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Libby Tuft

Explain why the idea of postmodern media might be


considered controversial

Postmodern media as a product may be considered controversial in


multiple ways such as being unconventional when it comes to stylistic
choices or genre, challenging what we do and dont know and understand
or rejecting widespread cultural beliefs in history, science and politics as
postmodern theorist Lyotard suggests. Controversy in areas of media such
as in film or music can be dependent on the audience as interpretation
plays a huge role in terms of how media is perceived as what one
audience member could see as artful, another could interpret it as
controversial. However, a media text can be both artful and controversial
and it will still gain some sort of invested audience.

A modernist approach to media texts such as film and music could be


considered mainstream in the sense that they adhere to the typical
conventions and structures that would be expected from a product within
its genre. Conventionally, music and films should be recognisable through
the standard conventions within their genre that are widely acknowledged
by an average, modern audience. Jameson criticises postmodernism for
not following the conventions of modern media products as he believes
that realism and culture should be kept distinct and separate, serving as a
form of entertainment.

The film Deadpool (directed by Tim Miller, 2016) could be classed as


controversial as It uses gratuitous sex and violence scenes that are
masked by humour so that the audience find it funny rather than
shocking. For example, Deadpool gains the attention of his enemy,
Francis, by spelling out the antagonists name in the brutally maimed
bodies of his soldiers, a method that subverts all of the typical
conventions of superhero movies. Deadpool is aware of this throughout
the film and even breaks the fourth wall (which is postmodern in itself)
and tells the audience to look away when he tortures and murders the
agent who sent him to Francis. Whilst films should be distinct and
separate from reality in theory, Deadpool challenges this by using
postmodern elements such as breaking the fourth wall, intertextual
references and self-reflexivity to separate itself from the conventional film
form of remaining separate from reality as Jameson suggests as we as
humans shouldnt find gratuitous violence and sex appealing, let alone
humorous.

Similarly in The Neon Demon, 2016 (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn),


we are presented with a hyperreal world that is described as a glittering,
ethereal bloodbath. It is representative of the truth of the cut-throat
modelling and fashion industry. This version of the world normalises acts
such as cannibalism and necrophilia as a form of control and progression
in a conventionally glamourous industry. Because of the lack of connection
between the audience and the characters through the limited information
the audience receive in the film as to the truth of the crimes and lack of
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justice for the brutal murder of the 16-year-old model, Jesse, the audience
become more desensitised when it comes to the death and suffering of
the characters. This is controversial in itself as newer generations of
audiences are less sensitive to gore, sex and violence which
conventionally are not crowd pleasing scenes. Near the end of the film,
Sarah (played by Abbey Lee Kershaw) confesses to eating Elle fannings
character, Jesse. Because of the extent of the crimes that are committed
in the film, the confession doesnt appear to phase the other characters as
they dont seem to believe it. The audience however have been exposed
to the truth of the murder and necrophilia surrounding the models,
creating a contrast to the conventions that typically lie within film. For
example, the gore and violence usually remains subject to the film and
becomes the main theme within a movie such as those in the action,
crime or horror/thriller genre and the characters are usually aware of the
extent of the crimes that have been committed. The audience remain as
detectives and have to figure out how extensive the gory acts are in the
film as they are separated from the violence. However, due to postmodern
films such as The Neon Demon and Deadpool, audiences have become
subjected to seeing violence and gore on a large scale through franchises
such as Saw, 2001 (directed by James Wan). The twisted representation
of the modelling industry in The Neon Demon aims to shock the audience
through the use of extreme violence and eroticised murder, leaving the
audience with unanswered questions, creating controversy as the film
serves as a challenge for a mainstream audience through its questionable
content.

In terms of postmodernism in the music industry, Marilyn Manson (Brian


Hugh Warner) conforms to the conventions of postmodernism as he
blends genres together with his own unique take on musical expectations,
subverting them and making them his own. By doing this, he is adhering
to Kramers theory of blending genres together. There is also a sense of
bricolage created here as Marilyn Manson as a simulacrum embraces
contradictions through the merging of the two pop culture icons, Marilyn
Monroe (a beloved sex icon and Hollywood star from the 50s/60s) and
Charles Manson (an infamous criminal and known murderer). The creation
of Marilyn Manson as a character or simulacrum is a contradiction is itself,
which Kramer also suggests is typical of a postmodern artist.

Manson stands as a living example of controversy through his image


alone and through what he talks about in his music, let alone through his
visual appearance. He subverts images that are religious and highly
recognisable such as that in his music video for Disposable Teens where
he dresses as a priest and proceeds to show a rotten version of what could
be interpreted as the garden of Eden. Through using highly contrasting
images and themes in his work, he becomes controversial by challenging
what we do and dont know and exposing us to some of the harsher truths
that we do not recognise in our own lives instead of acting as a form of
escape for an audience. Manson himself claims that this is a goal of his as
he says: I like to take peoples beliefs, common moras, and turn them
Libby Tuft

around, flip them upside down so that people think and dont take them
for granted. This challenges audiences who consume his work, meaning
that the audience cannot remain passive as consumers as they are
challenged by the messages and images that Manson portrays. This is
reflected in his work through the extremism in his content, simulacrum
and performance, which challenges audiences as to their complete
understanding of his work as the controversy they are presented with is
something that challenges a typical, mainstream audiences moral
compass. Manson also challenges audiences through his referencing to
real political, social and historical events such as the assassination of John
F. Kennedy in his music video for Coma White and through the way that
he presents his warped version of morality and society during his vulgar
performances and questionable videos.

The future of postmodernism concerning film and music are filled with
possibility due to the technologies that are available and the ways in
which audiences are changing and adapting to postmodernist ideas such
as the use of bricolage, breaking the fourth wall and embracing
contradictions. As audiences are becoming more accustomed to the use of
gratuitous violence and sex, it could be said that controversy is becoming
more of a mainstream idea as audiences are now more desensitised to
suffering. This is controversial in in itself as human nature might say that
as humans, we should find death, mutilation and suffering quite disturbing
and upsetting. However, we have adapted to it and made it tolerable
through the integration of humour, excitement and intrigue into macabre
fascinations. In terms of film, postmodern elements may be required to
further the potential in film such as the use of CGI for actors who are
deceased to continue to continue to create modern films and franchises
such as Carrie Fisher as Leia in Star Wars and Leonard Nimoy (Spok) and
Anton Yelchin (Chekov) Star Trek. Some audience members may find this
idea controversial as the actors are dead and therefore shouldnt be
manipulated through modern technology as though they were still alive as
it could be deemed disrespectful as they are used in movies that will profit
from their deaths as audiences want to see the deceased actors through
CGI out of intrigue. In terms of postmodernism in music, controversy can
allow for artists to challenge conventions more openly and use
contradiction and the merging of genres to further their simulacrum and
gain more of an active audience, perhaps creating a new generation of
hyper-spectators.

In conclusion, controversy is very present in postmodern media such as in


music and film as audiences have become more desensitised to themes
and ideas that might be considered challenging to older audiences who
have not been subjected to themes and ideas of a more violent, sexual or
even sacrilegious nature. In essence, what is considered controversial
depends on the audience member as a niche audience member of a
hyper-spectator may find that they understand or connect with a text
more than a mainstream audience member. Therefore, it could be said
that controversy in postmodern media is down to how the audience
Libby Tuft

interprets the text, either finding connections with it or rejecting it


completely.