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05. Contemporary Media Issues - Postmodern Aesthetics
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05. Contemporary Media Issues - Postmodern Aesthetics

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  • 1. Contemporary Media Issues Postmodern Media Aesthetics
  • 2. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • Lyotard, Baudrillard, and Jameson argued that recent social-economic changes produced particular 'structures of feeling' or a 'cultural logic' .
    • Typical assertions include claims that, mostly thanks to television, and MTV in particular, we now live in a 'three-minute culture' (the length of most people's attention spans, it is said, shaped by advertising and zapping ).
    • Debord suggested that we are part of a 'society of the spectacle’ - ‘a social relationship between people that is mediated by images’. – Baudrillard concluded we are involved in an overvisual ‘ecstasy of communication’ due to our reliance on television, films and the Internet to replace ‘real’ connections with each other.
  • 3. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • This has implications for any realist form of media, since our sense of reality is now said to be dominated by popular media images;
    • Cultural forms can no longer 'hold up the mirror to reality’ (Strinati), since reality itself is saturated by advertising, film, video games, and television images.
    • The capacity of digital imaging makes 'truth claims' or the reliability of all images tricky – think about the use of Photoshop in magazine and advertising images …
  • 4.  
  • 5.  
  • 6. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • Advertising no longer tries seriously to convince us of its products' real quality but just shows us a cool joke about the product …
  • 7. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • Postmodernism suggests that we’ve run out of things to say.
    • Lyotard wrote of the 'death of the metanarratives' or the death of the Enlightenment project' (now often called 'modernity').
    • Very broadly, this refers to movements in political thought and other ideas from the eighteenth century onwards which proclaimed the importance of reason, and the knowability of the world through it.
    • The next step was to argue that, if the world could be known, it could be changed – even for the better …
    • Postmodernism, however, describes these ‘ grand narratives’ - Marxism, feminism, belief in scientific progress etc - as nothing more than stories about history, naively structured with happy endings.
    • Instead postmodernism offers micro-narratives which do not necessarily add up, but which may be woven together, in a jumble of forms and styles.
  • 8. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • Remember that postmodernism is only a theory and you must be able to see all sides of these tricky ideas. For example …
    • There is some truth in the perception that large claims to political truth are often narratively shaped, such as Marxism's claim that working people acting together will eventually bring about socialism.
    • But however conscious we are of narratives in science and politics, it seems we cannot easily do without them and the meaning they give to experience.
    • Just to confuse things, what else is postmodern theory but another such story or ‘ grand narrative ’?
    • Isn’t it just a very cynical one, pretending to not be a ‘ metanarrative ’ at all?
  • 9. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • Do you believe the ‘story’ of postmodernism? How closely does it correspond to your experiences?
    • What this presentation does is show you some of the key aesthetic indicators of postmodern media.
    • This will help you decide if the text you are analysing contains elements of the postmodern.
    • Later we will look at the theory behind these stylistic concerns but until then …
  • 10. Postmodern Media Aesthetics
    • This will help you spot the ‘ structures of feeling ’ – to see the ‘ cultural logic ’ that gives rise to Postmodern Media forms.
    • It will allow you to spot ‘ spectacle ’ and ‘ micronarratives ’ that we weave together to make a coherent theory of postmodernism.
    • First up…
  • 11. 1. Hybridity
    • Definition - something heterogeneous – from more than one source - in origin or composition.
    • Examples include the mixing and sampling of different kinds and levels - of music, of material in television adverts, in films and TV Drama or comedy etc.
    • Hybrid forms are said to level hierarchies of taste - all distinctions between high culture and popular culture, have gone, or become blurred.
    • Postmodern texts 'raid the image bank' which is so richly available through digital technologies, recycle some old movies and shows on television, the Internet.
    • Music, film and TV all provide excellent examples of these processes.
  • 12. 2. Bricolage
    • Similar to hybridity - ‘bricolage’ is a French word meaning 'jumble‘.
    • This is used to refer to the process of adaptation or improvisation where aspects of one style are given quite different meanings when mixed with stylistic features from another.
    • For Dick Hebdige in ‘Subculture the Meaning of Style’ (1979) - youth subcultural groups such as punks , with their bondage gear and use of swastikas were eclectic as they took clothes associated with different class positions or work functions and converted them into fashion statements 'empty' of their original meanings.
