You are on page 1of 77

Postmodernism

- theory, theorists and texts


Postmodernism is a way of thinking about:

Culture art, design, music, film, architecture

History and politics

Commercialism and meaning in society.
Postmodern artists use this way of thinking
to make :

Culture art, music, film, architecture
Postmodernism contains several branches of ideas.

Some thinkers prefer one branch of postmodernism.

Others think of it as the whole tree.
In your exam, you could be asked about a particular
branch or to write about the whole tree.
Meshes of the Afternoon Maya Deren, 1943
Style
over
Substance

Dominic Strinati
What are they really selling?
Self-reflexivity
Modernism works well with cars
Economy Speed Comfort SAFETY

1930s
2000s
Modernism believes newest is best
Postmodern design influence
Old and new can co-exist
Style and substance?
Mixing it up

Bricolage (Baudrillard)

Intertextuality

Break away from genre

Break away from time periods

Nothing is real

Advertising destroys our
sense of reality

Simulacra (Baudrillard)
No right answer

No more grand narratives (Lyotard)
also called metanarrative

Newest is not best

History does not have the answer
Go kitsch!

Low culture as good as
high culture

Mix up the time zones


Prezi version
Postmodern
Pointless symbols and
intertextuality
Must comment on >
Be ironic about >
Try to escape from >
Creating a sham media
world that gullible
people might believe to
be real (eg Hello, Big
Brother etc)

Big Brother, Britains
Got Talent, X Factor

Pleasantville
Cheers bars, real
Central Perk in NY.

modern
Unthinking acceptance
that the latest is best
Structuralist codes and
theories.
Blindly following trends
Belief in ways
forward, theories and
solutions to the big
problems of the world


Criticism




Charlie Brookers
Newswipe

Baudrillard, Jameson
Charlie Brookers 15
Million Merits

1. Proairetic code (the voice of empirics): The code of actions. Any
action initiated must be completed. The cumulative actions
constitute the plot events of the text.
2. Hermeneutic code (the voice of truth): The code of enigmas or
puzzles.
3. Connotative [or Semic] code (the voice of the person): The
accumulation of connotations.
4. Cultural or referential code (the voice of science [or
knowledge]): Intertextuality and our cultural experience.
5. Symbolic code (voice of the symbol): Binary oppositions or
themes and iconography
Roland Barthes
The five codes
Barthes proposed a system of five codes by which we interpret all text and particularly
media texts. Some see this as a structure.
In his essay Death of the Author Barthes proposes that there is
no such thing as original work any more: all stories have been
written and modern writing is merely the re-arrangement of
intertextuality.

Authors write original work and if nothing can be original, the
author is dead.

Barthes concludes that all writers should now be called scriptors
as they are simply re-arranging previous ideas.
Roland Barthes
Death of the Author
John FISKE
Fiske develops Barthes semic code:
American Professor of Communication Arts, 2000s
A representation of a car chase only makes sense
in relation to all the others we have seen - after all,
we are unlikely to have experienced one in reality,
and if we did, we would, according to this model,
make sense of it by turning it into another text,
which we would also understand intertextually, in
terms of what we have seen so often on our
screens. There is then a cultural knowledge of the
concept 'car chase' that any one text is a
prospectus for, and that is used by the
viewer to decode it, and by the producer
to encode it. (Fiske 1987, 115)
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Roland BARTHES
French semiotic theorist
A scene from the
Hollywood film The
Day After Tomorrow
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Roland BARTHES
French semiotic theorist
A real image of
people fleeing the
dust cloud in the
aftermath of 9/11
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Jacques DERRIDA
Jacques Derrida proposed that
French philosopher
'a text cannot belong to no genre, it cannot
be without... a genre. Every text
participates in one or several genres,
there is no genreless text'
(Derrida 1981, 61).
Derrida is a structuralist and therefore this
principle goes against postmodernist
thinking.
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Jacques DERRIDA
French philosopher
Derridas point helps to explain
why commentators on
September 11th could only
understand what they were
seeing as like a movie. This is
perhaps what Fiske means by
saying we make sense of it by
turning it into another text.
Compare this to what Fiske says about never
having experienced a car chase. If we
encounter a real-life genre experience the
decoding system in our brains becomes
confused.
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Levi-Strauss developed the concept of bricolage
Levi-Strauss saw any text as constructed out of
socially recognisable debris from other texts.

He saw that writers construct texts from other texts
by a process of:
Addition
Deletion
Substitution
Transposition
Claude LEVI-STRAUSS
French structuralist, 1970s
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Genette developed the term transtextuality and
developed five sub-groups, but only 4 apply to film:
Gerard GENETTE
French structuralist, 1990s
intertextuality quotation, plagiarism, allusion
architextuality designation of the text as part of a genre
by the writer or by the audience
metatextuality explicit or implicit critical
commentary of one text on another text
hypotextuality the relation between a text and a
preceeding hypotext - a text or genre on which
it is based but which it transforms, modifies,
elaborates or extends (including parody,
spoof, sequel, translation)
Which of our viewed films give examples
of each type?
Structuralist Theories of Genre
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Although this is a structuralist application of theory, postmodernsim uses all aspects
of transtextuality.
Postmodernist Theory
Postmodernist theory grows out of and
extends modernist and structuralist thinking.

Postmodernists might reject Derridas
proposition that no text can be without a
genre.

Postmodernists take bricolage (Levi-Strauss)
and the various intertextualities identified by
Genette, extending their work into pure
intertextuality that breaches the bounds of
genre.
I have a belief system
and I can name it.
I take life as it comes and
just get on with it.
Postmodernist Theory
Lyotard rejected what he called the grand narratives or universal meta-narratives.

