MacCannell’s ideas immediately sound attractive and agreeable, but I don’t know how much of that is because I feel his ideas are original and intriguing vs. how my misanthropic inner demon enjoys hearing the word “ritual” used to describe contemporary human behavior. All the talk of modern desires for authenticity being tied to primitive sacredness is quite compelling. It seems logical to assume that primitive cultures viewed any action or ritual as authentic, considering they helped contribute to their survival—thus, considering that the role of the individual in providing for his own survival has diminished in modern times, it seems natural that humans would begin to question the authenticity and meaning of actions and rituals in their daily lives. Big ‘ol governments do the job for us nowadays. Why live when someone can do it for you?
Institutionalized concerns for authenticity and purpose manifest themselves in the tourism industry… Seems right, I guess. And the extended metaphor of the relationship between the stage, the audience, and the outsiders is interesting, but I wonder if it begins to serve itself when MacCannell starts talking about anthropologists and invaders. Yes, the logic of this thesis works out fine—but I’m just not sure that it’s all truth, that it all exists. I am very skeptical of classifying human sociological behavior by trying to determine mental perceptions and desires solely through the use of good metaphors. I can pull metaphors out of my ass like a magician can…pull rabbits out of hats? Wrong metaphor.
Intimacy and closeness—what MacCannell argues are fundamental tenets of social society, reflect on the desire to find the “authentic” aspects of everyday life. Those “back regions” that MacCannell mentions are the objective of tourists searching for this authenticity. Whether or not that authenticity is accidentally stumbled upon or synthetically propped up for discovery, it’s what we generally strive to find. I like to associate MacCannell’s talk of “back regions” with a more accessible notion—the “luster of the unknown.” We crave for that risk of something unexplained, something alien, encountering us, while we paradoxically fear such an encounter.
The notions of authenticity coming from a “real” or “honest” depiction of life reminds me of Goethe in his Italian Journey
. I feel like tourists strive to experience what Goethe did—earnest, sincere interactions with “real” life as exhibited by natives. And yet, Goethe’s journey was very much like that of a modern-day tourist, yearning to understand and see rustic life “as it really is [was]” (whatever). One of the bigger differences between Goethe and the modern day tourist, however, is that Goethe is not really being given any form of binding expectation as to a culture, a people, or a place. He makes the logical connections then and there, without the outside influence of a tour guide or a Wikipedia article.
“…important commercial establishments of the industrial West ‘went hippie,’ a decade before hippies went hippie. Approached from this standpoint, the hippie movement is not, technically, a movement, but a basic expression of the present stage of evolution of our industrial society.”
Woah! Huge implications to what this guy is implying here. I’d like to hear more about this
, about entire social actions that are actually just statistically-predictable anthropological behavior.
I believe that touristy activities essentially end up marring the individual—they give an illusory experience that is a complete lie. The “false back” is dangerous because it pretends to be real, thereby giving incorrect impressions as to whatever it is they are trying to portray. Similarly, but les dangerous, is the “false front,” which makes no pretensions as to what is real; they knowingly do it for show. We all know those, because we love those restaurants. When it is commonly accepted that a performance or display is false, there is no anxiety--yet when there is a presupposed reality being thrown in our face that is actually a farce, then danger arises, because there arises the potential for manipulation and deception of the masses.
It's the difference between a real haunted house, a house that's dressed up to look haunted for show, and a house that's dressed up to look haunted to be passed off as real. Which witch is which?