So I’ve been trying to get my head around the concept of postmodernism however I’m finding it really difficult; mostly because I’m not familiar with any of the art, architecture or literature cited as being postmodern!
With that in mind I’m trying to find some recent examples of postmodernism in pop-culture… any ideas?
The best I can come up with is the Scream movies which, if my grasp of postmodernism is accurate, are supposed to reject the modern style of horror film making for the classic horror conventions of the 70s and 80s.
Any other ideas, or alternatively is my grasp of post-modernism completely wrong?
The first thing that springs to mind is Tyre (2010), a slasher film in which the killer is a rubber car tyre, and the whole film is a film-within-a-film that serves as a meditation on the futility of reason. The problem is defining po-mo; when it was the height of fashion the term was bandied around so much that it became meaningless.
Er, Katy Perry? Lady Gaga? They’re self-consciously constructed narratives that, especially in the case of Lady Gaga, take the subject of self-consciously constructed narratives as their primary, er, narrative focus. I mean, “Born this Way” is quintessentially po-mo, it’s a fake-sounding recontextualisation of a Madonna song - itself a po-mo byproduct of a po-mo mofo - that’s all about being a fake recontextualisation of a pre-existing text.
Oh, God, I’d forgotten I could do this. Re-con-fuckin’-textualisation. I shot the author, but I swear it was in self-defence.
One example I’ve seen recently are the Mameshiba videos, though those might be more Dada than postmodern. In them, a little anthropomorphic bean or other legume presents irrelevant trivia. In my opinion, they’re a deconstruction of educational programs for children and an obsession with random impractical knowledge, though of course I know I could be totally wrong. (But knowing is half the battle.)
The problem with giving recent examples of Postmodernism is that the movement is now so old that it is played out. Dating a style is hard - it emerges usually slowly and then vestiges of it linger forever - but the conventional dating has the transition around the 1970s.
The big argument therefore is what has replaced postmodernism? Nobody agrees. I’d say that the consensus is that nothing has - there is no big overarching style that cuts across different arts. Maybe the culture is too fragmented for any style to take hold, maybe it’s just waiting for the end of American cultural dominance, maybe irony has become so all-pervasive that any attempt at “style” is instantly mocked to death.
Or maybe the consensus agreement that “high art” not only exists but is better than popular culture has finally been demolished. Postmodernism developed in large part to smash popular culture in the faces of those who believed this, the cultural establishment. If it won, then there can’t be a successor to postmodernism because there is no place left to go.
Check out Mark Leyner’s recent novel The Sugar Frosted Nutsack. It’s a story about a pantheon of modern gods in which the telling of the story is itself a element in the construction of the mythology of the aforesaid gods. Imagine taking self-referentiality to the point of such outrageous excess that the whole edifice collapses into a hilarious confusing mess … and then making self-referential jokes about the mess. I thought it was brilliantly stupid. YMMV.
A quick web search found the following arguments. I’m not defending these except to say that they have all been given as justification for Tarantino’s work being considered postmodern. Most of these arguments can be found in some form in academic works available online. (That said, it is also possible to find academics arguing your view as well.)
His subversion of traditional narrative structure in terms of time and perspective; his recontextualization of 1970s pop culture (specifically music and film genres such as noir and blaxploitation); his rejection of a capitalist narrative (the tendency of his characters to meet violent ends if they don’t voluntarily walk away); his elevation of stylistic violence above plot and content.
I have to admit that I’m not familiar with the term “ironic pastiche.” Googling, I found a number of uses but it was hard to get a clear sense of what people meant by it. They seem to apply it to works that use an imitation of an archetype to make a comment on it without resorting to obvious humor. But it’s used on works of Defoe and Joyce and many other earlier writers, so the technique itself can’t be considered postmodern.
My guess that it’s intended to supply a better term for things once labeled parody, which used to be used much more broadly than today. Say parody to a non-English major today and you get mostly farcical comedy connotations, so there’s good reason for inventing another term.
A modern label for an an age-old concept doesn’t change the age-old part, though. Sherlock Holmes is an example of a character and an archetype that has been written in pastiche and parody and every shade of tone in between by the thousands for the last century.
It’s not particularly recent, but Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a good example of a postmodern TV program. It’s a TV show about watching TV, it criticizes bad movies while at the same time exposing these movies to a wider audience, and draws connections between these movies and other pop culture works.