Category Archives: Week3

The Hybrid Genre Film: An Examination of Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit by Abby Bisbee

Gary Aylesworth observed that “postmodernism is indefinable is a truism. However, it can be described as a set of critical, strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts such as difference, repetition, the trace, the simulacrum, and hyperreality to destabilize other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning” (Aylesworh). The application of the elements of difference, hyperreality and  simlulacrum have been used effectively in the post war cinema by the combination of realities, including the then current environment with an animated environment. Although this hybrid approach was leveraged in early popular films such as The Wizard of Oz and King Kong, it was only with the improvement in film technology and special effects in the late 1980s and the 1990s that these movie genres could be deeply combined into complex and hybrid genres including cartoons. Two movies in particular exemplify of how movie genres could be merged because of these improvements in and the postmodern desire to question modern narratives and to combine several types of art to create a remixed and hyperreal work of art. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) and Space Jam (1996) take modern narratives and dramatically present them in an otherworldly context.

The Who Framed Roger Rabbit narrative focuses on a common lead character, a private detective, Eddie Valiant, who investigates a murder whose leading suspect is the famous cartoon character, Roger Rabbit. Throughout the film, the sets are equally distributed between the human, or “real”, world and “Toontown.” Because of its technological ability to almost seamlessly integrate the “toon” world with the “human” world, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is able to venture into a new type of film hybrid – one that blends the genres of cartoon comedy, romance, and film noir. The 1988 film, according to the work of Frederic Jameson, could be an example of the pastiche that is tied into the definition of postmodernism (Jameson). Who Framed Roger Rabbit imitates cartoon comedy without making a parody of the integration of animation. The hybridity and the hyper-reality of the “real” world, the “Hollywood world” and the “cartoon world” is relatively seamless and destroys any “sense of clear generic boundaries” that defines modernism (Irvine chart).

wfrr bike picture

Joe Pytka’s 1996 Space Jam follows its predecessor by integrating several film genres to create the ultimate popular culture film. Space Jam is a also hybrid film that mixes the genres of cartoon comedy, “family live-action”, sports, and alien invasion. The alien invasion film narrative of the 1950s is insinuated in the plot of Space Jam, but instead of repeating the nationalistic metanarrative where the Western society defeats the exterior threat and obliterates them in a demonstration of national strength and power (Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)), the cartoon aliens are welcomed into American society. This acceptance also leads to the question of individual identity and whether there still exists a national identity in a postmodern world.

 

space-jam bball pics

In both Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Space Jam there is a similar loss of generic boundaries, but in the postmodern society, the integration of the “real” and the cartoon was the next ultimate step.  This blurring of both generic lines and the representation of the real is something that has evolved since both of these movies were released as special effects technology has improved. The digital age has created the ultimate hybrid film, one where there is an expectation of the “real” and the “simulacra.” Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Space Jam reflect the post-modern film for two reasons, one of which was hinted to earlier. First, both films distribute the power equally between the human and cartoon worlds and give more “value” to the “surface” or the visual of the film rather than the narrative. This is best exampled in the character of Jessica Rabbit whose cartoon character was derived from the “va-voom” actresses of the fifties and earlier such as Veronica Lake. The director chose to represent the real, Veronica Lake, through media. The culture of postmodern society is adapting “to simulation, visual media becoming undifferentiated equivalent forms, …[and]…simulation and real-time media substituting for the real” (Irvine).

 

space jam soundtrack cover

 

Postmodernism is also embraced by both of these films because of the manner in which they raise popular culture up on a pedestal. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we see Toontown and leading character Roger Rabbit united with a hardboiled fiction narrative reminiscent of late 1940s and early 1950s detective fiction and film noir. In Space Jam we see a clearer attempt to merge elements of popular culture with the collaboration of popular children’s culture with the Looney Toons, the American underdog sports film (a genre that boomed in the 1990s), Michael Jordon (the leading international sports star of the time) and popular music. These last elements completely create this post-modern genre. Where the music in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was derivative of genres that are united, the soundtrack from Space Jam was a clear reflection of the popular music of the mid-1990s using artists such as R-Kelly, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, B-Real, Coolio, and Quad City DJ. The artists were asked to specifically write songs for the family-comedy film, a request that forced the artists to venture far from their usual genre and audience. Even within their music videos, as seen in “Hit Em-High”, they integrated cartoon animation blurring lines between genres once again.

B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J And Busta Rhymes – Hit Em High

Although postmodernism may be undefinable, its elements may be seen in our cultural expressions. The combination of characters, media, story lines, different realities and narratives introduced by films such as Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, provide a view of some of these elements.

