When you’re teaching Baudrillard to freshmen, and you decide to take them outside and explain the precession of simulacra at the side of a pond dug by earthmovers decades ago with a fountain bubbling loudly from the middle of it while your class is gathered on a set of stones arranged in colosseum seating, and you ask them if they can think of any examples of representations that have denatured reality until they exist outside the reality they once reflected. “You mean, like a cliché?” one asks. “Example,” you say. “Being a cat on Halloween,” one says. “You mean if you’re a girl?” you ask. “Unless you’re a girl named Kat,” she says, looking over at the girl in your class named Kat, who apparently just dressed up as a cat for Halloween. And when one student starts texting and you ask what he just texted, and he says, “lol,” and you ask if that is his example of a simulacrum. “Maybe,” he replies, and you ask, “What if someone does something just for the lulz?” “You mean like if I’m playing an online RPG and go in and just kill someone?” “Exactly,” you say. “You were obviously just doing that for the lulz.” “Don’t say lulz, Professor,” another student says, then you ask if you all are in a simulacrum right now, a denatured symbol of the real, but before anyone can answer, another student or maybe two jump up from the stone they were sharing and speechlessly point under it. And you get down on hands and knees, thinking that you haven’t yet even explained how you brought them out into a simulacrum of nature to illustrate Baudrillard’s precession, and find yourself looking into the shiny eyes of a rat. “Class dismissed,” you say, and two students stay, wanting to talk to you about Black Mirror, but all you want to do is keep looking at the rat, this Barthesian punctum of the simulated narrative you’d been cultivating for these eighteen-year-olds, this small, frightened, feral little packet of the real, silently judging you.

What are the Sneaky Feels?

AuthorJohn Proctor