Is this a postmodern text?Helena O’KeeffeTaylor-swift.tumblr.com
Overview• This is a blog dedicated to Taylor Swift. It wascreated by fans and is contributed to anddiscussed by many other fans.• It contains many images of Taylor and also videosand quotes.• It aims to provide a collection of different mediatexts that give a broad overview and show ‘whatshe is like’.• The likely audience for this text would be TaylorSwift ‘fans’; these are typically teenage girls (11-16).
What is postmodernism?• Baudrillard: According to Baudrillard, postmodernity is an era ofhyper-reality. He suggests that images no longer refer to reality, butare merely images of images. The world is now saturated withimages that disconnect us from reality.• Lyotard: this theorist suggests that postmodernity is concernedwith a lack of faith in metanarratives. Particularly the metanarrativeof progress. He suggests that we decide upon our own truths andmorality, the world no longer holds a unified view. He would alsosay that ‘science’ is another way of expressing opinion and is nolonger concerned with finding ‘truth’.• Jameson: Jameson takes a negative view on postmodernism. Hesuggests that postmodernity does not exist, it is more a state of latecapitalism. The postmodern style is produced by large companies toensure consumers keep buying and don’t question the world.
Features of postmodernism; Bricolage• A patchwork of styles from a range of eras or genre.Taylor Swifts ‘star image’ is a collection of styles from many different eras. Shemodels styles from the 40’s ‘flapper’ era to 50’s young sophistication. Displayed onthis fan site, we also see her move between the typical ‘country’ genre associatedwith the star to a more ‘rock chic’ look.This imitation of styles could also be described as pastiche; a copy of style/text withlittle attempt to comment on the original.
RepresentationIn this picture, Baudrillard would say simulacraoccurs in the sense that Taylor Swift’s clothingand style appears to be reminiscent of the 1950sera, however the image does not represent a truereality of this time. It is merely an image of whatthis era is portrayed as, it is a representation of arepresentation of a 1950’s woman. Swift doesntappear to be making any comments on the eraand so this is also a pastiche(Jameson). The text isonly concerned with the surface image, there isno attempt to create meaning and so the imageboth lacks depth, and focuses on surface overcontent.Barthes would argue that the audience createtheir own meaning from this text, that in fact itdoesn’t matter what the artist intended, onlywhat the audience takes from it. Similarly, Lyotardsuggests that within postmodernity, we view theworld from our own experiences and so eachreader would take their own interpretation fromthis text about how Swift is being represented.
Fragmented Identities• The adoption of different roles and identities, often playful.The fan site is primarily made up of different imagesof the star. These all create a brand image. WhenTaylor Swift first appeared on the music scene, shehad a clean cut, country genre, innocent young girlimage. As time has gone on, the star has becomemore daring with her image and startedexperimenting with different representations.Not only does she do this through the fashion andhairstyles she chooses, but through her music andher actions too.These are all portrayed through the media text,revealing clearly the ‘play’ with images and identity.
Fragmented IdentitiesIn one section of the site, Taylor is portrayed as a caring, lovingperson. Many pictures show her visiting sick fans in hospital orsigning autographs for children. This creates a positive representationof her and shows she is a good role model for the young girls thatlook up to her. This is potentially a modernist feature as it creates adeeper meaning and tries to push society forward by revealing astrong message about caring for others. However Baudrillard mayargue that this is a simulcrum of ‘caring’ and the image is moreimportant than the content of it.In contrast to this, the site represents Taylor in a sexuallyobjectified mannor. Typical of women in the media spotlight,Swift is subject to the ‘male gaze’. This image makes noattempt to create meaning, it is primarily concerned with thesurface image. The cowboy hat shows intertextuality as itreferences images from the western genre, this could also bedescribed as pastiche(Jameson) as it makes no comment onthe image, it merely imitates it.
