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"Provide Your Definition of Postmodern Media and Support It with Examples"

Updated on July 6, 2016
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games'.
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in 'The Hunger Games'. | Source

Postmodernism can be defined in multiple ways. One such way is simply as a development from modernism, but this fails to appreciate all that postmodernism is – a self-reflexive bricolage of intertextuality, "prosumerism", and the blurring of boundaries – and focuses instead on what postmodernism is not.

In order to begin to develop a sense of the postmodern, undeniably postmodern texts, such as 'The Hunger Games' (Ross, US, 2012) and 'Gogglebox' (Channel 4, 2013-2016) must be analysed, to identify the core postmodern elements, as established by theorists such as Jameson (intertextuality, the dislocation of time, and the flattening of affect), and Baudrillard (levels of representation of reality).

'The Hunger Games' relies heavily on the use of screens to bridge the boundary between the worlds of the arena, the Capitol, the outlying districts, and indeed ourselves, the 'real' audience.

The 'real' audience is shown the audience in the Capitol; the latter can easily be interpreted as a parody of the former, with an exaggerated passiveness, laughing at every comment of the talkshow's host, Caeser Flickerman.

The Capitol's audience also demonstrates Jameson's concept of the flattening of affect; we are shown two children play-fighting with swords, mimicking actions from the arena; this enhances the idea of the Capitol audience being a parody (mocking, as opposed to the celebratory nature of pastiche) of ourselves.

'The Hunger Games' also features an intriguing form of self-reflexivity, by breaking the "fifth wall" when Katniss is shown holding her hand up to the camera, which she is unexpectedly and seemingly uniquely aware of, triggering a riot in an outlying district.

The combination of multiple core postmodern elements, such as those previously mentioned, constructs a postmodern piece. However, this can be interpreted as a scale; a text does not need a set number of the key elements to be considered postmodern. 'The hunger Games' has a relative lack of intertextual references, which contrasts greatly with 'Gogglebox'.

The concept of 'Gogglebox' relies entirely on intertextuality and audience participation; the "characters" are represented as being part of the "real" audience, and are filmed reacting to a mixture of television programmes.

"#GoggleboxMe" allows the audience watching the show to send their own reactions to the producers; reactions are then shown before advert breaks, thus creating a wealth of self-reflexivity – an ironic self-awareness.

'Gogglebox' is also heavily based on the blurring of boundaries between "high" and "low" culture, juxtaposing a chess master from Cambridge with a working-class family in Newcastle, who are then forced to watch the same six hours of programmes, on one night each week.

'Gogglebox' creates a myth of community; it is a disguised misrepresentation, placing it in Baudrillard's third stage of the representation of reality. Channel 4's website describes 'Gogglebox' as a "British observational documentary", yet Tania Alexander, the show's executive producer, said in an interview that the show is "created in the edit". Bill and Josef live far apart; one travels far each week so that they can be recorded together. The very notion of a family sitting together to watch television is now uncommon.


Postmodern media challenge the traditional relationship between text and audience; they emphasise spectacle and often incoherent or overly complex narratives, whether the complexity is derived from the dislocation of time and overlapping of sub-narratives, combined with understanding from intertextual references, as in Sherlock, 'The Empty Hearse' (BBC, 1/1/14, episode 1, series 3), or from the overwhelming avoidance of conservative narrative styles, and a turn to abundant bricolage, and surreal, explicit hyper-reality, as was common in music videos in the 1980s, such as Bowie's 'Ashes to Ashes' and Talking Heads' 'Road to Nowhere', in which no sense can be found by any sane person from the overlays of a jogging David Byrne and a naked man emerging from a cardboard box.

In conclusion, postmodern media are those which feature an array of the core elements: bricolage, an ironic self-awareness, pastiche, parody, hyper-reality, intertextuality, fragmentation, etc. They blur the boundaries between cultures, levels of reality, time periods, and more, and they are explicitly aware that they are doing so. They employ bricolage to create new meaning, as described by Jacques Derrida, and they challenge how audiences are involved in the production of their own entertainment. Overall, postmodern media baffle; they confuse and they make conscious thinkers question the necessity for such incoherent, surreal, and diverse narratives, and they achieve all of this through the recycling of past ideas, thrown together to form something new.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 17 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very informative.