Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bowl as Disney Land

In less than an hour, more than half the country will be watching the same thing. They will be watching a football game in which one team is favored by more than 11 points. This means that the true handicapping experts believe that if the game was played 10 times, The Patriots would win nine of those times - this does not make for gripping suspense or a thrilling prediction. Granted the role of the underdog being enhanced can raise the interest, so can the fact that the two teams hail from New York and Boston, and obviously the Patriots quest for 19-0 is a fine story line - but boiled down to it's most pure form - This shouldn't be a good game.

But everyone and their parents will be watching. There will be fans of the teams' rivals rooting against them - there will be casual NFL fans tuning in for the story lines - there will be people who haven't watched a football game all year - people tuning in for the commercials, the half time show, the spectacle. There will be renegades boycotting and hanging out with friends for the specific reason of NOT watching.

What other event bands people together and forms a community by NOT participating. And all for a game that Vegas odds say shouldn't even be close.

This angle has been analyzed, torn apart, pieced back together, seen from every angle, for every facet, and every argument to be had on the spectacle of the Super Bowl, and for good reason.

My stance though is not one of investigation, however, but one of admiration.

The overproduction of the Super Bowl is America's 4 hour family trip to Disney Land. Once a year, during the cold, damp and dark days of winter - on a Sunday night, the time that corresponds to the single most depressing part of the week - more than 60 million Americans hop into the family station wagon and go to Disney Land.

Why does Disneyland exist? or more importantly, why is Disneyland relevant. Jean Baudrillard says that "Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the 'real' country, all of 'real' America that IS Disneyland...Disneyland is presented as imaginary to make us believe that the rest is real...It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real..." (Baudrillard 1981, 11-12)

Americans go to Disneyland to remember reassure them their lives are indeed real. People go to a park in the biggest city in the country to remember that that city they live in is reality, and the fantasy world within the confines are a departure from reality. If Disneyland WASN'T a fantasy representation of the real America, (frontier land, tomorrow land, main street USA) then what would the draw be. We can goto a REAL Main street, we don't need to go to fantasy frontier land, because a REAL frontier exists. We go for the fantasy.

And so goes the Super Bowl. Tonight we will all watch an event in which the content is irrelevant. Whether it is a football game, or a cooking show, tonight we will all tune in NOT to find out who wins, but to go to that fantasy world for four hours. We will drink beer, we will commiserate with friends and we will all willingly subject our self to the man and the machine - all for a 4 hour annual vacation away from reality.

Baudrillard also says "What every society looks for in continuing to produce, and to over-produce, is to restore the real that escapes it. That is why today this 'material' [in this case the Super Bowl] production is that of the hyperreal itself." (Baudriallard, 23)

This event is presented as real. It will be produced like every other football game. The same announcers, the same graphics, and the same players that played 18 times already. Like Disneyland, we are told that this is real, we are told that this is tangible. But in reality, this is not a football game. The Pirates of the Carribean are not presented as true pirates, but as fantasy pirates. Tonight, when Tom Brady and Eli Manning are presented as fantasy (excuse the expression) football players, we will willingly buy into that claim.

Enjoy the game, and enjoy the ride. Just remember where you parked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, im a media student and i have an essay on hyperreality and contemporary sport. I understand hyperreality in relation to the disney land example but having real trouble relating it to sport and the superbowl. The superbowl match itself is actually real. It actually occurs, so how does the broadcast of it present it as a fantasy? How are the players fantasy players when they are actual superbowl players and how is the superbowl a hyperreality when real players are playing real matches with a real ball? Hope you can help, thanks