You are on page 1of 57


- theory, theorists and texts
Postmodernsim is a way of thinking about:

•Culture – art, music, film, architecture

•History and politics

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.
Mixing it up Nothing is real

Bricolage (Baudrillard) Advertising destroys our
sense of reality
Simulacra (Baudrillard)
Break away from genre

Break away from time periods

Go kitsch!
No right answer
Low culture as good as
No more ‘grand narratives’ (Lyotard) high culture
also called metanarrative
Mix up the time zones
Newest is not best

History does not have the answer
Prezi Prezi version
Postmodern modern Criticism
Pointless symbols and Unthinking acceptance Charlie Brooker’s
intertextuality that the latest is best Newswipe
Must comment on > Baudrillard, Jameson
Be ironic about > Blindly following trends Charlie Brooker’s ‘15
Million Merits’
Try to escape from > Belief in ‘ways forward’,
theories and solutions
Creating a sham media
to the big problems of
world that gullible
the world
people might believe to
be real (eg Hello, Big
Brother etc)

Big Brother, Britain’s
Got Talent, X Factor

Cheers bars, ‘real’
Central Perk in NY.
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre John FISKE
American Professor of Communication Arts, 2000s

Fiske develops Barthes’ semic code:
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)
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre Roland BARTHES
French semiotic theorist

A scene from the
Hollywood film ‘The
Day After Tomorrow’
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre Roland BARTHES
French semiotic theorist
A ‘real’ image of
people fleeing the
dust cloud in the
aftermath of ‘9/11’
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre Jacques DERRIDA
French philosopher

Jacques Derrida proposed that

'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
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre Jacques DERRIDA
French philosopher

Derrida’s 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
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre Claude LEVI-STRAUSS
French structuralist, 1970s

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:
Structuralism is the opposite of Postmodernism
Structuralist Theories of Genre Gerard GENETTE
French structuralist, 1990s
Genette developed the term transtextuality and
developed five sub-groups, but only 4 apply to film:

•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?
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 Derrida’s
proposition that no text can be without a

Postmodernists take bricolage (Levi-Strauss)
and the various intertextualities identified by
Genette, extending their work into pure
intertextuality that breaches the bounds of
Talcott Parsons

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 Propp’s 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.
It is possible to argue that there is a continuum of postmodernists

‘pure’ postmodernism

‘mild’ postmodernism
Rejects as much structure as
Retains some structures
but rejects others:
Ground-breaking or just plain
Spoof and parody does
weird…layer upon layer of
this eg. Armstrong and
intertextuality and symbolism,
Miller’s Street-slang WW2
many unresolved micro-
fighter pilots or Chris
Morris’s The Day Today.
Eg David Lynch’s Inland
Clever intertextuality eg
mainstream audience

Easily accessible to

Disney’s Enchanted.
Inaccessible to mainstream
Still accessible to a
audience but loved by niche
mainstream audience
audience who ‘get it’.
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 definitely not how it is 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).
Postmodernist Theory Marshall McLuhan

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

Others date the movement to the 1960s, notably to Marshall
McLuhan’s 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.
I have a belief system I take life as it comes and
and I can name it. just get on with it.
Postmodernist Theory Lyotard

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

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
What can you see?

Can you see a tree?
Postmodernist Theory Baudrillard

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.’
Magritte captions an arrangement
of paint on canvas with the
denotative words, “Ceci n’est 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

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

It also looks at the first question and
considers ‘polysemy’ where the sign
Goffs might have a slightly different
Goff meaning to every person in the
s classroom.

What does this mean
to you?
What is
Is there a better
way to see what life
was like in England
in 1824?
Theories don’t work, that
much is clear. We can no
more ‘solve crime’ than we
can stop the rain. 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.’

£260 for a belt?
Mine was 8 quid
and it still holds
Baudrillard sees the danger me trousers up.

in postmodernism: Louis Vuitton
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’.
Some examples of postmodern design from the Exhibition at the V&A Museum in 2011.
Postmodernists eg Lyotard & David Lynch say:
• It doesn’t matter what the message is – just look at the quality of the
•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) don’t work anyway.

Critics of Postmodernism eg , Brooker & Baudrillard 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.
Postmodernist Theory Baudrillard

Baudrillard developed the idea of simulation and simulacra

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.
Postmodernist Theory Baudrillard

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
Levis thought of as tough because workmen and cowboys wear them

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.
Postmodernist Theory Baudrillard

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.
Postmodernist Theory Baudrillard

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:
Lighten up,
Jean, go with
the postmodern
flow, man.

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 I would disagree with you
David but thanks to
•Nat Tate postmodern hyperreality I
believe you are not real:
•Superdry adverts you are only a photgraphic
signifier. So there!

Anti Postmodernist texts:
•The Truman Show
•Superbrands, Alex Riley
•15 Million Merits, Charlie Brooker, 2011

Texts influenced by postmodernism:
•Enchanted, Disney
•This Life, BBC, 1996
Postmodernist Theory Dominic Strinati
postmodern popular culture

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

4. Confusions over time and space

5. The decline of meta-narratives
Postmodernist Theory Michael Real
postmodern popular culture

• Pastiche — combining together different styles and content from different
periods within the same text, creating unusual combinations of borrowed
styles from different eras.