Principally, the grand narratives refer to the great theories of history, science, religion,
politics. For example, Lyotard rejects the ideas that everything is knowable by science or
that as history moves forward in time, humanity makes progress. He would reject universal
political solutions such as communism or capitalism. He also rejects the idea of absolute
freedom.

In studying media texts it is possible also to apply this thinking to a rejection of the Western
moralistic narratives of Hollywood film where good triumphs over evil, or where violence and
explotation are suppressed for the sake of public decency.

Lyotard favours micro-narratives that can go in any direction, that reflect diversity, that are
unpredictable.
Lyotard
This Life - BBC 1996 by Amy Jenkins
Egg follows Lyotards theory, without realising it.
Talcott Parsons was a sociologist in the 1950s who made
observations of society leading to the structural functionalist view.
This view suggests that society (like literature and film) has
necessary structures that keep it together. Like Propps spheres of
action, structural functionalism observes roles in society, particularly
gender roles in the nuclear family. Structural functionalists believed
that if roles were not fulfilled or changed then the structures would
adapt, entrenching new roles and society would progress into the
future based on a new structure.

Postmodernists reject structures and defined roles.
Postmodernists reject the old certainties of morality and religion.
Talcott Parsons
Structural Functionalism
Postmodernist Theory Historical or Cultural?
The term postmodernism was coined in 1938 by an
English historian, Arnold Toynbee, after a term used by a
Spanish historian Federico de Onis. Toynbee used it to
mean the declining influence of Christianity and the
Western nations post 1875.

This is not how it tends to be used in current Media
Studies. Jencks definition is nearer the mark:

Post-Modernism is fundamentally the eclectic mixture of
any tradition with that of its immediate past: it is both the
continuation of Modernism and its transcendence (Charles
Jencks, What is Post-Modernism?, 1986).
It is possible to argue that there is a continuum of postmodernists
mild postmodernism

Retains some structures
but rejects others:

Spoof and parody does
this eg. Armstrong and
Millers Street-slang WW2
fighter pilots or Chris
Morriss The Day Today.

Clever intertextuality eg
Disneys Enchanted.

Still accessible to a
mainstream audience


pure postmodernism

Rejects as much structure as
possible

Ground-breaking or just plain
weirdlayer upon layer of
intertextuality and symbolism,
many unresolved micro-
narratives.

Eg David Lynchs Inland
Empire

Inaccessible to mainstream
audience but loved by niche
audience who get it.


S
t
r
u
c
t
u
r
a
l
i
s
m

E
a
s
i
l
y

a
c
c
e
s
s
i
b
l
e

t
o


m
a
i
n
s
t
r
e
a
m

a
u
d
i
e
n
c
e

Postmodernist Theory
Some theorists see postmodernism beginning after the
Second World War, when the major modern political movements of
Nazism and Communism were called into question by Western
thinkers.

Others date the movement to the 1960s, notably to Marshall
McLuhans coining of the phrase:
The medium is the message, (1964). By this he means that the
manner in which the message is mediated becomes more important
than the meaning of the message itself. In an era disillusioned by the
failure of great political hopes, by the holocaust and by the loss of
influence of religion in Western society, mediation seemed set to fill the
vacuum. Out of this grew the idea that theories were possible for how
mediation works - how it is built (representations), how it influences
audiences (hypodermic theory, uses and gratifications, male gaze),
how it references itself (intertextuality). Previously, serious thought was
reserved for the messages (religion, politics, philosophy) behind the
mediation not the mediation itself.
Marshall McLuhan
What can you see?
Can you see a tree?
Postmodernist Theory
Baudrillard developed the ideas of McLuhan to the point where it is
possible to deny that the message underneath the medium has any
substance at all. Therefore, the audience comes to perceive through
the media a world that appears real but is not.

In some ways this reflects what Rene Magritte painted in 1928 in his
work called The treachery of Images.
Baudrillard
Magritte captions an arrangement
of paint on canvas with the
denotative words, Ceci nest pas
une pipe. (This is not a pipe).

Our eyes tell us it is a pipe because
we are used to decoding images,
colour and perspective; but it is not
a pipe for it cannot be smoked.
Goffs
What does this mean to you?
What is it?
Goffs
What does this mean to you?
What is it?
Semiotics is the study of signs.

It looks at the second question below
and asks how the sign works on our
minds.

It also looks at the first question and
considers polysemy where the sign
Goffs might have a slightly different
meaning to every person in the
classroom.
Semiotics originated with
French linguistic theorist
Ferdinand de Saussure
Is there a better
way to see what life
was like in England
in 1824?
Lyotard promotes postmodernism:
he proposes that there are no theories that work
and therefore, like Egg in This Life (BBC, 1996)
we should live through intertextuality, pick and
mix bits from the grand narratives, enjoy micro-
narratives and go with the flow.
Baudrillard sees the danger
in postmodernism:
He proposes that micro-
narratives can be shallow and
we end up replacing the
grounded reality or moral
qualities of a sound grand
narrative with superficial beliefs
promoted by capitalist
companies simply out for our
money. He would criticise
people whose philosophy of life
is built
on why being a Gucci person is better than a Louis Vuitton.
260 for a belt?
Mine was 8 quid
and it still holds
me trousers up.
Gucci
Louis Vuitton
Theories dont work, that
much is clear. We can no
more solve crime than we
can stop the rain.
Postmodernist Theory
Baudrillard developed the idea of simulation and simulacra

simulation: the process in which representations of things come to replace the things being represented .
. . the representations become more important than the "real thing
4 orders of simulation:
1. signs thought of as reflecting reality: re-presenting "objective" truth;
2. signs mask reality: reinforces notion of reality;
3. signs mask the absence of reality; eg Disneyworld, Watergate,LA life:
jogging, psychotherapy, organic food
4. signs become

simulacra - they have no relation to reality; they simulate a simulation:
Spinal Tap, Cheers bars, new urbanism, starbucks, the Gulf War was a video game, 9/11
has become the coverage, not the event.
Baudrillard
Postmodernist Theory
simulation and simulacra
4 orders of simulation:
1. signs thought of as reflecting reality: re-presenting "objective" truth;
original unedited cinema pre 1903, the camera never lies Levis worn by workmen & cowboys


