really she is just product formed by the spectacle to sell the belief of power and try to convey to society that everything is alright when its actually everything but that. In this text the media has a big influence on individuals in society, one of those individuals is Kongrosian. The media controls almost everything people watch and the type of advertisements they are shown.
Most of the media in this text is focused on Nicole and her everyday life and advertisements of he “cartel” or “corporations” products that they are trying to sell. The media tries to covey the meaning that these individuals like Nicole and the corporations are their friends and that believing and knowing what these individuals say brings everyone closer as a society. There is a quote from Debord that shows this exact idea of a false unity. ” The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as all of society, as part of society, and as a instrument of unification.
As a part of society it is specifically the sector of which concentrates all gazing and all consciousness. Due to the very act this sector is separate, it is the common ground of the deceived gaze and of false consciousness, and the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of generalized separation” (Society Of The Spectacle, 3). In this text the spectacle is a variety of things but the main two things that influence the spectacle as a whole are Nicole Thibodeaux and the corporations.
They present themselves as almost all of society and try to unit everyone else together. They both get all the attention or “gaze” like celebrities from individuals however they don’t truly help the people in society but rather perpetuate lifestyle of human culture which only aids those who whom have power or a status of power. Kongrosian ties into all of this because he himself is greatly influence by of these two aspects of the spectacle like so many other people. Unlike other people Kongrosian is affected much more by the corporations and Nicole Thibodeaux.
For example, Nicole Thibodeaux is fascinated with Kongrosian and his telekinetic abilities which allow him to play the piano so gracefully. She only likes to listen to his music and rarely listens to anything else through out the text for enjoyment. Therefore, Kongrosian develops a close relationship to Nicole because he gets to perform for her and show his abilities, which ultimately makes him a celebrity like the corporations and Nicole This puts a standard of on what good music should be since this is what the first lady enjoys to listen too.
However, besides Nicole some people rather listen to a different type of music. The Jug in this novel is seen as a modern form of music and is enjoyed by most of the individuals in this society. Nicole however, does not enjoy it rather she sees it as entrainment not worthy enough for her taste. She rather listen to the performance of Kongrosian because she see’s it as a more pleasant form of music. This sets a tone for the rest of the society to listen to a specific form of music because its the type of music the leader of majority of earth likes.
This shows how political power and the spectacle can greatly be influence by one another. The corporations are another sense of political power in with regards to the spectacle. Kongrosian has mental problems and constantly believes what corporations and advertisements tell him. For example there was two cases in which this concept is hown. Once Kongrosian saw an advertisement saying to buy deodorant because the commercial said he smelled awful, so he really believed it. Thus after he would let anyone get near him because he thought he truly believed the advertisement.
There was another instance in where an advertisement was talking about invisibility, which cause Kongrosian to believe that he was invisible. This just shows how powerful the media was in making him believe certain things, even tough they weren’t true. This is important because it shows how Kongrosian is the ideal consumer in the spectacle. He believes in all the advertisements just like how the corporations want individuals to be like. “The spectacle subjugates living men to itself to the extent that the economy has totally subjugated them.
It has no more than the economy developing for itself. It is the true reflection of the production of things, and the false objectification of the producers” (Society of the Spectacle, 16). Since Kongrosian represents the ideal consumer he himself is subjugated by the corporations and the economy they built. The corporations only care to make a profit and will do anything to obtain that ncluding being involved with Nicole and controlling the media. The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people mediated by images” (Society of the Spectacle, 4).
What debord is saying here is that the people or communities are seen together but only by certain aspects or situations. In the simulacra there are different parts of society that do not agree with one another. The USEA, corporations, and rebellions all seek to have control in their own and control the population to have certain beliefs like theirs. The media is good at providing images of people happy and together upporting Nicole, which perpetuates the belief in her power and that she will take care of them no matter what.
However, not all individuals support “Nicole” which is why there are rebels and why the people don’t get along since the world is divide in their beliefs on how the planet should be run in terms of political power. In the text, Nicole and the corporations give a false sense unity for the people, therefor causing most but not all of the people that they are part of something real that will take care of them. However, the corporations only care about themselves and making a profit. Since the corporations have a ot of power they control what the media shows and doesn’t shows.
People have been told by the media that Kongrosian plays the best music and because Nicole likes it everyone should as well. Kongrosian however is on the same boat like everyone else looking for approval and praise. He performs for Nicole and seeks praise from her because of his talents that he posses. He believes what advertisements tell him because he wants to fit in the world and be in a family with everyone else in society. Its this constant need of approval and desire to fit in that that traps individuals in the spectacle within this text.
Even though, Kongrosian is a celebrity he like average man, excluding his powers he falls victim to the media and the corporations like other individuals within the spectacle. The Papoola is another influence on Kongrosian in terms of advertisements. The real Papoola no longer exist however when they did they had powers over the human mind. The simulacra’s Papoola or copy that exist now are robots that resembles the aliens from mars and their goal is to sell the idea that people on earth should move to mars and start a new life, one where thy are restricted by the government on earth. The purpose of this
Papoola his to help a man sell his products through a form of media, which is aiding the spectacle progress through society. Kongrosian also like other advertisements believes things the Papoola tells him even though its not real. Kongrosian is psychic adding to his supernatural powers and yet he still is succumbed to forms of advertisements which include the fake Papoola. Even though his posses these amazing powers the media have so much power to instill beliefs and products even on individuals like him. This idea of the “Simulacra”a copy is very important later on in the text especially with Nicole and Kongrosian.
Later in the text it is found out the Nicole isn’t the real Nicole but rather an impostor a fake. Rather the real Nicole is not there anymore and was replaced with Pembroke a person pretending to be Nicole for the sake of political power of the USEA. Pembroke has no real power in the inside because even though she is the first lady and should have the most political power, corporations or the cartel control her and tell her what decisions to make as first lady. However to individuals on the outside who are unaware of this and the spectacle she is seen has having the ultimate power because of her celebrity status.
When Kongrosian finds this out he is mentally destroyed and confused, causing him to go into a state of denial and ignore the deviance and believe in Nicole anyway. Once he realizes that Nicole isn’t the real Nicole he begins to realize that advertisement aren’t really true either. His whole world is not real but rather just a ginormous spectacle that was controlled by the fake Nicole and the corporations. He then has a breakdown an begins teleporting objects and organs in and out side his own body. He also starts teleporting people and objects to mars.
But after realizes he has power and does not have to listen or conform to Nicole or the corporations. But by then it is to late the world is in chaos. Kongrosian is actually one of the most powerful beings within the simulacra and his breakdown is caused due to a combination of realizing that he hasn’t use his powers to their full extent as well as learning how political power on earth is actually controlled and run. I believe what Debord is trying to tell us in this society of the spectacle can relate greatly through Kongrosian in the Simulacra.
Debord makes us aware and gives us the opportunity to see society in a different way. To question and understand what goes on beneath the surface and to not always believe everything the spectacle is telling us. Kongrosian believed everything society told him, although this may be an exaggeration it warns us what could happen if we follow blindly to what the spectacle shows us. In the end he broke away from the spectacle but it was too late then. I think Debord and Philip K Dick try to tell us that we must question the spectacle before it’s too late and to be wary of the media and corporations.