A spectacle is a visual striking performance such as a display at the circus. In our ever growing mediated world, a spectacle becomes something that dominates an ‘ever mushrooming tabloid and infotainment culture’.
Megaspectacles come from this and are something that takes over regular news programming and culture by being discussed regularly on talk shows, on the radio, on TV and the internet and everyday in conversation where people become obsessed over dramatised issues and conflicts surrounding some event or another.
An example of this is the OJ Simpson trial. This became a megaspectacle and featured many different types of spectacle that I shall explain below. While the list below is related to the case specifically they still explain the premise of each spectacle.
The Murder Spectacle:
- ranging from the crime genre to melodrama and tabloid exposé of the lifestyle of the rich, to the courtroom trial and social drama regarding issues of spousal violence.
- the story saw a narrative of the rise and fall of an American hero with every melodramatic complication necessary to hook a nation addicted to pulp entertainment.
The TV Spectacle:
- the pre-trial and trial were televised live daily on major TV and news networks.
- it involved its audience in live drama with surprise, tension, excitement and suspense.
- Ratings soared.
The Internet Spectacle:
- there were 24/7 chatlines and discussion, news bulletins and summaries, and websites compiling transcripts, articles and trivia.
- there was endless debate in chat rooms as to Simpson’s innocence/guilt.
The Race Spectacle:
- there was a wide chasm between races made highly visible throughout the proceedings of the trial.
- Simpson was black while the victims were white and on top of that, one of the key police officers was said to be a ‘rabid racist’.
The Multicultural Spectacle:
- there was a wide range of witnesses and people who testified who were part of the trial and part of the unending array of fascinating characters from diverse races, ethnicities and walks of life.
The Gender Spectacle:
- there were exposés of wife battering, generating discussions on spousal abuse and the abuse of women.
The Class Spectacle:
- Simpson had plenty of money to pay for the best lawyers, experts and ultimately his acquittal.
- truth can be bartered and justice bought.
- the trial put on display the privileges of wealth and the possibilities of class mobility throughout US society as Simpson had rose from the ghetto slums of his childhood.
The Commodity Spectacle:
- attention in the case was brought to a Bentley, a mysterious knife, expensive gloves and expensive shoes which were used as evidence.
- attention was brought to Simpson’s luxurious lifestyle.
The Celebrity Spectacle:
- media was focused on every detail of Simpson’s life and the coverage of the trial created new celebrities.
- the media can sometimes be to blame for the downfall of personalities
The Commercial Media Spectacle:
- both broadcast and print media fought for ratings trying to beat their competitors to the news.
- some individuals sold their stories to the press and some got lucrative book deals.
The Media-mediated Spectacle:
- the media became part of the story.
The Legal Media Spectacle:
- massive audiences followed courtroom drama live on major cable channels.
These notes are from my year two semester one notes.
The image is from: https://philosophersforchange.org/2012/03/27/insurrection-as-media-spectacle/