What are some pop culture references on seeing and being seen?
October 2, 2008 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Looking for pop culture examples of our obsession with seeing and being seen.

This can include films, tv/news shows, social experiments, digital platforms/projects, that deal with themes of:

* Witnessing
* Spectatorship
* Surveillance
* Voyeurism
* Performance as reality / reality as performance
* Content creation by an individual that places him as both the subject viewed and producer

posted by MattS to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hitchcock's Rear Window and the more recent knockoff, Disturbia.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:14 PM on October 2, 2008

Body Double
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 2:16 PM on October 2, 2008

Seriously here...isn't Lindsay Lohan's and Paris Hilton's entire careers and solvency based on this phenomenon? Plus reality TV? Our entire culture is an example of it. Or do you want projects that were specifically undertaken as 'art'?
posted by spicynuts at 2:19 PM on October 2, 2008


David Blaine?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:22 PM on October 2, 2008

I think any of the Improv Anywhere missions would be great. If you click on one of the "Mission Highlights" on the left hand of their webpage, you can get to some of the great videos of their capers. Just off the top of my head, the Best Buy, Home Depot and Grand Central Station missions had some great moments that would meet your criteria.
posted by AngerBoy at 2:38 PM on October 2, 2008

The earliest precursor to the 'reality TV' phenomenon that I know of is Michael Apted's "Up" series of films where he followed a group of children every few years until adulthood.
posted by mattholomew at 2:42 PM on October 2, 2008

How to not be seen.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:46 PM on October 2, 2008

U2's Zoo TV tour of the early '90s.

Seconding the brilliant "Up" series.
posted by scody at 2:57 PM on October 2, 2008

posted by philip-random at 3:10 PM on October 2, 2008


Can anyone throw a party these days w/o someone snapping a hundred digital photos and posting them on the internets?
posted by citron at 3:18 PM on October 2, 2008

posted by veronicacorningstone at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2008

The MC5 - Looking at You.
posted by lottie at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2008

The Truman Show

The Orwellian telescreen and their real-world analogs

The Baxter/Clarke novel The Light of Other Days
posted by Rhaomi at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2008

Denys Arcand's "Stardom" - here's an article on it that also mentions other films of its ilk.
posted by ilana at 3:39 PM on October 2, 2008

Antonioni's Blow Up meets nearly all of your criteria.

Kieslowski's Camera Buff also comes to mind.

In a different way, Wilder's Sunset Boulevard and Altman's The Player cover this ground as well.
posted by Beardman at 4:08 PM on October 2, 2008

Oops--bad link there for The Player.
posted by Beardman at 4:09 PM on October 2, 2008

Tangential, but for completeness add "Seen and Not Seen", one of my favorites from Remain in Light.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2008

Some of the reality TV shows are even more about seeing and being seen. Shows where there is no direct financial goal at the end (last person standing gets $100) would create the scenario where someone is involved only to be seen. The Real World was (one of) the first, and now there are those "Real Housewives of (Major City)," "My Super-Sweet 16," etc. I hear the British version of Super Sweet 16 has a voice-over host who actually mocks the pretentious children. Those folks aren't on TV as historic documentation of our current day-and-age, but to be seen by everyone. The Surreal Life series might be of the bent you want.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:56 PM on October 2, 2008

Every breath you take.
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:49 PM on October 2, 2008

Uhhhh the entirety of cinema?!?!
Okay, okay, direct references to scopophilia?

the song Private Eyes
the films Strange Days, The Conversation (aural surveillance mostly, but oh the cinematography!), Rashomon, Caché, Peeping Tom... many many more...
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:12 PM on October 2, 2008

I'm reticent to respond to a wide-net homework-style question (for instance, what exactly is "our obsession?" "Performance as reality?"), but here's a few:

Peeping Tom
The Conversation
The Parallax View
Sex, Lies and Videotape
American Movie

Tracy and the Plastics
Blue Man Group

Ambrosia: Not just the entirety of cinema, but of TV, (digital) art, and sociology too!
posted by rhizome at 6:19 PM on October 2, 2008

Thomas de Zengotita's book Mediated isn't a pop culture example itself, but it does deal with performance as reality / reality as performance. I don't have the book on hand, but I'm pretty sure that it has a few examples that would be relevant to your question.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 9:27 PM on October 2, 2008

All of Glam Rock was about the construction of performative identity; for a specific example look to Roxy Music's Street Life.

There's also a good deal of Barbara Kruger work on the subject.

Care to narrow your terms?
posted by klangklangston at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2008

Candid Camera
posted by k7lim at 1:08 AM on October 11, 2008

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