The social, political and cultural
attitudes and images of the late 20th
/early 21st century
What is Postmoderism
• The term has been around since the 1980s
• It is difficult to define and there is no one
• It is used in a very wide range of different
subject areas such as Art, technology,
sociology, literature, religion as well as Media
and Film Studies
Postmodernism in Literature
The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood
Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
Hamlet – Shakespeare
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey
• Works by TS Elliot
What is Postmodernism?
• In general it is a reaction against the
‘Modernist’ movement which focused on
order, rational thinking and science.
• Postmodernism rejects rational thinking and
How to spot a Pomo text
• The theorist Strinati has identified five ways to
define post modernity in a range of texts.
• "Postmodernism tries to come to terms with
and understand a media-saturated society.
The mass media, for example, were once
thought of as holding up a mirror to, and
thereby reflecting, a wider social reality. Now
that reality is only definable in terms of
surface reflection of the mirror" (1992)
1. The breakdown of the distinction
between culture and society.
• Art once attempted to reflect reality
• Postmodern reality now incorporates art in
the form of media texts – Film/TV = Art =
reality for the audience
• The media reality of an event is more real
than the event itself, we only understand it/
see it through the media
• Bruno, Borat and Allie G are more well know
and ‘real’ than the actor who plays them
(Sacha Baron Cohen).
• Bruno, Borat, Allie G can get away with saying
things that Cohens can not!
• In programmes like the X Factor contestants
perform cover versions of cover version of songs
i.e they copy copies
• John and Edward sang the Queen Song ‘We Will
Rock You’ buy they performed the ‘Five Version’
• Can you think of any other examples of things like
this? Write them down.
2. An emphasis on style at the expense
of substance and content.
• Appearance is better than function
• External factors such as good looks in a person
rather than internal qualities such as
intelligence and talent.
• Entertainment and diversion is better than
serious discussion and issues.
• Make a list of current Hollywood Film stars.
• Are they all actually talented?
• In society people are very influenced to buy
‘brands’ and label regardless of the actual
quality. Often they are of a much higher cost
but not really of higher quality. Can you think
of examples? Write them down
• Advertising has become all important
• Cadbury Adverts
• Modern Celebrities launched through reality
programmes like Big Brother
• Many celebrities are now famous for being
famous, not for an identifiable talent or
• Paris Hilton
• Write a list of celebrities who fit in here
3. The Breakdown of the distinction
between high culture (art) and popular
• High art = opera, ballet, theatre, Visual arts
• High art was only for a elite, wealthy,
• Low art or popular culture (e.g. film, TV, pop
music) was for the masses
• Hitchcock and Auteur Theory.
• Pop music now often samples classical music
eg Kelis (Like You), Coolio (C U when U get
there), Ludacris (Coming 2 America), Nas (I
Can, Hate me now)
• Andy Warhol
4. Confusion over time and space
• Strinati believes that: “because of the speed and
scope of modern mass communication, because
of the relative ease with which people and
information can travel, time and space become
less stable and comprehensible, more confusing,
more incoherent, more disunified.”
• “Mass Media” allows us to access the world from
• Every thing in a PoMo society is ‘here and now’
5. Decline of Meta-Narratives
• Big stories or ‘grand narratives’ (Lyotard)
• Big ideas and concepts used to explain the
way the world is,
• Religion, Political theories, Economic Theory
• Try and name some of these ‘theories’ in
5. Decline of Meta-narratives
• In a pomo society it is argued that people no
longer believe there are absolute ways to
• High profile failure of some grand narratives
• More secular society?
• Other reasons?
Decline of Meta-narratives
• “Postmodernism denies there can be any
single truths/reality as most of our cultural
understanding is based on the personal
interpretations we make from the media
representation that dominate our culture,
therefore grand narratives are too simplistic
and too narrow in their approach” Step
• We live in a mediated world!