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Hollywood Film Case Study 1

A2 MEDIA STUDIES POSTMODERNISM CASE STUDY 1: Pulp Fiction CASE STUDY 2: Misfits CASE STUDY 3: Lady Gaga Telephone CASE STUDY 4: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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WHAT IS POSTMODERNISM? Post-modernity began in the 1960s and the movement revolted against the modernist ideology. PoMo’s attitude is playful and humorous with a sense of nostalgia or tongue in cheek style. Postmodernists are against big narratives, for example religion and science, and it was Lyotard who said: “incredulity toward metanarratives”. The likes of Jonas Åkerlund, Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry are masters at creating exciting films and music videos for the likes of Lady Gaga and Madonna. Quentin Tarantino is a successful postmodern director, with films such as Reservoir Dogs (1992), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2 (2003/4), Death Proof (2007), Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012). Postmodernism is a reaction from modernism and humanism, it is a theory that likes to be vague, broad and ambiguous.

It believes life is what we make of it, what we experience and life the society wants us to live is false. It feels law has been used by those in power to control society and therefore are sceptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, including metanarrative and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. The relationship between film and postmodernism is not always compatible because the opening weekend of ‘Blade Runner’ (Ridley Scott, 1982) was not very successful, so this could show that audiences do not want to watch complicated storylines and do not want to know that human life has ‘failed’ in the future. Postmodern films attempt to subvert the mainstream conventions of narrative structure, characterisation and destroy the audience’s suspension of disbelief. Usually, such films break away from

It believes life is what we typical portrayals of gender, race, class, genre and time with the goal of creating something different from traditional narrative expression, or just “being weird for the sake of being weird” (Moe Szyslak, The Simpsons).

Hollywood Film Case Study 3

Pastiche Flattening of Affect Hyperreality

Time Bending

Altered States SuperHuman Bricolage

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THEORISTS FREDRIC JAMESON He is an American literary critic and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for his analysis of contemporary cultural trends—he once described postmodernism as the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized capitalism. Jameson’s best-known books include Postmodernism: The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, The Political Unconscious, and Marxism and Form. Jameson rently


A. Lane Professor in The Program in Literature and Romance Studies at Duke University. In 2012, the MLA gave Jameson their sixth Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement. In his view, postmodernity’s merging of all discourse into an undifferentiated whole was the result of the colonization of the cultural sphere,

which had retained at least partial autonomy during the prior modernist era, by a newly organized corporate capitalism.


curWilliam He was a French sociologist, philosopher, cultural theorist, political commentator, and photographer. His work is frequently associated with postmodernism and specifically post-structuralism. As he developed his work throughout the

1980s, he moved from economically based theory to the consideration of mediation and mass communications. Simulation, Baudrillard claims, is the current stage of the simulacrum: All is composed of references with no referents, a hyperreality.

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JEAN-FRANCIS LYOTARD He was a French philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist. He is well known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition. Lyotard’s


characterised by a persistent opposition to universals, meta-narratives, and generality. He criticises many of the ‘universalist’ claims of the Enlightenment, and his work undermines the fundamental principles that generis ate these broad claims.

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Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994) because its masses of pop culture references make it a postmodern landmark. The scene with Vincent and Mia in the trendy diner “Jack Rabbit Slim’s” is full of references to 1950s stars and movies, for example Marilyn Monroe is a waitress and they dine in a 50’s Chrysler car booth. There is intertextuality throughout this film, like small time gangsters (Vincent and Jules) who are working for a ‘big time’ gangster and they are just some of his pawns in his drug/ money game. The issue of Blaxploitation was raised during the feature because Tarantino was heavily inspired by the genre when developing the characters of Jules Winnfield and Marsellus Wallace (head gangster). The dialogue of these characters in many scenes is exploited as a source of humour and enjoyment for the audience:

“If Butch goes to Indo-China, I want a nigger waiting in a bowl o’ rice, ready to pop a cap in his ass.” Throughout this film there were mixtures of modernist and postmodernist techniques, which gave the film an old school feel because of the Hollywood theme of good versus evil. This was shown through odd angles which would show the backs of Jules’ and Vincent’s heads, unusually long takes were used when Vincent (Travolta) and Jules’ (Jackson) were getting guns from the boot of their car; the long duration of this shot makes the viewer feel voyeuristic because you are watching them for longer than necessary to

understand what is going on. Mia (Thurman) mimes a shape which actually appears on-screen after she infers Vincent to be boring and ‘square’; like the phrase ‘be there or be square’. There is also time bending as there is an

Year: 1994 Director & Writer: Quentin Tarantino Distributor: Miramax Films Budget: $8.5 million Box Office: $213,928,762

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absence of history because there is no specific location or setting in time or history. Although the audience can deduce from Jules’ and Vincent’s conversation about McDonald’s that it could have been set in the 1990’s. The narrative of Pulp Fiction uses a fragmented storyline which is disorienting in terms of understanding the time and space of the action.

