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Postmodernism: Television (animation)
Transcript of Postmodernism: Television (animation)
The Simpsons: Pastiche, parody & intertextuality
The Simpsons follows a non-linear narrative creating confusions over time and space as it is disjointed. This is an extremely post-modern trait and is very typical of comedy programmes, like The Simpsons and Family Guy.
This trait is made obvious to the audience when a character may state something like “oh don’t worry, it’ll all be alright by the next episode”, making the audience feel as if the characters are almost aware that they are in a show.
Contemporary narratives often won’t guarantee identifications with characters, or the 'happy ending' or meta narratives like the Defeat of the Enemy, which have traditionally been achieved at the end of films and television. They often manage only a heavily ironic, perhaps 'unfinished' or even parodic ending
The Simpsons: Narrative structure
The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening. The series is a satirical parody of middle class American lifestyle portrayed by its dysfunctional family of the same name, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture, society, television, and many aspects of the human condition.
The Simpsons Guy
The Simpsons: Simulacra & hyperreality
Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning through other texts. The Simpsons is made up of references to other media texts. Intertextuality is now a familiar postmodern flourish across most moving image media and Jameson specifies pastiche and parody as belonging to a similar idea. This self-reflexive awareness of itself as a text is also termed hyperconsciousness.
The blurring of real and ‘simulated’ in screen fiction, for example the Simpsons uses simulacra and simulation through using a cartoon within the actual cartoon, called “Itchy & Scratchy”. In effect, this show that Lisa and Bart watch, is a simulation of the “real world” of Springfield – essentially a hyper reality inside a hyper reality. It is also interesting to note that “Itchy & Scratchy” uses non-consequential violence just like the cartoon “Tom & Jerry” and is almost an exact replicate of the cartoon, which is ironic.
Another postmodern trait of The Simpsons is that the programme seems to blur time, for instance there is no sign of progress being made within the children in school. For example, Maggie is forever sucking her dummy, and the audience never actually witness her growing, learning to walk or talk etc.. Every single character’s image stays the same.
Confusion over time & space
"Simpsorama" is an episode of Season 26, that is a crossover with Futurama. It aired on November 9th, 2014
Referencing real life - intertextual & blurring real & unreal
Real/current political issues are mirrored in The Simpsons such as elections. There are also references to cultural moments within society such as the ice bucket challenge & Harlem Shake.
Audience are assumed to be clever, knowing, aware of the world and media literate. Understanding codes and conventions of media forms and references to a vast range of cultural spheres.
Family Guy is a family sitcom but with a dysfunctional twist
In a typical family sitcom, the story revolves around a nuclear family comprised of a husband, wife, and a couple of children
The story for each episode is stand-alone, and is most commonly about the family's mishappenings with each other, their friends, or neighbours
In the end of each episode the problem is solved and the family live on happily
The Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane, based some of his characters on previous animations:
Brian Griffin looks similar to the famous cartoon dog character Snoopy: White fur, Black nose, participates in human activities
Stewie has a striking resemblance to the 1991 comic-strip character Jimmy Corrigan:The Smartest Kid on Earth. Football-shape head, dislike towards mother, intelligent
This humour can only be found funny if the audience is well tuned with media texts such as these. Family Guy is constantly using references from other TV shows, films and the internet. Many understand the intertextuality because they are so "media savvy."
Family Guy is postmodern by always having references from other popular media texts and it makes fun of itself whenever it can. Our example today is 'The Simpsons Guy' episode
The introduction theme tune is parodying modern television
"It seems today that all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV...... where are those good old fashion values on which we used to rely? ... Lucky there’s a Family Guy."
The audience know that although the Family Guy voiceover is saying that its series will show family values, we know that it is going to be the complete opposite, therefore it is parodying its own role as promoting
sensible family entertainment.
Pastiche is the borrowing of something used before and re-using it in another context without changing it too much.
Family Guy contains a pastiche of Star Wars, Grease, and other TV / films.
It’s used to enjoy other TV series/ films, to pay homage to them, for humour. With pastiche,the past is reworked Star Wars are very popular films, famous today and still popular which is why it is easily understood and appreciated in Family Guy.
The series combines pastiche with parody. It isn't making reference to Star Wars in a negative way, only a positive one - the films and TV series were popular and still are.
Non Linear Narrative
The episodes follow a non linear narrative, in each episode there are at least 3 flash backs to when something happened. This usually happens when a character says a line similar to “this is worse than the time...”
After this line there is a flashback to a bizarre unrealistic situation, used just for the comedy value.
A non linear narrative is often used as its a common feature in post modern media to be playful with the chronology of events. Po mo does it because it can and it also reminds you about the process of production - its just TV, its not reality
These are concepts which describe progress and a belief system, for example; Christianity, Science, Buddhism.
Post modernism highlights the decline in these values.
Grand narratives are constantly open to criticism in Family Guy. For Example: Jesus Comes To Dinner.
Here Family Guy is exploring the death of the grand Narrative in terms of Christianity and is making humour out of it. This is an example of the decline of the grand Narrative. This is done for humourous purposes and is a bit of an ‘in- joke’, so you feel you get it alongside others.
The decline of the grand narrative
In many ways, Family Guy conforms to a conventional family sit-com and the environment is realistic - similar to other family sit-coms.
There are parts of the series which are unconventionally unrealistic, for example an intelligent baby, a talking dog and other characters like Jesus, Death and God.
In the series, though, these characters are accepted as if they were everyday citizens. The reason its done is its humourous.
Playfulness with realism
What makes this media text postmodern?
Using this episode of The Family Guy write about two ways (so two principles/ideas we have covered) that make it postmodern.
Aim for 800-1000 words
The Homer Shake
The Simpsons Guy
Simpsons Film References