2. signs mask reality: reinforces notion of reality;
conventions replace reality, eg the past is black and white; all
1940s detectives talk like Humphrey Bogart; America always
wins; good triumphs over evil.
Levis thought of as tough because workmen and cowboys wear them.
1950s teenagers adopt them as a sign of rebellion against smart
clothes expected by adults.


3. signs mask the absence of reality; eg Disneyworld,
Watergate, LA life: jogging, psychotherapy, organic food,
distressed Diesel jeans mask the absence of experience by the wearer


4. signs become

simulacra - they have no relation to reality; they simulate a simulation:
Black Mirror, Cheers bars, new urbanism, Starbucks, the Gulf War was
a video game, 9/11 has become the coverage, not the event. Superdry.
Baudrillard
Postmodernist Theory
From the simulacrum, Baudrillard developed the idea of hyperreality

hyperreality:- a condition in which "reality" has been replaced by simulacra argues that
today we only experience prepared realities-- edited war footage, meaningless acts of
terrorism, the Jerry Springer Show, Black Mirror 15 Million Merits.
The very definition of the real has become: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent
reproduction. . . The real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always
already reproduced: that is the hyperreal. . . which is entirely in simulation.
Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible.


Baudrillard
Postmodernist Theory
Circular referentiality

Baudrillard admires the Mobius strip as an image of
hyperreality - it is never ending, it is a product of itself, it
looks like a circle but is not:
Baudrillard

Critics of Postmodernism eg , Brooker & Baudrillard might say:
See and understand the paint, not just the pipe
Focusing on the medium is superficial
Too much focus on the surface of the medium is dangerous and
means you miss the truth - or the lie underneath.
There is no point to communication if it does not have a message.
Postmodernists eg Lyotard & David Lynch might say:
It doesnt matter what the message is just look at the quality of the
medium.
There does not need to be a message, just look at the medium
Believe and enjoy the surface meaning (the micro narrative),
messages (grand narratives) dont work anyway.

Postmodernist Theory
Guy Debord was a French film maker who wrote a book entitled The
Society of the Spectacle (1967) in which he argued that society had
become more interested in watching than in doing or experiencing.

Debord traces the development of a modern society in which
authentic social life has been replaced with its representation: All
that was once directly lived has become a mere representation.

Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as
the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing.
This condition, according to Debord is the historical moment at
which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.

He was a strong influence on the Paris student demonstrations of
1968.
Guy Debord
forerunner of Baudrillard
The surveillance society CCTV, Big Brother, webcams, social
media.
Michel Foucault Panopticon media theory
Foucault reverses Debords idea and
writes of a society not where we watch
but are constantly being watched.
Some examples of postmodern design from the Exhibition at the V&A Museum in 2011.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-15007309

Anti Postmodernist texts:
The Truman Show
Superbrands, Alex Riley
15 Million Merits, Charlie Brooker, 2011
Postmodernist texts:
Inland Empire, David Lynch
Twin Peaks, David Lynch
Music videos by Art of Noise, David Bowie
Pleasantville, Gary Ross, 1998
Ulysses Gaze
The Piano
Nat Tate
Superdry adverts


Lighten up,
Jean, go with
the postmodern
flow, man.
I would disagree with you
David but thanks to
postmodern hyperreality I
believe you are not real:
you are only a photgraphic
signifier. So there!

Texts influenced by postmodernism:
Enchanted, Disney
This Life, BBC, 1996
Postmodernist Theory

Strinati separates Postmodernism into 5 distinct sections

1. There is no distinction between culture and society

2. An emphasis on style over substance

3. The breakdown of the distinction between high and low
culture

4. Confusions over time and space

5. The decline of meta-narratives
Dominic Strinati
postmodern popular culture
Postmodernist Theory
Pastiche combining together different styles and content from different
periods within the same text, creating unusual combinations of borrowed
styles from different eras.

This fragmentation and focus on surface images creates self-reflexivity the
need to reflect on the lack of coherent meaning, as well as an ironic humour.

Breakdowns of master narratives featuring the final triumph of good over evil
through science or human problem-solving, as well as a clear distinction
between reality and fiction.

The ways in communication technology creates mass reproduction of texts,
creating copies for which there is no original, what Baudrillard (1983)
described as a hyperreality based on simulation of reality. Much of
contemporary art plays with the idea of endless copies or parodying of texts
that only create a simulation of reality that focuses on the image or surface of
reality.

The domination of conspicuous consumerism in which everything is
commodified or commercialized.