REVIEWS Critic Geoffrey O’Brien argues “The old-time noir passions, the brooding melancholy and operatic death scenes, would be altogether out of place in the crisp and brightly lit wonderland that Tarantino conjures up. [It is] neither neo-noir nor a parody of noir.” Similarly, Nicholas Christopher calls it “more gangland camp than neo-noir,”. Foster Hirsch suggests that its “trippy fantasy landscape” characterizes it more definitively than any genre label.

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Howard Overman’s ‘Misfits’ is a British science fiction comedy-drama television show about a group of young offenders sentenced to community service, where they obtain supernatural powers after a strange electrical storm. This hybrid genre show received critical acclaim (2010 BAFTA, best drama series) and popularity within its teenage and young adult demographic, for its hilarious script and outrageous plot lines, which attracted massive audiences every week to the youthful E4 channel. The opening sequence starts with the idea of style over substance, as there are many close ups of Alisha (Antonia Thomas) looking at herself in the mirror and making provocative poses. This defines postmodernism to be a theory that celebrates outwards appearance (like Lady Gaga and her bizarre

outfits) compared to a deeper meaning. So straight away we see this in Misfits and we feel the only way to define ourselves and fit into society is to stick with the status quo and stay in your pigeon box and stereotype. Throughout the episode each of the characters style their own bright orange jumpsuit to make it more unique to them, but from a postmodern view they are not being themselves, they are being what society wants them to be. For

Years: 2009 - present Director: Jonathan van Tulleken Nirpal Bhogal Written by: Howard Overman Jon Brown Production Company: Clerkenwell Films Distributor: E4

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example, Kelly (Lauren Socha) is deemed the ‘chav’ and so has her hair scraped into a high side ponytail, big hoop earrings and lots of gold chains. Also, the character Simon (Iwan Rheon) is the ‘awkward nerd’ and his appearance personifies this through his perfectly combed hair and his jumpsuit top button done up. There is tongue in cheek humour shown throughout this episode, as it gives a firm grounding of what the show is about and what to expect from the upcoming series. There are references to television shows and youth’s culture and attitudes towards it. For example, Nathan (Robert Sheehan) and Kelly (Lauren Socha) are talking in a medium shot about why they are

on community service; she begins with “this girl called me a slag so I just got into a fight” “was this on the Jeremy Kyle show?” “no it was at Argos”. The reference made to the Jeremy Kyle show immediately creates humour as the common participants of this show are ‘chavvy’, ‘on benefits’ and to say kindly ‘unattractive’, so Nathan is insinuating she is of this nature and her answer somewhat confirms this behaviour because of the unusual setting for a fight, which can deem her as an outsider to society and therefore a ‘misfit’. During the electrical storm that changes everything and gives everyone powers, there was an extreme close up of an eye and an electrical power current running through

it. This made me think immediately to ‘Blade Runner’ (Ridley Scott, 1982) where there too was an extreme close up shot of an eye which reflected a hellish landscape on fire. So this could make reference to the Misfits show and it could foreshadow bad events to come. After the storm had affected all the characters there was more intertextuality to be found. The probation worker turned into a psycho killer and murdered one of the community service teenagers. The teenager (Gary) was smoking in the toilet and met his doom when an axe splinted the door, which mirrors the famous scene in ‘The Shining’ (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) and all that was missing was the iconic line “here’s Johnny!”. Furthermore, Nathan goes into the toilets but does not register the crime scene of blood and gore, however he mindlessly notices the jagged hole in the cubicle door but does not care and thinks nothing of it. The modern anti-heroes.

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My third case study is the music video ‘Telephone’ (2010) by Lady Gaga. There is an intertextual reference to the postmodern film ‘Kill Bill’ because of the car a replica of the model used in the film, called the ‘Pussy Wagon’. There is also advertising in the music video when Lady Gaga in prison uses Coca-Cola cans as hair-rollers. Lady Gaga is very conscious of how she looks, so each outfit she wears has to be different and more unique than the last normally verging on nude. Her appearance is her wild persona and so makes her seem very superficial and image is everything in

this postmodern world. break the forth wall and look directly at the viewer, Lady Gaga purposely especially with important made real life meta textual lines (that are spoken and reference to her genitalia are not lyrics to the song because it was rumoured which add to the cinematshe was a hermaphrodite. ic feel of the music video): However, the music video “You know what they say; but the story to rest when once you killed a cow the jail warden says: “I you gotta make a burgtold you she didn’t have a er”. She also she looked d**k”. More issues of gen- directly at the viewer der and sexuality are ex- when making important plored when there were hand gestures, like the Ilpredictable stereotypes of luminati sign, covering gay women in jail. There Year: was also dark humour merged with modern 1994 technology when you see Director & Writer: the prison officer on a lesbian dating website, and Quentin Tarantino her login is “Miss Officer”. Lady Gaga and Beyonce

Production Company: Clerkenwell Films Distributor: Miramax Films Budget: $8.5 million Box Office: $213,928,762

