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Why are some media products considered postmodern

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Why are some media products considered postmodern

  1. 1. Sian Lynes Why are some media products described as Postmodern?Some media products are described as postmodernist due to their deliberate manipulation ofconsidered reality. These texts deliberately play with meaning, employing a range ofreferential techniques, such as bricolage or intertextuality to directly or indirectly referenceother texts to create new meanings. Postmodernist texts are not confined to genreconventions, challenging modernist assumptions of narrative such as culture and thedimension of time. Often this creates a known hyper reality recognised by the audience inmedia texts.Quentin Tarantinos signature postmodernist directive style in the film "Inglorious Basterds" isa prime example of an distorted reality that challenges utopian modernist visions. The use ofyellow text for subtitles and titles in the film, as well as in his filmography, challenges theconventional white text; this identifies Tarantinos signature style and distances himself frommodernist media products. The deliberate fragmentation of the film, by dividing it into visibleChapters, could be described as postmodern as Tarantino has taken this convention from thestyle of literature texts. This form of pastiche, combining the conventions of literature withfilm, addresses the hyper reality to the audience as it creates a non-linear narrative, atechnique often considered postmodernist. The adoption of bricolage in the introduction ofthe film in the title "Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France" pays reference to the fairytalegenre. This could be described as postmodern as the literate audiences cultural knowledge ofthe horrors of Nazi-occupied France challenges the utopian narrative of a fairytale. This useof hypotextuality, adhering to Genettes theory of genre, manipulates the audiencesperception of conventional war films as the modification of a fairytale applied to preconceivedidea of violence within the war genre is unexpected. This evident use of addition within theconcept of bricolage developed by theorist Levi Strauss reflects the postmodernist disregard toconfinements in genre conventions, instead breaking these barriers.Tarantinos directive style also reinforces the postmodernist aspect to the film. This is evidentin his use of a birds eye view during Shoshannas preparation for the Nazi film premiere. Thecamera shot exposes the construction of the walls and layout of the rooms as it pans across thescreen and follows Shoshanna walk along the cinema hall ways. This direct deconstruction ofthe set reminds the audience that the world the characters are around is completely fictionaland by extension a hyper reality. This complies to Baudrillards developed idea of hyper realityas the characters, and arguably the audience, are experiencing a prepared reality chosen thedirector (which the audience become conscious of). This distortion of reality against thefantasy created is a common feature in postmodernist texts.A significant component of the postmodernist product is the mixture of genres, evident inInglorious Basterds, to alter the audiences perception of war and its conventions. Tarantinoheavily references the Spagehetti Western genre, for example when the shot of the door frameas Shoshanna escapes the homicide of Hans Landa this directly references the 1956 Americanwestern "The Searchers". The contrast of resolution of John Wayne leaving at the end of thefilm against the irresolution of Shoshanna running for her life from Hans Landa emphasisesthe hypertextuality. Further evidence of Genettes theory of metatextuality is evident whenHans Landa takes out his pipe, prepares it, lights it, inhales it and exhales it. Tarantino here
  2. 2. Sian Lynescould be directly referencing the symbolic use of the pip in the renowned detective filmSherlock Holmes. This implicit parodying of the mystery genre shows again the intertextualitythat challenges the war film genre. Furthermore, hyper reality is exaggerated through violencethat challenges modernist texts such as Saving Private Ryan. For example, the introduction ofHugo Stiglitz uses a montage to demonstrate the ridiculous methods of killings he uses, suchas sticking his fist down a Nazis throat. A 1970s Blaxploitation song Slaughter by BillyPreston over layed onto this sequence adds a comical feel to the concept of death. This use ofbricolage by using addition of the Blackpoitation genre, complying to Strauss theory, distortsreality and the glorification of death makes the audience aware that the text of completelyfictional. This could be described as post modern as the disconnection and impassiveapproach of the characters towards the otherwise brutality of death creates hyper real world.Fiskes theory can be applied here as the mixture of genres allows the audience to identify thatInglorious Basterds is not a true representation of "war" and conventional of previous warfilms. It relies of the literate knowledge of the audience to decode the false representations ofwar to understand that it is a postmodernist text.An additional example of postmodern media that provides lack of depth and disjuncture inemotion is evident in the film, "Drive" directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. The protagonist,only described as "The Kid", when he is revealed to have a violent side, shows no empathytowards the Gangsters he kills. The creates an extremely hyper real view point again towardsto realities of death. In addition, Genettes theory of hypotextuality can also be applied as thenarrative is a reference to Grimms Fairy Tales; The Kid being the hero and Irene, his loveinterest, being the damsel in distress. This modification of a utopian fairytale in contrast withthe disequilibrium The Kid experiences trying to help Stan is postmodern as it challenges thestructuralism of conventional modernist narratives. In addition, The Kid initiates no angertowards Stan, another love interest of Irene, which is unexpected at the dominance of twomales around on female is unconventional as we expect conflict to fight over the woman. Thisalso breaks the boundaries of generic codes such as Barthes binary opposites of a singularhero and princess. Fiskes theory can be applied here as it is reliant on the audiences culturalknowledge of conventional narrative, such as a singular male hero, to recognise the unusualrepresentation of The Kid not battling to win Irene.Another element with can be described as postmodern is the representation of the setting inLos Angeles. The city is often seen through a birds eye view, with