The fragmentation of sensibility and the plurality or multiplicity of
perspectives evident in the often random juxtaposition of images in music
videos or contemporary art.
Michael Real
postmodern popular culture
Postmodernist Theory

Courtesy of Theo Miller.
Kramer says "the idea that postmodernism is less a surface style or historical period than an attitude.
Kramer goes on to say 16 "characteristics of postmodern music, by which I mean music that is understood in a
postmodern manner, or that calls forth postmodern listening strategies, or that provides postmodern listening
experiences, or that exhibits postmodern compositional practices."
According to Kramer (Kramer 2002, 1617), postmodern music":
1. is not simply a repudiation of modernism or its continuation, but has aspects of both a break and an extension
2. is, on some level and in some way, ironic
3. does not respect boundaries between sonorities and procedures of the past and of the present
4. challenges barriers between 'high' and 'low' styles
5. shows disdain for the often unquestioned value of structural unity
6. questions the mutual exclusivity of elitist and populist values
7. avoids totalizing forms (e.g., does not want entire pieces to be tonal or serial or cast in a prescribed formal
mold)
8. considers music not as autonomous but as relevant to cultural, social, and political contexts
9. includes quotations of or references to music of many traditions and cultures
10. considers technology not only as a way to preserve and transmit music but also as deeply implicated in the
production and essence of music
11. embraces contradictions
12. distrusts binary oppositions (see Theories of Narrative and Genre powerpoint)
13. includes fragmentations and discontinuities
14. encompasses pluralism and eclecticism
15. presents multiple meanings and multiple temporalities
16. locates meaning and even structure in listeners, more than in scores, performances, or composers

Jonathan Donald Kramer (December 7, 1942, Hartford, Connecticut - June 3, 2004, New York City), was a U.S.
composer and music theorist.
Jonathan Kramer
postmodern music theory
Postmodernist Theory
A definition of postmodernism -

Label given to Cultural forms since the 1960s that display the following qualities:

Self reflexivity: this involves the seemingly paradoxical combination of self-
consciousness and some sort of historical grounding

Irony: Post modernism uses irony as a primary mode of expression, but it also
abuses, installs, and subverts conventions and usually negotiates contradictions
through irony

Boundaries: Post modernism challenges the boundaries between genres, art forms,
theory and art, high art and the mass media

Constructs: Post modernism is actively involved in examining the constructs society
creates including, but not exclusively, the following:
Nation: Post modernism examines the construction of nations/nationality
and questions such constructions
Gender: Post modernism reassesses gender, the construction of gender,
and the role of gender in cultural formations
Race: Post modernism questions and reassesses constructs of race
Sexuality: Post modernism questions and reassesses constructs of
sexuality

With acknowledgement.
Mr. Ford
Media teacher and blogger from
Lutterworth College
(anti?) Postmodernist Theory
Jameson rejects postmodernism!

Jameson essentially believes that postmodernism provides pastiche, humorously
referencing itself and other texts in a vacuous and meaningless circle. Pastiche is distinct
from parody, which uses irony, humour and intertextual reference to make an underlying
and purposeful point. Postmodernists would have no problem in making no particular point -
that is their point, but for Jameson, literary and cultural output is more purposeful than this
and he therefore remains a modernist in a world increasingly dominated by postmodern
culture.

Jameson also sees reason for the present generations to express themselves through
postmodernity as they are the product of such a heavily globalised, multinational dominated
economy, which carries the multinational media industry as one of its main branches. The
onmipresence of media output helps explain postmodernists merging of all discourse into
an undifferentiated whole "there no longer does seem to be any organic relationship
between the American history we learn from schoolbooks and the lived experience of the
current, multinational, high-rise, stagflated city of the newspapers and of our own everyday
life (p.22 Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke
University Press. 1991.)
Frederic Jameson
Anti - Postmodernist Theory
Waters rejects postmodernism!

Irony ruined everything. I wish my movies could have played at drive-ins, but they never
did, because of irony. Even the best exploitation movies were never meant to be 'so bad
they were good'. They were not made for the intelligentsia. They were made to be violent for
real, or to be sexy for real. But now everybody has irony. Even horror films now are ironic.
Everybody's in on the joke now. Everybody's hip. Nobody takes anything at face value
anymore.
John Waters
Waters is an independent American film writer/director/auteur who favours horror
movies but not exclusively. All his films are set in Baltimore and feature regular cast
members. He is probably most famous for the original Hairspray movie in 1988.
Structuralist (modernist) vs Postmodernist Theorists
Derrida no text without a genre

Fiske car chase understood by
reference to other texts. We believe
we know the reality of it but we dont

Jameson understands why
postmodernism came into being but
believes a text should have a point.

Talcott Parsons when society
changes, structures change.

Barthes no more original writing.
All media fit five codes action,
enigma, semic, referential, symbolic.

Todorov Equilibrium/disequilibrium

Propp character types, narrative
turning points
Baudrillard hyperreality and a world
dominated by commercialism.

Lyotard grand political (eg Communism) and
religious narratives have failed so there should
be no meta-narrative in media texts.

McLuhan the medium is the message.

Jencks modernism ended with the failure of
the high rise housing solution in 1972.

Strinati observes features of p/m texts.

Real observes features of p/m texts.

Kramer observes features of p/m texts.
Levi Strauss bricolage

Levi Strauss bricolage

Mixing it up
Heavy postmodernist
texts:
Inland Empire, Cabin in the Woods,
Music Video (Bowie, Art of Noise)
Cadbury Gorilla advert

Bricolage
Intertextuality
Break away from genre
Break away from time periods

Nothing is real
Advertising destroys our sense of
reality
Simulacra, hyperreality (Baudrillard)
SuperDry, BMW Joy advert, X
Factor, biased news

Criticised by parodies:
15 Million Merits
The Truman Show
Chris Morris
and documentaries:
Alex Riley - Superbrands

No right answer
Pleasantville
Enchanted, Wreck-it Ralph

No more grand narratives (Lyotard)
also called metanarrative

Newest is not best

History does not have the answer
Go kitsch!
V& A Exhibition, postmodern art,
Pulp Fiction, The Mighty Boosh,

Low culture as good as
high culture
Pastiche
Mix up the time zones

Prezi version
Texts that are a product of the
postmodern world.
Reality TV full of structures,
commercialism and hyperreality.

