Faith in fakes: A sign of the times

Unreality comes to the beautiful county of Kent.

As if people in the disunited Kingdom weren’t living in fantasyland already, a “resort” due to open in Kent in 2024 will feature 50 rides and attractions based on popular film and TV shows, which, it is hoped, will attract 50,000 visitors a day.

Paramount Pictures – the Hollywood film studio behind blockbusters such as Mission Impossible, Star Trek, and The Godfather – pulled out of this £3.2bn project last year, but the developers have since signed agreements with Aardman Animations, BBC Worldwide, and now ITV Studios.

The latest deal could mean characters and scenes from ITV shows such as “Coronation Street”, “Saturday Night Takeaway”, and “I’m a Celebrity” making an appearance. It could be worse. The resort might feature a celebrity game show with Boris Johnson and Maggie May going head to head in a Brexit-themed “It’s a Knockout!”

People today live in a culture of “as if”. They vote as if it made a difference to policies dictated by geopolitics and corporate greed; as if human conflict and ecological damage might vanish; as if climate change will just go away. They can only be doing so in a spirit of wishful-thinking.

Similarly, they live in a mass-mediated world of “as if”. They wander the World Wide Web as if it contained truthful and realistic representations of life. They watch Netflix and soap operas as if the people and situations were real. They use Instagram as if it were more than an “insubstantial pageant” of bytes and bits.

Umberto Eco explores the theme of “as if” in “Travels in Hyperreality” (1986). Why do people rush to see waxwork museums, or the “authentic duplicates” of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not”, or the “wild Xanadu” of the Ringling dynasty’s Venice-in-Florida palazzo Ca’ d’Zan? What is the endless attraction of Disneyland and Disney World? Why do people pay to see impersonations of Elvis Presley? (They would not pay to see a pianist impersonate Alfred Brendel.) Why are people fascinated by fakes?

It can only be stardust. By touching the walls of Coronation Street’s Rover’s Return, or by taking a selfie with Ant & Dec, some of the stardust will rub off and make the Brexit disaster more bearable. But in an age of global conflict and poverty, when thinking people are waking up to the greatest catastrophe facing human civilisation ever (read The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells), £3.2 billion just to build a resort? Plus the overrun costs, the exorbitant entry fees, and the disgracefully poor services that will follow.

Why? Why? Why? For the benefit of yet another corporation that only cares about profit, profit, profit. It is sickening and heartless. A sign of the times.



Published by

Philip Lee

Writer and musician who tries to join up the dots.

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