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Media Theory: Postmodernism. Postmodernism Metanarratives Intertextuality Bricolage Pastiche Hyper-reality Simularcrum. Why and what is Postmodernism?.

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media theory postmodernism

Media Theory: Postmodernism

  • Postmodernism
  • Metanarratives
  • Intertextuality
  • Bricolage
  • Pastiche
  • Hyper-reality
  • Simularcrum
why and what is postmodernism
Why and what is Postmodernism?

Postmodernismis a useful theory for analysis of fragmentary or the contradictory nature of many contemporary media texts that you encounter in relation to the cultural context of the text’s production; the visual style of the text and the inter-relationship between media texts.


Postmodernism is a difficult theory to ‘pin down’ as it’s meaning is so often confused and changed! (just like New Media discussions and debates!)

Essentially Post Modernism rests on some definable characteristics:

  • The decline of party politics and trade unionism (think 80s UK)
  • The collapse of communism and a belief in the ability of government to centrally plan societies
  • Insecurity and uncertainty
  • Media-saturated society with instantaneous communication
  • An emphasis on difference rather than uniformity
  • Increasing emphasis on the importance of style and the visual

In a postmodern culture there is a greater sense of ‘anything goes’, with audiences constructing their own meanings from a range of cultural and media artefacts.

  • It has been suggested that it is increasingly more difficult to produce original media texts, hence the focus on reproducing previous work.

E.G. Alfie (2004) is a remake of the 1966 British film of the same name.



are we over analysing society
Are we over analysing society?

Lyotard (1984) has suggested that in a post-modern period, over-arching theories or explanations of the world or metanarratives, such as Marxism, capitalism, religion and science have been debunked, leading to greater instability in society.

Over-arching explanations of society sometimes referred to as grand narratives.

a pick a mix society
A pick-a-mix society?
  • Post-modernism suggests that are a fractured society with the possibility for different meanings and ‘anything goes’ because we lack the once oppressive and unchallengeable political and social directions.
  • We are in a media saturated World, individuals can channel hop between TV programmes or click between internet sites, while listening to a range of music from an ipod, or seemingly on the same device with the ipad.
  • As a result different media and film products are being produced, which merge and blend across previously clear boundaries of taste, style and genre.
how do we recognise postmodernism in texts then
How do we recognise Postmodernism in texts then?
  • Intertextuality(1)
  • Bricolage(2)
  • Merging of genres, styles and media
  • An emphasis on image and style rather than narrative and meaning
  • Elements that draw attention to the construction of the media text
  • Playful and ironic elements
  • A mixing of elements of ‘high’ or ‘elite’ culture within popular culture
  • Fragmentation
  • Diversity of representations and viewpoints
  • Pastiche(3) and parody
  • When a media text uses elements or references from other media texts
  • The process of creating a media text out of a series of artefacts, styles and signs from other media texts or cultural artefacts
  • A creation of a media text out of elements of, or with reference to other media texts in a mocking or caricatured way

There are a range of areas in the media where a post-modern style is easily recognised:

  • DVD boxed sets, which package DVDs on the making of films along with the actual film, drawing attention to how the film was constructed
  • In the cross over between films and advertising, not only in terms of product placement in films, but also adverts that feature film stars, are shot on lavish film sets and incorporate the visual style of various films.
postmodernism baudrillard 1983
Postmodernism & Baudrillard (1983)

Argued that we live in an era of hyper-reality, whereby the daily world and the world of the media are merging and media texts seem more real than reality they seek to convey.

Refers to the fact that the distinction between the real world and the media world is disappearing


In our world media merely represents other media, it is a simulacrum.

(Headcases ITV 2008, Spitting Image ITV 1984-96)

A media text that makes no attempt to represent reality and merely represents other representations.


Simulacrumcan also work through the representations of places. Places can be represented in relation to other media texts rather than any real experience that the audience might have of a place

(Think red phone boxes for a British representation in the US/a man wearing a tweed coat with a bow-tie!)

structural theory postmodernism in moulin rouge
Structural theory + Postmodernism in Moulin Rouge


Structural theory

Opera style La Boheme (High culture) and pop-video fragmented visual style