Sunday, September 27, 2009

IDNTTWMWYTIM: "Postmodernism"

Okay, so it's been brought to my attention that I've used the term "postmodern" without explaining what it means, and have thus exposed myself to be the pretentious film student that I am. As though this whole blog didn't do that anyway. So instead of finding out what the deal with "chai tea" is, like I'd originally planned, you get this. Be sure to thank Stacy, everyone. ;)


Well, before you can define postmodernism, you have to define modernism. Which I don't want to do because this will take all night, and I freely admit that my understanding of this is not completely solid because I got a crash course in it for about a half hour one day, but here we go anyway. Modernism arose out of a huge social change around the end of the nineteenth century, with people like Freud and Einstein and Darwin running around, blowing huge holes in the established "common sense" of the day. The entire foundation on which people had based a lot of their beliefs about the world and even themselves and how they functioned were being soundly rocked and this created a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.

Modernism was the reaction to this, and to be quite honest, I'm pretty fuzzy on what exactly it entails. From what I understand, it shares many qualities with postmodernism, but modernism is always striving for underlying meaning, and a solid take on what is really "true". Postmodernism then takes the stance that meaning is subjective and "truth" and "reality" are shaped by an individual's perspective, not by any inherent qualities these ideas posses themselves. It also delves more into ambiguity, allowing for much more uncertainty and ambivalence than the more logical modernism does.

David Lynch is a quintessential example of a postmodern filmmaker because his works are very ambiguous in terms of meaning, and "truth" and "reality" are all very subjective. His stuff is also typically surreal, confusing, and in parts upsetting, so I wouldn't recommend running out to rent Lost Highway to see what I'm talking about unless you like that sort of thing. I tend to see Quentin Tarantino as postmodern, or at least partaking in postmodern elements, and there are loads of other filmmakers, artists, writers, etc. that do the same.

That's probably the best I can do to try and explain it, but it's a very significant movement in modern culture, so if you're still confused, there are probably some very helpful resources out there.

Also, next time you hear a word you don't know, write it down and look it up when you get a chance. Good way to learn stuff and you don't have to pay tuition rates.

Next time: What's up with this "chai tea" stuff, anyway?


  1. The problem with postmodernism is that I feel like everytime it's described, it's really just describing modernism. I mean it's just semantics, and really when you get down to it, a matter of opinion/taste, but I have known a bunch of literary professors who were very adamament about this. If modernism is largely just a reaction to the commonly accepted accepted value, then post-modernism, even if it's a reaction to modernist values, is really just an exact form of modernism; even if it is a-meaningul. I think a lot of people are really just in kind of a hurry to get out of modernism because they want to be doing something new. Novelists hate the idea we haven't progressed beyond finnigan's wake (and we haven't). Filmmakers hate the idea we haven't done something more beyond "the cabinet of dr. caligari" and we technically haven't. A bunch of folks think the only things that are actually postmodern are things that use advanced modernism techniques (like lynchian fuzziness and abstract formation) not to define a lack of definition, but instead the new myth. The best example I can think of that kind of expresses this is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind. Which is sort of (what is deemed) post-modern storytelling to establish commonly accepted old myths. God I think i've made this more confusing rather than less. I'll leave it there for now.

  2. Well I feel a little better about not having a more concrete idea of the differences between modernism and postmodernism now. I'm not alone!

  3. I never said you were pretentious, you turd! I said it was a word thrown around by pretentious film students, not that all film students are pretentious! ;D

    Now please EXCUSE me, I must go play with my My Little Ponies! Good day, sir!