Superdry a brand constructed
entirely out of brand and media based
iconic intertextualities.

BMW Joy advert
commercialised hyperreality?.

News coverage Baudrillard
noted that our understanding of 9/11,
even as it was broadcast live had
already been mediated by choices of
editing, commentary and anchorage
through commentary. Charlie
Brookers Newswipe finds two
alternative meanings in coverage of
the Haiti Earthquake.


Inland Empire; Nat Tate; 80s pop videos
eg Art of Noise, David Bowie genre
breaking, confusion of time and space, mix of high
and low culture, deliberately confusing.

Pleasantville, The Truman Show offer
criticism of the media world vision and of mediated
hyperrealities eg obsession with reality TV, belief
that the 1950s was like the soap opera Pleasantville.

These texts fit Baudrillards criticism
of the postmodern era

These texts show pastiche, are
deliberately genre-breaking or
parody texts in the other column.

Postmodernist texts that
deliberately try to have
postmodern features.
Texts that are a product of the
postmodern world.
Reality TV full of structures,
commercialism and hyperreality.

Superdry a brand constructed
entirely out of brand and media based
iconic intertextualities.

BMW Joy advert
commercialised hyperreality?.

News coverage Baudrillard
noted that our understanding of 9/11,
even as it was broadcast live had
already been mediated by choices of
editing, commentary and anchorage
through commentary. Charlie
Brookers Newswipe finds two
alternative meanings in coverage of
the Haiti Earthquake.

Charlie Brookers Screenwipe/Newswipe
points out how television is mediated
and constructs its own forms of
meaning.

15 Million Merits a parody of the media
dominated commercial world and of reality TV.

Pleasantville, The Truman Show offer
criticism of the media world vision and of mediated
hyperrealities eg obsession with reality TV, belief
that the 1950s was like the soap opera Pleasantville.



These texts fit Baudrillards criticism
of the postmodern era

These texts offer intelligent
criticism of postmodern media
and society.

Anti Postmodern texts that
criticise or parody the
postmodern world.
Postmodernist Text
Intertextuality - The film plays with images from American soap opera and images
of a bygone age of America in the 1950s. Although the soap Pleasantville
within the film must never be mistaken for a real 1950s soap, it does parody TV
programmes of that decade. It also echoes images from TV shows like Happy Days and
films like Grease.

Parody there are elements of homage in Davids obsession with the TV soap
Pleasantville there are also sharp criticisms of its unrealistic and escapist nature. The
navet and excessive innocence of the characters is a pastiche not so much of the actual
decade but the portrayal of America as an ideal society in the 50s and 60s. There are also
elements of nostalgia for the childhood of the filmmakers - Gary Ross was born in 1956.
Consider issues of censorship at the time and the way film/TV companies were in thrall to
the Catholic League of Decency.

Pleasantville is massively self-referential and creates a hyperreal world through the
metaphor of David and Jennifer actually entering the television set - which is the opposite of
Baudrillards threory of the media simulation and simulacra engulfing our real world
existence. It is a very similar metaphor to that of British TV programmes Life on Mars and
Ashes to Ashes where the distant echoes from the world left behind by Sam Tyler or Alex
Drake come through a TV set breaking transmission and speaking directly to those
characters.
Pleasantville dir. Gary Ross, 1998
Postmodernist Text
What is most clever about Pleasantvilles postmodernism is that the world of the
TV soap is portrayed without full verisimilitude - it is not just that it is black and
white but it is over-idealised, too clean, too symmetrical and too pleasant in a
world visually similar to that occupied by Truman in The Truman Show.

The key to the film is the way that whilst Jennifer starts out as a corrupting influence on the
youth of Pleasantville, she also learns how to improve her own life. David and the
Pleasantvillians learn from the modern world but Jennifer learns about books and the value
of education in the emancipation of women from what she has seen in the historical
situation of Pleasantville. This fits Jencks definition of postmodernism very well - an eclectic
mixture of any tradition with that of its immediate past.

The ambiguous ending of Pleasantville - suggesting that change is okay per se, even if we
do not know what it will be - places it in the postmodern idiom by defying the need for a film
to end conclusively or with certainty. The world has not necessarily improved for David,
Betty, George or Bill - its just different, and thats okay. Unfortunately, this in itself could also
be seen as a cheesy version of a postmodernist moral - and postmodernist art should not
carry a moral, by definition.
Pleasantville dir. Gary Ross, 1998
Postmodernist Text
15 Million Credits is an edition of Black Mirror, a Channel 4 mini-series devised
by Charlie Brooker. It is a futuristic vision of a world taken over by the media.
There are three levels of society: those who work in the media; those who pedal
bicycle-generators in a post fossil fuel environment to create electricity to power the media
and those who clean up.

The middle band of society are a parody of lower middle class Britain who swallow the
fodder put out to them on television and blindly adopt the hegemonic prejudices they are
exposed to notably a contempt for the fat cleaners who do not have access to the
exercise bikes. They are also a parody for todays gym and keep fit industry of healthy
living and they are so busy exercising or relaxing that they actually live their social lives via
an avatar. The isolated world they inhabit is clearly influenced by Baudrillards vision of a
hyperreal world made up entirely of simulacra.

