So, what is spectacle?

A spectacle is a visually striking performance or display, or an event or scene regarded in terms of its visual impact.

A spectacle can also be emotional - an event or scene that evokes an emotional response in the audience.

Media Spectacle and Techno-spectacles continually shape our popular entertainments and popular culture. Much of this Kellner's article refers to Society of the Spectacle, a book written by French theorist, Guy Debord.

Society of the Spectacle is a concept coined by Debord, an refers to “a media and consumer society organized about the production and consumption of images, commodities and staged events” (Kellner).

Passive vs. Active Spectacle Consumption

Passive Viewers

For Debord, spectacle is a tool of pacification… (it) stupifies and distracts

Spectators consume while separated from actively producing our own life.

Active Viewers

For Kellner, spectacle includes the participatory culture arising with social media and multichannel media platforms. Spectators (consumers) can actively produce and participate in a spectacle-driven society.

Life itself becomes a movie…or television...or play...

Spectacle reflects our perceptions of life itself. In media culture, we can become performers of our lives, following the scripts of media culture. Or, we can choose or create our own scripts. Do you consider yourself a passive or an active viewer of entertainment, performance, and spectacle?

The Truman Show is a film that explores some of the questions and conflicts that arise from living in a society so focused on spectacle. 

This film was made before the rise of social media, but echoes many of the conversations and conflicts we have today about the entertainmentization of individuals via Reality TV and Social Media.

"Entertainmentization” refers to when experiences of life are shaped and mediated by the spectacles in media culture.

Visual and Aural spectacles are a little bit easier to recognize.

These spectacles are usually sensory and often technological.

Recognizing Emotional Spectacles can be a bit tricker...

Kellner's Three Types of Emotional Spectacle

Embodying Values

Media Spectacles embody contemporary society's basic values.

Dramatizing Conflict

Media Spectacles dramatize life's controversies and struggles, as well as modes of conflict resolution.

Initiate Audiences into a Way of Life

Media Spectacles initiate and introduce audiences to lives that are different than their own through live performance and electronic reproduction of live performance.

Deconstructing Media Spectacles: Some Examples from Popular Entertainment

Think about how recent films like Avengers: Endgame, or television shows like Game of Thrones (no matter how you feel about the series finale), illustrate these ideas about emotional spectacle.

Some thoughts for reflection:

How do these examples EMBODY societal values about heroism and war?

How do these examples DRAMATIZE life's struggles and modes of conflict resolution?

How do these examples INITIATE the audience into a way of life?

In these examples, societal values and struggles are marked, framed, and heightened through the conventions of the Fantasy and Sci-Fi Genres on both film and television.

Other thoughts:

How might a sitcom about everyday life embody values and dramatize struggles and conflict resolution differently?

What values are embodied in Sports? How do Cultural Rituals initate an audience into a way of life?

Keep thinking about these ideas as we continue watching entertainment throughout the course.

Kellner's Three Entertainment Factors, or "E-Factors" - another kind of media spectacle:

PEOPLE as spectacle

Celebrities, stars, social media influencers - people who are recognizable or have "star-power." Celebrities can be considered products in and of the industry - is an audience more likely to see a movie starring a celebrity, or an unknown performer? Think about celebrities likeness being put onto merchandise or replicated in costume?

PRODUCT as spectacle

Recognizable brands, franchises, goods, or other items - often placed in the entertainment through corporate partnerships for commercial gain ("product placement"). 

Check out this great list of examples of Product Placement and some background on why it exists

PLACES as spectacle

Entertainment destinations or highly recognizable locales, like the New York City Skyline or The Golden Gate Bridge of the Eiffel Tower. Also, think about popular sports venues like Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field. Places can also be branded products, like restaurant franchises or amusement parks, like Disneyland.


Anything that permeates popular culture, is instantly recognizable, or is a "household name" is probably an E-Factor.

Think about the last piece of entertainment you watched. What Entertainment Factors did you see?