All Things are Simulacrums

02 Apr 2001
April 2, 2001

This morning started out as most weekday mornings do: a rush to get us and the kids ready for work and school and a mad dash to the car, making sure everything and everyone is in place. As we pulled out of the driveway, I said “ding dong”. “What does that mean?” my four year old asked. “Ding dong,” I repeated.

My daughter likes to make up games. She especially enjoys making the rules (the province of four year olds). Often, on the way home from school and work she’ll decide to play a guessing game. You know, “it’s green and has spots on it, what is it?” That sort of thing. “If you can’t think of the answer say ding dong, she’ll pronounce. “If you want some extra time, say dong, dong, dong, three times.”

So, when I, all-of-a-sudden, blurted out those words (I can’t be held totally responsible for things like this at such an early hour!), she was understandably confused. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked again. “That’s a simulacrum, sweetheart,” I said, again not knowing how that came out of my mouth.

horoscopeBut the door was open and she wanted to know more: “A sim…what?” “A simulacrum is a sign [where will this end, I thought]. Ummm, let’s see…a photograph of a person isn’t THE person, but a representation of that person,” I started. I struggled to find an example a little bit more on her level. “The drawings I make for you of ponies and unicorns aren’t really the animals but pictures of the animals. That’s a simulacrum.” By this time we were on the subway and well on our way downtown. She continued to repeat the word and, by the time we took the elevator up to the surface, she pretty well had it and its definition down.

As we got to the foot of the school stairway she provided me with one more surprise: “Daddy, all things are simulacrums,” she announced. I laughed a huge nervous laugh. “You are so right, my dear. They are!”

Roland Barthes would have been proud. Her postmodernist daddy was amazed but thinks he’ll save the plural for simulacrum for another day. Art criticism may be in her future—her near future!

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074