The key character, Bing, with intertextual echoes of George Orwells novel 1984, befriends
Abi, another member of his gym, and persuades her (by giving her his 15 million credits) to
try her voice on the pastiche reality show Hot Shots. The plan is thwarted when Judge
Wraith (the other two are ironically and self-referentially named Judge Hope and Judge
Charity) sees her potential not as a mid-ranking singer, but as a porn icon. Faced with the
choice of a bland existence interminably cycling into a hyperreal landscape, she opts to join
the privileged but equally hyperreal world of minor celebrity.
Black Mirror dir. Brooker, 2011
Postmodernist Text
Frustrated by the way Abi has been forced to sell out her principles and has been exploited
by the media industry as mere fodder for the male gaze (Mulvey, 1974), he decides to
concetrate all his effort into cycling enough to re-build his 15 million credits. With this
capital, he is able to enter an inane and stupid dance on the show Hot Shots. However,
having secreted a shard of glass in his clothing, he suddenly stops dancing and threatens to
kill himself unless the judges and avatar audience hear what he has to say. He gives a long
rant about the shallow, prejudiced, exploitative and hyperreal world they live in.

Bizarrely, Judge Hope (a thinly disguised parody of Simon Cowell), applauds the rant.
However, he is appluading the performance (the style) and ignores the content (the
substance). He sees an opportunity for Bing to rant about a variety of matters in a show of
his own the subject matter is unimportant, merely the style with which he rants. It is an
intertextual hint at the five minutes hate in Orwells 1984.

Bing faces an instant dilemma but decides to sell out for the lifestyle he can gain as a
member of the celebrity class. In a final irony, nothing is changed in the world and even the
shard of glass Bing used to threaten suicide becomes a simulacrum as it is available in a
variety of forms as Bing Madison merchandise.
Black Mirror dir. Brooker, 2011
Postmodernist Text

It seems odd to propose a Disney film as postmodern because that studio
seems the quintessence of innocent plotlines and happy endings. This film,
however seems to show postmodernism creeping into the mainstream. Like Shrek, the film
is full of irony and self-referentiality in the guise of humour for Mums and Dads. In fact, the
whole intertextual concept of crashing together a Disney cartoon princess with the jaded
real world of a New York divorce lawyer is very postmodern and totally self-referential.

The plot moves through familiar stages of the present day world learning from the
innocence of the past world (represented by the Disney fairytale) and the cartoon
characters learning from the real world - even Prince Charming comes to accept the value
of dating before marriage. Its all quite corny - but in a very humorous and ironic manner.
Traditional elements are all there - functioning as structures - such as the defeat of the
wicked step-mother, an icon of failed marriage and dysfunctional family relationships.
Perhaps most ironic is the way the women swap worlds - Princess Giselle remains in New
York whereas the feminist Nancy loves the spontaneity and romance of Prince Charming,
returning with him to Andalasia.
Enchanted dir. Lima, 2007
Postmodernist Text





Inland Empire dir. David Lynch 2006
Another postmodern nightmare that should endear him to his fans, Empire made me
take a step backwards as Id always been on the fence regarding Lynch but was blown
away by Mulholland Drive. Of course, as establishedhes not one to play by the rules
but I wasnt sure just how off the deep end hed go with this rambling and incoherent but
beautiful work. Were never quite sure exactly whats happeningwe believe its about
Nikki Grace (Dern), a married blonde actress who takes a role on a film that she later
learns may be cursed after discovering its a remake of a doomed incomplete Polish
production that found the two leads dead. She begins to let her imagination run away
with her while simultaneously becoming attracted to co-star Justin Theroux. After a
bizarre opening, the first hour of the film is compelling and even easy to decipher but
thats when Lynch reminds us once again hes running the show and takes us further
into the nightmares and dreamscapes of his subconscious mind with a meandering
hybrid of fantasy and horror involving a carnivalesque stable of freaks and people living
on the fringes of societylife sized rabbits living out a domestic drama in front of what
appears to be a live studio television audience, hookers who enjoy doing the locomotion,
a scary old woman, lots of Polish speakers, and a film crew.
Text Jen Johans
Postmodernist Text





Inland Empire
Co-produced by Dern who inspired the title of the piece after sharing that her
husband musician Ben Harper is from the area nicknamed that, the film co-
stars Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton, Diane Ladd, William H. Macy, Julia
Ormond, Mary Steenburgen and also utilizes the involvement of Nastassja
Kinski, Laura Harring and Naomi Watts. Lynch, who told Joe Huang at the AFI
Dallas Film Festival that the films episodes were never supposed to be edited
together for a feature but were rather just film short stories he wrote and shot on
digital video, earned a Special Award from both the Venice Film Festival and
also the 2007 National Society of Film Critics Awards for what they called his
labyrinthine Inland Empire, a magnificent and maddening experiment with
digital video possibilities. Overall a film to be experienced rather than sincerely
admired such as Mulholland or his other works, Inland Empires three hour
running time is daunting indeed but for those ready to take the journey, go
ahead and follow along and try your best to keep up.

Text Jen Johans
Postmodernist Text
The Day Today was a surreal British parody of television news programmes
broadcast in 1994. Each episode is presented as a mock news programme,
and the episodes rely on a combination of ludicrous fictitious news stories,
covered with a serious, pseudo-professional attitude.

So why is it postmodern?

Lyotard says that in a postmodern world we tend to question everything, we don't trust what we see
before us, and we look for hidden meanings in things. The Day Today clearly does this, as Chris Morris
wants to highlight how unreal the news actually is. News programmes purportedly represent truth,
represent whats really happening in the world. Yet, as weve seen from Charlie Brookers Newswipe
programme, the news is often misleading (cardboard boxes in Haiti). Chris Morris uses over-the-top
graphics, sound, interviews and silly sketches (Elvis fan on death row) to highlight how unreal the news
is.
It is also, of course, self-referential on the face of it Chris Morriss news presenter represents what we
expect (smart suit, clear authoritative voice, neat hair, studio based etc). Yet he plays with this
representation and breaks down what the audience expects a seemingly pleasant interview about
making jam for charity has his character crushing the interviewee, he mocks his fellow presenters, chats
up and uses obvious innuendo with another presenter, etcThe sketches are also self-referential: on the
one hand typical of news reports, but the stories are often ridiculous or, in the case of the weather
reports, simply meaningless.