  • 13. The Sex Pistols (circa 1976)
  • 14. 2. Bricolage
    • A more recent, feminised example would be the combination of Doc Martens and summer dresses worn by the young girls in ‘Ghost World’ and the central figure of ‘Amelie’ (both 2001).
  • 15. 1. Hybridity
    • Hybridity and bricolage can take various forms across most media.
    • I’m going to use a couple of examples to show you how to apply these two similar, yet distinct, terms accurately.
    • First hip-hop…
  • 16. Track 4 ‘ Encore’ A clear example of hybridity. A song that borrows from an earlier source. … Jay-Z later releases a version using the lyrics from ‘Encore’ but the melody from Linkin Park’s ‘Numb’? But what’s this… Hmmm. Let’s see - here’s ‘Numb’… And here’s ‘Encore’… It’s another clear example of hybridity yet somehow it all seems a bit of a jumble … HANG ON! Jay-Z (2004) ‘ The Black Album’ Samples John Holt’s ‘I Will’
  • 17. It’s almost like the attributes of the rap song ‘Encore’, itself a hybrid of the earlier reggae song ‘I Will’ has itself been given a quite different meaning when mixed with the stylistic features of the emo-rock of Linkin Park’s ‘Numb’. It’s not a case of ‘bricolage’ is it? Where the eclectic nature of the hybridity – taking music associated with different ethnicities and functions (blacks/whites – dancing/crying in your bedroom) and converted them into a musical statement 'empty' of its original meanings?
  • 18. MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’ (2007) is a hip-hop choon that samples… ‘ Straight to Hell’ (1982) by The Clash It also samples the dreadful Wreckx-n-Effect’s sleazy West Coast rap ‘Rumpshaker’ (1992) The single was unsuccessful on its initial release but being featured in the trailer for ‘Pineapple Express’ (2008) It became a huge hit in The States As a result it was seen by Danny Boyle and used on… Slumdog Millionaire (2009)
  • 19. SO WHERE DOES HYBRIDITY BECOME BRICOLAGE? Hybridity is all about where something comes from. MIA is a Londoner from an Asian background who records a hip-hop song in New York with and American producer with kids from Brixton singing the chorus – that’s a hybrid record right there. ‘ Paper Planes’ is a hip-hop song that is a hybrid of punk-reggae and West coast rap. Bricolage is about what use you put something to. But the song is also associated with the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ – itself a hybrid of Hollywood style narrative and Bollywood style aesthetics – throw in the further jumble of a hip-hop tune on the soundtrack playing over a montage of scenes and you’ve got ‘bricolage’
  • 20. Where the eclectic nature of the hybridity - taking music (and films) associated with different ethnicities (white British punk/black American rap/Anglo-Indian singer) and genres (British social realism/Bollywood style hyperrealism) and converted them into a musical/visual statement 'empty' of their original meanings – in the case of the film the song becomes suggestive of a montage sequence at the heart of the narrative… But the song is also associated with the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ – itself a hybrid of Hollywood style narrative and Bollywood style aesthetics – throw in the further ‘jumble’ of a hip-hop tune on the soundtrack playing over a montage of scenes and you’ve got ‘bricolage’…
  • 21. The Beatles (1968) The White Album Danger Mouse (2005) The Grey Album Jay-Z (2004) The Black Album
  • 22. So is the Grey Album Hybrid? Bricolage? Parody? Pastiche? Intertextual? Danger Mouse (2005) The Grey Album
  • 23. 3. Simulation
    • Based on the work of Jean Baudrillard - the blurring of real and ‘simulated’, especially in film and reality TV or celebrity magazines is a familiar feature of postmodern texts.
    • Simulation or hyperreality refers to not only the increasing use of CGI in films like ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films (2001-2004) and ‘Avatar’ (2009), but also in the use of documentary style in fiction such as Michael Winterbottom’s ‘In This World’ (2002) or in the narrative enigmas of science fiction such as ‘The Matrix’ (1999) or ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) - 'Is it human or artificial’ ?
  • 24.  
  • 25. 4. Intertextuality
    • From referencing the structure of the slasher horror film in ‘Scream’ (1996) to the Italian American gangsters watching ‘The Godfather’ films in ‘The Sopranos’ television series (2001), intertextuality is now a familiar postmodern flourish across most moving image media.
    • Jameson also specifies pastiche and parody as belonging to a similar idea.
