Simulacra in the Film Big Fish

by: Andreas J. Pratama

It is of course never easy to notice an aesthetic value ingrained within a movie. Its reading involves knowledge in philosophy of art, aesthetic sensitivities and last but most difficult is the training to “read”. Having mentioned the “reading” part of this, there is no right and wrong, and in the field of social science and philosophy the inclusiveness of multiple viewpoints is always welcomed.

In Big Fish, the protagonist, Edward Bloom is a person whose aim in life is to be remembered, this proposition is clear enough throughout the entire movie – so much so that it proposes to use the capability of extravagant storytelling so that everyone around him remembers him in ways he never was. This idea of remembering someone not exactly as he had lived his life brought us to the idea of Simulacra. Baudrillard in his idea of Hyperreality notes that there are two possible branching towards simulation and simulacra, where simulacra is a process in which an abstract thing brought into manifestation (such as the phenomenon of Disneyland) and also the other way around when something tangible is being remembered for something else that reference itself to its origin.

This return to the different origin is similar to how Edward Bloom has lived his life throughout the film. His extravagant tales is worth suspicion by every character in the film. The hyperreal quality of the tales he’s told repeatedly is worth detecting as a sign of construction of truth through repetition, in today’s form this would probably be understood in the expression of when “Lies are told many times it will soon become a truth”.

At the end of the day, at the very core of Big Fish is a person whose attempt in leaving something behind in life is so strong that he decided to tell tales so fantastic over and over again so he is remembered. The movie pleads to our sense of pity that through the figure of his surrounding characters submits to his whim. They in turn became the connector further disseminating the tales spun by the father figure extending his heritages of not being forgotten; fighting the erasure of memory by time.