• 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

• 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.
• 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.
Postmodernist Theory Jonathan Kramer
postmodern music 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, 16�17), 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
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.
Postmodernist Theory Frederic Jameson

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.)
Postmodernist Theory Mr. Ford
Media teacher and blogger from
Lutterworth College

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

With acknowledgement.
Structuralist (modernist) vs Postmodernist
Derrida – no text without a genre
Baudrillard – hyperreality and a world
Jameson – understands why dominated by commercialism.
postmodernism came inot being but
believes a text should have a point. Lyotard – grand political (eg Communism) and
religious narratives have failed so there should
Talcott Parsons – when society be no meta-narrative in media texts.
changes, structures change.
McLuhan – the medium is the message.
Barthes – no more original writing.
All media fit five codes – action, Jencks – modernism ended with the failure of
enigma, semic, referential, symbolic. the high rise housing solution in 1972.

Fiske – car chase understood by Strinati – observes features of p/m texts.
reference to other texts.
Real – observes features of p/m texts.
Todorov – Equilibrium/disequilibrium
Kramer – observes features of p/m texts.
Propp – character types, narrative
turning points

Levi Strauss – bricolage Levi Strauss – bricolage
Texts that are a product of the Postmodernist texts that
postmodern world. deliberately try to have
postmodern features.
Reality TV – full of structures,
commercialism and hyperreality. ‘15 Million Credits’ – a parody of the media
dominated commercial world and of reality TV.
Superdry – a brand constructed
entirely out of brand and media based Inland Empire; Nat Tate; 80s pop videos
iconic intertextualities. eg Art of Noise, David Bowie – genre
breaking, confusion of time and space, mix of high
BMW ‘Joy’ advert – and low culture, deliberately confusing.
commercialised hyperreality?.
Pleasantville, The Truman Show – offer
News coverage – Baudrillard criticism of the media world vision and of mediated
noted that our understanding of 9/11, hyperrealities – eg obsession with reality TV, belief
even as it was broadcast live had that the 1950s was like the soap opera
already been mediated by choices of Pleasantville.
editing, commentary and anchorage
through commentary. Charlie Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe/Newswipe
Brooker’s Newswipe finds two
alternative meanings in coverage of
– points out how television is mediated and
the Haiti Earthquake. constructs its own forms of meaning.

These texts show pastiche, are
These texts fit Baudrillard’s criticism
deliberately genre-breaking or
or the postmodern era parody texts in the other column.
Postmodernist Text
Pleasantville dir. Gary Ross, 1998
Intertextuality - The film plays with images from American soap opera and
of a ‘bygone’ age of America in the 1950s. Although the soap ‘Pleasantville’
within the 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 David’s obsession with the TV soap
‘Pleasantville’ there are also sharp criticisms of its unrealistic and escapist
nature. The naïveté 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

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 Baudrillard’s 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
Postmodernist Text
Pleasantville dir Gary Ross, 1998
What is most clever about Pleasantville 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 ‘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 - it’s just different, and
that’s 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
Postmodernist Text
Black Mirror dir Brooker, 2011
‘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 today’s 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 Baudrillard’s vision of a
hyperreal world made up entirely of simulacra.

The key character, Bing, with intertextual echoes of George Orwell’s 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
Postmodernist Text
Black Mirror dir Brooker, 2011
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 danv=cing and threatens to kill himself unless the
judges and avatar audience hear whay 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
Orwell’s ‘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.
Postmodernist Text
Enchanted dir Lima, 2007

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. It’s 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.
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 I’d always been on the fence regarding Lynch but was blown
away by Mulholland Drive. Of course, as established—he’s not one to play by the rules
but I wasn’t sure just how off the deep end he’d go with this rambling and incoherent but
beautiful work. We’re never quite sure exactly what’s happening—we believe it’s about
Nikki Grace (Dern), a married blonde actress who takes a role on a film that she later
learns may be cursed after discovering it’s a remake of a doomed incomplete Polish
production that found the two leads dead. She begins to let her imagine 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 that’s
when Lynch reminds us once again he’s 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 society—life 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 film’s “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 Empire’s 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
Chris Morris – The Day Today
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 what’s really happening in the world.
Yet, as we’ve seen from Charlie Brooker’s 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 Morris’s 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, etc…The 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.
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 hosing 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
Postmodernist Text
Ashes to Ashes – final episode
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 become conscious in 1982.
During Alex's time in 1981, 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.
Another example of confusion over time and space is flashbacks as the 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 draw 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 line 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
Postmodernist Text
Ashes to Ashes – final episode
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

There are constant references to David Bowie’s 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 Bowie’s 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 Manchester tavern from Life on Mars The Railway Arms aka ‘pub’.
Postmodernist Text
Twin Peaks
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.
Postmodernist Text
Twin Peaks
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

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.
Postmodernist Text
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
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
Postmodernist Text
LA Confidential dir Hanson, 1997
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 doesn’t walk and talk like you’ Vincennes replies
with the actor/character’s full ironic self-awareness that ‘America isn’t 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

The film also challenges binary oppositions through James Ellroy’s 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
Postmodernist Text
LA Confidential dir Hanson, 1997

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.
Postmodernist Text
Chris Morris - JAM
Jam 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 - It’s 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 it’s funny, unsettling, sad, shocking
etc…not Chris Morris.
It’s 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 clear…Jam does the opposite. Whilst many comedy sketch shows purport to
show (or to exaggerate) ‘real’ characters or situations (remember ‘Little Britain’), Jam
doesn’t 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 shouldn’t (young girl as a
Baudrillard tells us audiences makes sense of the real world by using the ‘hyperreal’,