Chris Morris The Day Today
Postmodernist Text





Meshes of the Afternoon Maya Deren 1943
An experimental film by dancer and film maker Maya Deren dating right back to
1943, showing that experimental cinema is not just a modern idea.

This text demonstrates how the audience is made to feel uneasy when the
familiar guidelines of genre conventions and structured narrative signposts are
taken away.

The film is experimental rather than postmodern probably as most theorists
suggest that postmodernism as a movement did not begin until the 1960s
McLuhan The Medium is the Message (1964) or Jencks reference to the
demolition of the modernist housing estate in Missouri 15
th
March 1972.

However, it has influenced postmodernists and the staircase scene in the
second act of Inland Empire is a clear intertextual reference to Meshes of the
Afternoon.
Postmodernist Text
Strinati's feature of postmodern confusion over time and space, really comes into play in
Ashes to Ashes. This programme has the plot of Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) who gets shot
in present time (2008) and stays unconscious in 2008 but becomes conscious in 1982.
During Alex's time in 1982, she knows that she is meant to be in the present time and the
series is about her trying to get back and wake up from her coma. For confusion over time
and space, this happens because every now and then, within the show, there are clips of
what is happening in the future. An example of this is the clip below of when Alex is seeing
people talking to her unconscious body in 2008.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ty32Y_sEwM&feature=channel.
Another example of confusion over time and space is flashbacks as they occur often. This is
a technique commonly used throughout the series, for example when Alex Drake has
flashbacks of her parent's death. Ashes to Ashes draws on several genres, such as,
mystery, police, comedy and drama. Even though Ashes to Ashes is meant to have a genre
of drama, however, there are comedy elements, especially some of Gene Hunt's lines which
creates a humorous side. This series also has three narratives which are all about the past,
future and present. As of the three part narrative, it is blurring the lines of reality. This is
because in this series they are using the flashbacks to mix the narratives up which is
causing the blurring of line in reality. This is also happening because in some confusion over
time and space aspects, it is showing what people are doing/saying to Alex Drake in 2008,
however, Alex is in 1981, so is confusing whether 1981 is realty or is 2008 and the events in
1981 is just a dream. Text Reflectproductions.blogspot
Ashes to Ashes final episode
Postmodernist Text
The final episode draws on a variety of intertextual symbolism (Genette) that will only mean
something to either an older audience who remember these texts in conext or to students of
postmodernism.

There are constant references to David Bowies music and videos (Life on Mars and Ashes
to Ashes) which were experiments in postmodern art from the late 70s and early 80s. A
Pierrot clown keeps appearing a visual quote from Bowies Ashes to Ashes video.

There is frequent self-reflexivity (Michael Real) in references to the first series, Life on Mars,
and to the fate of its main character Sam Tyler.

There is obscure religious symbolism in the role of the Devil character, Jim Keats, trying to
coax the protagonists to Police Hell in the basement whereas Nelson (also only
recognisable self-referentially to viewers of Life on Mars plays St Peter enticing the team to
Police heaven or the Manchester tavern from Life on Mars - The Railway Arms aka pub. It
seems that for the three series (Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes 1 and 2) Gene hunt has
been running a police purgatory with troubled souls concluding the unfinished business of
their lives before crossing to the ultimate destination pub or political correctness!
Ashes to Ashes final episode
Postmodernist Text
Intertextuality - This TV series by David Lynch, a director well known for his
postmodernist texts, has many intertextual references. Such references were
sometimes explicit and explained by the characters involved, or were more
obscure. For instance, any reference to the black lodge or the white lodge in
Twin Peaks is a reference to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but also to Christianity and its
notions of heaven and hell.

Like Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks "provides an improbable and disturbing stitching together of
different genres and genre expectations" through its "running together in a postmodern
fashion the tradition of the small town film" with a rhizomatic mix of the unpresentable and
the common place.

Twin Peaks' small town locale, affluence and lack of children is reminiscent of other night
time soap operas of its era, including Dallas, Falcon Crest and Knot's Landing. However,
the fact that its male hero resolves the central narrative of this series through a mix of
traditional detective work and intuitive techniques questions gender stereotypes in the extra
filmic world and poses a challenge to the conventions of the detective genre.




Twin Peaks
Postmodernist Text
Twin Peaks surrealistically used a variety of characters with mythic
proportions including dancing dwarves, giants, doppelgangers and owls
plus the spiritually charged black and white lodges to depict the role of
divine influence in people's lives. And as within postmodern culture, everything about Twin Peaks was
plural. It lay within two mountains, had two creators, numerous directors with broad film and television
experience plus two versions of its double pilot and finale episodes.

This postmodern spirit is also evident in the numerous popular culture references found in Twin Peaks
which are used to extend upon its intertextual meaning.
For instance, the series murder victim Laura is loosely based around a character from the 1950's noir film
Laura. Indeed, Laura's presence as the central, absent figure in Twin Peaks' narrative is also somewhat
reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rebecca'.
The Sheriff of Twin Peaks, Harry S Truman, gained his name from an ex US President; while Dale
Cooper is named after a prominent Northwest American figure.
The brothers Ben and Jerry, who are food obsessed, are named after a gourmet icecream and the brothel
in the series is named after the 1950's Marlon Brando Film 'One Eyed Jack.'
In addition to this the one eyed character in the series, Nadine Hurley, is a female version of one of the
most popular soap characters of the eighties, Patch from 'Days of Our Lives'; while biker James Hurley is
intended to be a nineties version of James Dean.