dark city lighting and emptystreets. Baudrillards idea of simulcra can be applied here as our previous knowledge given tous by the media often perceives L.A. as a glamorous place, whereas this text contradicts thatoriginal representation. The contrast of a fairy tale element in combination with the dark anddisconnected reality of L.A. can be considered postmodern as the audience are able to decodefrom their previous cultural knowledge it is an exaggerated hyper reality. In addition, the textcan be described as postmodern as Refn deliberately constructed the mise-en-scene tomanipulate the audiences perception of time. Within the film the time period is difficult torecognise, the contrasting modern day race cars in contrast with retro cars we see in thegarage are an example of this. This challenges Fiskes developed theory of Barthes semic codeas the audience can only base their knowledge of time period of previous texts. With no directindicators within the text the audiences decoding system becomes confused as we cannotplace a specific time period onto the film. This could be considered postmodern as this creates
  3. 3. Sian Lynesambiguity as the audience are uninformed of the time period, arguably creating an entirelynew parallel universe that is not in line with the audiences reality.Drive also demonstrates the mixture of genres which then becomes an extension of newbounds within the genre that are not confined to rules which can be described as postmodern.In particular, The Kid takes Irene and her son to a river that runs through L.A. which ispresented in a golden hue through the lighting which gives and idealistic, even Utopianmodernist feeling which contradict the rest of the postmodernist style of the film. The sereneriver and happy emotion the characters expressions is reminiscent of the Romance genre.Genettes theory of hypotextuality can be applied here, the relation between the precedingRomance sequence in addition to the crime drama of previous scenes modifies the audiencesunderstanding typical conventions and can be considered postmodern by challenging these.Intertextuality is also present in the film and demonstrated in the opening credits. The use ofhot-pink as the title sequence was a reference to 1983s teen-comedy drama "Risky Business"editing techniques. This colour reflects the electro-pop score also present on the film, as wellas contradicting the tough-guy masculine representation of The Kid. The text also isreminiscent of a video game medium, especially popularised modern day game Grand TheftAuto which also mixes the L.A. representation which violence. As previously mentioned, thebirds eye shots are also reminiscent of a video game, which perhaps emphasises the hyper realnarrative that reminds the audience it is completely fictional. The soundtrack "A Real Hero"by College and Electric Youth is an electropop score which is quite soft which is notsynchronous with the hard and violent visuals in the film. The retro synthesizer feel of thetrack contributes to the video game genre; this again reinforces a postmodernist element tothe film as it deliberately manipulates the reality of the storyline. The Driver also lacksdialogue throughout the film which is reminiscent of the Man with No Name a stockcharacter is the American western film genre, such as Clint Eastwood in 1966 "The Good, TheBad and The Ugly". This lack of dialogue can be considered postmodern as the continuation ofthe narrative through the protagonist is reliant on his behaviour, a convention which in acrime drama is unusual.Another text which can be described as postmodern is Family Guys "Blue Harvest" that was anentire parody of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1982). Genettes theory ofmetatextuality can be applied here, as the text was an implicit commentary of the Star Warsfranchise. The manipulation of time and space is present in this text, which is a componentwhich define postmodernism, as the introduction of the film says "A long time ago, butsomehow in the future..". This complies with Lyotards Postmodernist theory as it rejectsconventional "grand narratives"; this rejects the idea that as history moves forward in time sodoes humanity. This state of being in the episode has not progressed in time or movedbackwards, suggesting that the narrative can go in any direction, supporting Lyotards theory.Therefore this can be described as postmodern as it challenges modernist thinking thatnarratives must be linear.This non-linear narrative is emphasised through Luke breathing the fourth wall when heintroduces the London Symphony Orchestra and composer John Williams. This techniquedirectly creates disjuncture and doesnt follow the convention of modernist narrative.
  4. 4. Sian LynesResultantly the audience are aware that the storyline is completely and hyper real as it allowsthem to make the connection between reality and fantasy. By breaking the fourth wall isstrikes the audience as abrupt and unusual, and become conscious that the cartoon isnt real.The film is heavily reliant on the previous cultural knowledge of a literate audience as culturalreferencing is used throughout. For example, on a shot of the Star Destroyer a Bush/Cheneybumper sticker is a direct reference to George Bush and Dick Cheneys 2004 electioncampaign. John Fiskes development of Barthes semic code could be applied here as theaudience has cultural knowledge of American politics to decode this. The use of a realisticpolitical situation combined with the clear hyper reality of a spaceship is completelyoutlandish, a postmodern element to create humour. Another example is when Leia iscaptured by Darth Vader where he asks where she has hidden the death star plans. Leiaresponds that it is in one of twenty briefcases, a direct implicit commentary on the TV showDeal or No Deal This example of bricolage complies with Levi Strauss concept that debrisfrom other texts are constructed by substitution to create an entirely new text. Again, this textcan be described as postmodern as it is reliant on the audiences previous knowledge or othertexts to decode the meaning.Overall as I have seen several elements, such as manipulation of genre conventions and style,contributes the postmodern media produced. Elements that are present, such as the use ofintertextuality to reference other texts often removes the idea that texts have to be original.Rather, they adopt a combination of influences and rely on their literate audience to create anentirely new meaning. They often oppose modernist utopian approaches that concernthemselves with grand narratives such as love, death and war; instead subverting or rejectingthese narratives, often distorting reality and fantasy.

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