It is sometimes exciting to go back a couple of decades and think about what was an intellectual topic at the time. The film, Galaxy Quest, from 1999 did this to me recently.
The 80s and the 90s were decades of talking about hyper-reality as Jean Baudrillard had introduced: The inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from (even disloyal) reproduction of reality – mostly in media. The reality of images we are exposed to become more “real” than what is called in philosophy ‘objective reality’.
It is easy for us now to talk about the possibility of human mentality constructed of/by virtual reality as we live in the era of online games, Facebook and Twitter. Interactive media are now creating a parallel reality to which a new form of subject has accommodated. However, in the 90s the hyperreality was believed to be creating by mass media (e.g. CNN) and Hollywood (e.g. Star Trek).
Galaxy Quest’s way of tackling hyperreality is complex and multi-layered. Mainly, it is a parody not like most of other parodies. Not only does it parody the form and content of Sci-fi films, but it also satirises the fans of such genre; those who live the hyperreality of Star Trek’s world that is perceived more authentic and original (or just pleasurable) than the objective reality.
Textually speaking, on the one hand, some aliens –the Thermians – happen to watch the Galaxy Quest show. They so much believe the ‘simulation’ that they build a world identical to what they watched. In fact, the simulation (aka hyper-reality) seems more meaningful than their own pre-exposed reality (-they often remember the misery of life before the show). In their hyper-real world, which is unbelievably real to them, they imagine the same stream of life and success as they watched on the ‘historical documents’, i.e. the show. They can metaphorically illustrate the fanaticism of subjects towards the hyper-reality of media’s images.
On the other hand, there are huge gatherings of the Galaxy Quest’s fans who wear the characters’ costumes and stand in lines to meet their heroes and get an autograph. They talk to their favourite characters about their lives in that show and that show in their lives. The Thermians do the same and attend one of these events since they are of the same quality as other fans of the show: all live with-in this world, or in other words, the hyper-reality is more relevant and valid to them than the objective reality. This is where you cannot keep on separating these two realms (if there can be found two separate realms anymore).
At another level, the epistemological universe of the Thermians, and Brandon and his friends are in parallel stances: the Thermians are so attached to the hyper-reality that they already reject any other possibilities of reality (most importantly, the ‘psychological resistance‘ that their leader show while being tortured/treated in a situation resembling to a psychiatric bed). Similarly, Brandon and his friends are so devoted to solve the scientific mysteries of the spaceship that they created their own simulation of the simulation: the platonic extension of hyper-reality. For both, the hyper-reality in which they live may not raise any ontological questions; a world without an original state of being, though it –(hyper)really – exists!
In general, the film reminded me of the speculations in the 90s about the future of living in hyper-reality and its consequences for human lives. Now in the early 2017, it is like a memory of childhood; today we are not anymore ‘significant’ outside the representations of ours in hyper-reality. We are creating our own reality and the borders between reality and hyper-reality seem to have been blurred a long time ago. However, watching a parody of the beginning of our today’s (hyper)reality is a phenomenological education! A parody, unlike other parodies, that aims at the audiences of a genre than the genre itself.
P.S. I need to appreciate Cliff and Mee Wun who invited my wife and I over to watch this film.