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REVIEW Bill Lamb from About. com said: “The Beyoncé assisted ‘Telephone’ is a club stomper that will draw in R&B and Hip Hop fans as well on the radio.” one of her eyes and a-ok. Gaga is then bailed out by Beyoncé and leaves In the music video, the prison. Inside the car, “telephone” is a metaphor Gaga and Beyoncé engage for Gaga’s brain and the into a highly dissociative fact that she is not an- conversation. It basically swering that phone (her sounds like dialogue bebrain) means that she has tween two mind-con“dissociated” from real- trolled slaves. The phrase ity. It is induced by trau- “Trust is like a mirror. You matizing events, such as can fix it if it’s broke but electroshock therapy or you can still see the crack torture, to force the vic- in the motherf**ker’s retim to dissociate from flection” can refer to a reality. The mind control cheating boyfriend and enables the handlers to can also refer to the create in the victim an al- permanent self-harming ter personality that can be damage caused by the programmed to perform fragmenting of one’s pervarious tasks, such as car- sonality in mind control. rying out an assassination. So in the context of the video, the telephone is Gaga’s mind and the dance club is representative of her dissociative state, the “magical place” mind-controlled slaves are trained to escape to during traumatic events.

In a separate review, he compared it to the “Just Dance” era and commented: “An odd track for a lot of reasons. Lyrically, it is a successor to ‘Just Dance’. The lyrics involve Gaga talking about not wanting to use her phone in the club. Having a track like this, when it feels like ‘Just Dance’ was so long ago and a different Gaga, is a little awkward. Especially when it is a planned single. It’s fun and disposable but there are better tracks on The Fame Monster to offer as singles”.

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My last film case study was ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ (Michel Gondry, 2004) deals with the matter of using technology to manipulate mental or emotional activity. Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet), find “Lacuna”, a company that erases memories, and decide to undergo the procedure that erases bad memories after they break up. In the film, we see a society that has replaced personality and nature, which makes us human way below technology, because the people freely allow their memories to be erased. To the society, a personalised memory is more “real” than a normal one and this shows Strinati’s “mediatisation” or the distinction between culture and society”.

harder to distinguish from memories. The audience can’t tell what a memory is and what is actually happening outside of Joel’s head in reality. The whole notion of reality is lost and we can see a decline in a meta-narrative. If there is no definition of reality then it goes against what is natural and things like religion and science that have an answer for everything etc. This is postmodern as there is no answer to the social and economic problems As we see Joel being in the film, apart from the chased through his mem- idea of erasing the probories, reality becomes a lot lems if they are memories.

Year: 2004 Director: Michel Gondry Production Company: Anonymous Content This is That Distributor: Focus Features Budget: $20 million Box Office: $72,258,126

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Bricolage can also be seen in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, in fact it is a key component of the film. The way Joel’s memories are jumbled together and sometimes overlaps shows his confusion. There is a memory where Joel is in bed and the memory is transported with the bed to a beach, which in turn is creating a new memory. The mix of old and new together makes it postmodern. As Joel’s journey through his old memories progresses he realises that he doesn’t want the memories to be erased because there are also some good memories of his and Clementine’s relationship. He tries to break out and at one point he revisits a memory that has already been deleted, there is people with no faces and it is very surreal. This is another example of postmodernism, by transforming a certain feature of a scene; all reference of identity, the meaning is changed from a boring memory to a rather scary, vivid memory. “I’m fine without you.”

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2013 POSTMODERNISM AND BEYOND I like postmodernism because its tongue in cheek humour appeals to me because it can make a serious situation lighthearted, as I feel the world takes itself too seriously. I also like watching postmodern films, television shows and music videos because it helps me understand this vague theory more but visually seeing intertextal references and experiencing parodies that I can understand and feel happy knowing. Postmodernism today is meant to be seen as ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ because it can be seen as controversial as the humour and parodies used can be offensive. Although postmodernity can also be nostalgic and therefore audiences will be fond of its homage and intertextual references. I personally like postmodernism because I think it is clever, however I

do not always appreciate too many references and I just want to watch a film without thinking too much about it. But being a media student this luxury is not always allowed. However

I am learning about new or old postmodern films everyday and endeavouring to pick up things from each that can add to my knowledge. The more I understand it the more I like it.

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The question now, is to wonder will this theory survive in the future? I think it will last because it states that no idea is original and just a copy of a copy. So clearly the theory is practical and can be applied to the present and the future.

have come to recognise postmodernism as a normal occurence in their TV viewings and exposure to media. Now film is exploring postmodern ideas, and winning awards for their work. This medium has been catapulted the original postmodern film ‘Bladerunner’ (1982, Ridley Scott) and to more modern times ‘Looper’ (2012, Rian Johnson).

but like anything it can get boring and deemed ‘uncool’ after a certain amout of time. So I do believe that eventually there will be a new craze after postmodernism, but for now I am unsure of what that is. Most likely it will be similar to postmodernism because it will probably have dim views of society and champion the anti-hero for the sake of it not conforming to stereotypes.

However, it can be said that it is just a phase and a fashionable movement. It has taken over the small screen with programmes like ‘Misfits’, ‘Gavin and Postmodernism: “WEIRD Stacey’, ‘The Commu- Postmodernism is very FOR THE SAKE OF nity’ and ‘The Mighty popular and exciting BEING WEIRD!” Boosh’ so everyday people currently in the world Moe Szyslak - The Simpsons

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Postmodern Case Study Book  

PoMo is weird for the sake of weird.