The utilisation of double coding, double genres, intertextual references, plural meanings and irony in Twin
Peaks and Fire Walk With Me reflects the plurality and spirit of postmodernism as a whole.
Twin Peaks
Postmodernist Text
Intertextuality - This film mixes original footage from well known films noir with
modern footage set in the noir period, using black and white. Levi-Strauss might
refer to this form of intertextuality as transposition and/or addition.

Parody using homage, to show a genuine appreciation of the noir style, period,
performance, although it is partly postmodernist in the way that it is knowing in its adoption
of a slightly superior, benefit of hindsight humour, making some of the extracts looks
overblown in their acting style.

It is very self-referential and uses ironic self-awareness. It is postmodern in that it can be
understood on a variety of levels, depending on how familiar we are with the original
extracts and how far or how amusingly they have been taken out of context. Postmodern
political ideas such as the male gaze are shown in pastiche (eg The case of the girls with
the big tits).

The film does not establish a style of full hyperreality although it is clearly not a naturalistic
piece or full set in versimilitude.

Compare to Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds

Dead Men Dont Wear Plaid
Postmodernist Text
In many ways, this is a conventional film but it does contain elements of
Postmodernism both in its message about sellin an image and in the danger
of its approach to historical interpretation.

The film is self-referential in that it deliberately challenges images of reality portrayed by the
contemporary media and suggests that the media was in the pockets of the political authorities. The TV
show Badge of Honor (pastiching the real series, Dragnet) presents the image of the LAPD that the
mayor desires to public to have - the walk on water as Sid Hudgens puts it. Sid Hudgens embryo tabloid
journalism is clearly shown to fake its stories, with the collusion of Sergeant Jack Vincennes. Vincennes
describes his role as adviser to Badge of Honor by saying that he teaches Brett Chase to walk and talk
like a cop. When his companion points out that Brett Chase doesnt walk and talk like you Vincennes
replies with the actor/characters full ironic self-awareness that America isnt ready for the real me. Kevin
Spacey has said that he modeled his portrayal of Vincennes on the persona of Dean Martin - 50s cool -
and in a scene of multi-layered intertextuality, he looks into the mirror behind the bar in the Frolic Room
(a real LA bar), sees his life disappearing into drink, corruption and illusion while Dean Martin sings
smile, smile, smile in the background.

The film also challenges binary oppositions through James Ellroys use of the three-man structure of
having three detective heroes of equal status and no particular antagonist, although it could be said that
Dudley Smith assumes this role when he shoots Jack Vincennes.



LA Confidential dir. Hanson, 1997
Postmodernist Text

Any period piece set in the past and selectively choosing what elements to
suppress and which to emphasise is in danger of making a postmodern
re-interpretation of that past. The film avowedly avoids noir style in its approach to
cinematography and lighting and locations are chosen to create a mise-en-scene that feels
both 1950s and contemporaneous with today. The film is not constrained by the Hayes
Code, as would have been a crime film made in 1953. This raises the question of whether
the audience sees a more or less accurate representation of LA in the 1950s than we
receive from a film made at the time. In this sense we can question whether.

This fits with a historical approach to postmodernism and challenges the view that there
was a better, more innocent time somewhere in the past because the film seeks to blend
images and interpretations of the past with images of the present, perhaps proving that the
1950s were more similar to our own times than we have been led (or have led ourselves) to
believe or perhaps creating a never-time that is nothing but a hyperreality.
LA Confidential dir. Hanson, 1997
Postmodernist Text
J am was a postmodern British comedy series created, written and directed
by Chris Morris and broadcast on Channel 4 during March and April 2000. It
was based on the earlier BBC Radio 1 show, Blue Jam, and consisted of a
series of unsettling sketches unfolding over an ambient soundtrack. Many of
the sketches re-used the original radio soundtracks with the actors
lip-synching their lines, an unusual technique which added to the programme's unsettling atmosphere. So
why is it classed as Postmodern?
Meaning is superficial, not deep - Its a work of pop culture championing the slipperiness of meaning
like Twin Peaks, some sketches can be taken at face value (lizards in a TV), whilst others are far darker
(little girl hitman). Does Chris Morris mean anything by creating such disturbing sketches? Or rather,
does the audience bring meaning to the text? We, the audience, interpret what we see and decide
whether its funny, unsettling, sad, shocking etcnot Chris Morris.
Its self-referential, as Chris Morris takes what is normally represented by a comedy sketch show and
subverts this. Audience expects to find comedy sketches funny, jokes with a build-up then a punch line, to
feel comfortable, to watch recognisable character types, for meaning to be clearJam does the opposite.
Whilst many comedy sketch shows purport to show (or to exaggerate) real characters or situations
(remember Little Britain), Jam doesnt pretend to represent reality or to exaggerate it in a normal sense;
it subverts it and plays with our expectations.
It uses decontextualisation he uses objects outside normal context (lizards in the TV)!
It uses Juxtaposition two extreme objects put together that shouldnt (young girl as a hitman)
Baudrillard tells us audiences makes sense of the real world by using the hyperreal, images we have
watched and processed from the media. Ask us what a car chase is like and we describe a film version,
not something based on reality. Chris Morris knows that for many people, what they see on TV is what is
realso he gives us something that is wholly unreal, that doesnt pretend to show reality.


Chris Morris - JAM