I mean I’ve read Baudrillard and everything but I’m still stunned by the level of hyperreality involved in Stars Win Stripes. Even more than most reality shows, it’s obsessed with insisting on its own reality; but of course it isn’t real in the slightest. Aside from the fact that, unlike actual soldiers, the celebrities are never in danger (nor do they face the possibility of having to kill someone), the “missions” they take part in aren’t even as real as military training, with cardboard targets rather than other soldiers (who might shoot back) playing the part of the opposing force. Even the show’s visual attempt to convey realness is ersatz, adopting high-tech infographics of a Call of Duty game; that is, the show fakes the style used by computer games to fake military reality. Most fascinating, though, is what all this “realness” is in service of: the celebrities all end by telling us that because of the authenticity of their experience they have gained a new appreciation of what real soldiers go to and so are now truly able to declare that their experience doesn’t match up to the experience of real military heroes. The show takes something flagrantly unreal and insists strenuously on its realness in order to be able to claim that, no, it isn’t real after all.