    • This self-reflexive awareness of itself as a text is also termed hyperconsciousness .
  • 26.  
  • 27. 4. Intertextuality
    • Pastiche, parody and intertextuality are terms that come from Fredric Jameson’s (1991) theories.
    • Jameson saw parody as the comic intention to ‘produce an imitation which mocks the original’ that acknowledges what it imitates.
    • Pastiche, however, is less about comedy and more about plagiarism.
    • ‘ Pastiche is blank parody. Parody that has lost its sense of humour’.
    • Just copying really …
  • 28.  
  • 29. 5. Disjointed narrative structures
    • These are said to mimic the uncertainties and relativism of postmodernity in films like ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994)
    • These contemporary narratives often won’t guarantee identifications with characters;
    • Or the 'happy ending‘
    • Or metanarratives like the Defeat of the Enemy , which have traditionally been achieved at the end of films.
    • They often manage only a play with multiple, or heavily ironic, perhaps 'unfinished' or even parodic endings - see ‘Memento’ (2000), ‘Fight Club’ (1999), or ‘Atonement’ (2007).
    • Narratives can also be disjointed in time and space – see modern / retro films like ‘Brazil’ (1985) or ‘Blade Runner’ (1982).
  • 30.  
  • 31. 6. The erosion of history
    • This is seen in non-fiction forms such as television news; in the deliberate blurring of time in films such as ‘Cock and Bull Story’ (2005) or the extravagant play with historical fact in, say, ‘Elizabeth’ (1998) or ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) or ‘Pearl Harbor’ (2001)
    • Historical facts and characters are telescoped, merged or discarded entirely.
    • History can be viewed nostalgically or with suspicion.
  • 32.  
  • 33. 7. The active audience
    • Postmodern theories suggest that there is a decoding process going on among audiences who no longer use the passively media for gratification.
    • Postmodern audiences read texts actively because they recognise the importance of the analysis of various clues or signs, particularly visual signs, that shape so much of modern media output by the audience.
    • At its simplest level, the audience accept or agree with the encoded meanings sent out by a text, they accept and refine parts of the text's meanings or they are aware of the dominant meaning of the text but reject it for cultural, political or personal reasons.
  • 34. 8. Blurring of boundaries
    • It's easy to spot how boundaries between 'high' and 'low' culture have been eroded.
    • This idea is alluring because of the democratic implications - there's no such thing as bad taste; you can enjoy, consume, shop for what you like - all class hierarchies have disappeared.
    • However, paradoxically, for there to be any thrill in transgressing boundaries, like those between 'high' and 'low' forms in Baz Luhrman's ‘Romeo + Juliet’ (1997) or ‘Shakespeare in Love’ (1998), those boundaries need still to have some meaning — and indeed they do…
    • Think of the huge industry still associated with the status and name of Shakespeare and his continuing cultural importance.
  • 35.  
  • 36. 9. A society of spectacle
    • Postmodern media texts share a delight in surface style and superficiality;
    • A delight in trivial rather than ‘dominant forms’ - from conversations about burgers in ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) to Lindsay Lohan or Victoria Beckham appearing in Ugly Betty (2008);
    • And the tone is alternative, excited and ironic involving scepticism about serious values.
  • 37.  
  • 38. 9. A society of spectacle
    • Andy Medhurst (1997) points out that this approach contains elements of ‘camp’ – a traditionally male homosexual personality trait - no ‘camp’ man can claim the pompous authority of many white males, so he may as well laugh at things that are taken seriously. He continues:
    • Camp … is a configuration of taste codes and a declaration of effeminate interest... It revels in exaggeration, theatricality, parody and bitching…postmodern aesthetics can easily be confused with camp, but while camp grows from a specific cultural identity, postmodern discourses peddle the arrogant fiction that specific cultural identities have ceased to exist.
    • On the other hand Debord sees celebrities as people who have become ‘role models’ for us to identify with to ‘compensate for the crumbling of directly experienced…productive activity’.
    • Celebrities provide us with false representations of life and ultimately become the reality of our everyday lives.
  • 39. 10. Alienation
    • This delight in superficiality is countered by a different postmodern approach that involves an atmosphere of decay and alienation .
    • ‘ Structures of feeling' that find echoes in the music of Radiohead or Aphex Twin , the films ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Fight Club’, the music videos and advertising of Chris Cunningham.
  • 40.