Fragmented IdentitiesIn this image, Taylor Swift is representing herself as a simple, countryartist. The checked shirt is typical of the country genre, along with theplaited hair and guitar. The image is concerned with surface over content,it does not attempt to make a comment on the genre it is illustrating. Thisalso means that the image has a lack of depth. It illustrates clearlyBaudrillards idea that we can ‘play with signifiers’, the conventions of thecountry genre have been adapted and glamourised to suit the overallportrayal of her Star Image.This image constructs a more daring, ‘rock chic’ appearance. Thechange of hairstyle and clothing creates a completely differentrepresentation of the Hollywood star. The combination of differentstyles from different eras means that this image could be described asbricolage. The image offers examples of different styles withoutcommenting upon them, the star is not attempting to create humourfrom the replication and so the image is a pastiche. It is also heavilyconcerned with surface over content and so presents a lack of depth.
Intertextuality• The fan site is a large example ofintertextuality in itself.• The blog is made up of referencesto other texts and images, it is acollection of anything to do withthe star.• Many of the images are‘borrowed’ from other mediatexts such as blogs or musicvideos.• There are no further intertextuallinks within the images thatappear in the text. This suggestsa low cultural capitalism as theaudience do not need a deeperlevel of understanding to takemeaning from a text.
RepresentationThis media advert shows Taylor Swift promoting‘Diet Coke’. Jameson would argue that this imagesuggests a large ownership of products that worktogether to encourage consumerism. Hesuggests that the economic system cannot beseparated from postmodernism and in fact, thepostmodern style is created from the economicsystem and consumer culture. Baudrillard mightsay the image is a simulacrum of drinking dietcoke, it does not represent the true reality. Hemight also suggest that this image promotesideas about consumer culture- by drinking dietcoke, you are saying something about your ownimage or identity. It might provoke the idea thatdrinking diet coke will make you more like TaylorSwift, encouraging the target audience ofteenage girls to buy this product. In turn, it couldbe said that they are buying their identity.
Lack of DepthThe fan site is made up of various images of Taylor Swift. Most of these conveyno meaning and offer no opportunity to push society forward or challengeview points. They focus mainly on surface over content, concerningthemselves only with the aesthetics of the final image. In the image to theright, it is clear that there is no deeper meaning to this image, this means itcould also be described as a pastiche(Jameson). Taylor Swift is copying thestyles and fashion of a previous era without attempting to comment upon it.However; In other parts of the text, controversial arguments are offeredsurrounding issues such as Sexism.This presents the idea that the text may be of modernist tone. An argumentwas written by the target audience and submitted to the site.(http://pleaseimbeyonce.tumblr.com/post/41342769596/sexism-and-taylor-swift)It concerns itself with the representation and judgements of Taylor Swift asan artist. It considers her personal life and the way it is viewed in the mediaspotlight, the writer offers their own opinion on this.‘The type of person she embodies, somehow seems to be INCOMPATIBLEto what is socially accepted in our society.’By challenging the viewpoints of many others and suggesting what ismorally right, the text is taking a modernist approach by attempting to pushsociety forward. This contradicts Lyotard’s theory that society no longermoves in a unified way towards a moral goal. It could also be takenhowever that this argument supports Lyotard’s theory; the writer is offeringtheir own view and creating their own truth and interpretation from themedia text.
Is this text Postmodern?The fan site, taylor-swift.tumblr.com, presents many postmodern features. The site itself is a largeexample of intertextuality as it is made up of images that have been taken from other media texts.These range from images from other blogs, to magazine adverts, to video and television clips.The text is concerned mainly with surface over content(Jameson), it makes no attempt to challengeideas or push society forward. This supports Lyotard’s theory that postmodernity has a lack of faithin metanarratives, particularly the metanarrative of progress. This also suggests that there is a lack ofdepth within the media text, there is no deeper meaning or underlying sense of purpose.The text presents a wide range of identities that are fragmented, it allows Taylor Swift to play withimages and create different versions of herself. Again, Lyotard may suggest this shows she is creatingher own truth and not working towards a unified view. Baudrillard would say that this illustrates a‘play with signifiers’ as Taylor Swift is not creating a true representation of herself. She is creatingmany identities based on other images. This means that theimages are simulacra as they are not referring to reality.So in conclusion, I think this text is postmodern. Although itcontains some elements of modernism (such as the sexismargument), the main ideas and features within this fan sitestrongly reflect postmodernism.