 

Pytka, Joe. Space Jam. 1996.

Zemeckis, Robert. Who Framed Roger Rabbit. 1988.

Martin Irvine, “Approaches to Po-Mo”

Frederic Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”

Aylesworth, Gary, “Postmodernism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition),

 

 

 

Girl Code: an example of television programming in the post-postmodern world

Vittoria Somaschini

Thinking of an example that could be considered postmodern or post-postmordern was inherently a difficult task, as I had issues grasping what postmodern meant at its very core, but after some serious secondary research I think I may have arrived to a general understanding of postmodern as something that challenges that which is modern, but has specific vocabulary attached to it as Hassan outlines in his essay, “From Postmodernism to Postmodernity”. According to Hassan, “postmodernism can be ‘defined’ as a continuous inquiry into self-definition” (Hassan, 5). I find MTV’s “Girl Code” to be an instance of po-mo television programing, through its campy, and candid ability to convey third wave feminism as well as a post-postmodern understanding of the world as the cast attempts to define what it means to be a woman in a new epoch.

The show is a confessional interview of female comedians who address current cultural and pop cultural issues surroundingtumblr_mq7u6qQEG51rof4yyo1_500 gender identities, social norms, and issues that the “modern” woman is plagued by.  It is self referencing to the show “Guy Code”. The show is also reminiscent of many of the reality programs that MTV already offers their audiences, as the comedians sit and speak to the camera, and this often occurs in reality programming in the “confessional” rooms. This interview style of TV show has had success in the past with series like “I love the 80’s” or “The Best Thing I Ever Ate”.

The show’s ability to address the changing role and status of women as well as the issues that exist between women points to its postmodern identity.  Some of the episode titles include: “Contraception, being overly-compliant, canceling, plastic surgery and the Tall Girl Code”, “Dieting, vacations,

tumblr_inline_mqxg52PEvP1qz4rgpneediness and watching sports”, and “Social networking, friends with benefits, lying, masturbation and using a boyfriend’s bathroom”. Though it may appear that these topics are superficial and rather self-evident, they represent an eclectic mix of real-life problems that women face regularly colored with a splash of postfeminism as the cast of the show is mix gendered, mixed sexuality, and multi-racial.

Works cited:

Hassan, Ihab Habib. “From Postmodernism to Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context.” Philosophy and Literature 25.1 (2001): 1–13. Web.

Irvine, The Po-Mo Site: Postmodernism to Post-Postmodernism

Gif images from Tumblr

Wikipedia, Contributors. “Girl Code.”

—. “Postmodern Feminism.”

“The Cabin in the Woods”: A Postmodern Horror Story

“The Cabin in the Woods”: A Postmodern Horror Story

Arianna Drumond

Joss Whedon’s “Cabin in the Woods” is both an homage to the traditions of the horror film genre, and a postmodern meta-commentary on its more idiosyncratic tropes. The story begins in the traditional horror film fashion, a group of teens, best described by their given stereotypes—“the fool,” “the jock,” “the scholar,” “the virgin,” and “the whore”—leave town to spend a few days relaxing at a “cabin in the woods.” While the trip starts out normally enough, the characters are quickly forced to make choices that ultimately lead them down their genre-prescribed paths in the ultimate horror film fashion.                                                                    cabin

Whedon of course, works to subvert all of the horror genre clichés by alluding to the fact that there is a more complex force driving the action. He introduces a mysterious agency, which is in fact responsible for engineering various horror-based scenarios in order to appease an unknown malevolent god. It soon becomes clear that multiple scenes of horror (each one fitting a particular horror sub-genre) are being monitored across the world. Each country as it turns out, is responsible for creating it’s own scene of terror using it’s own clichéd methods; the American teens for example are attacked by redneck zombies. It eventually becomes clear that this agency has manipulated a group of complex characters and stripped them down to fit the needs of the horror genre tropes. “The jock” for example, is not a chauvinist-knuckle-dragging-Neanderthal, but an intelligent and reasonable character.

“The Cabin in the Woods” is such an elegant example of postmodernism in film as it acknowledges the traditions of its genre while successfully undermining them. All of the facets of traditional horror are there—the clichéd characters, the obviously menacing location, and the warnings that something bad is about to happen—and yet, Whedon throws these iconic concepts on their heads by acknowledging how completely ridiculous they are.

poster

(“The jock”) Curt: I think we should split up, we can cover more ground that way!

(“The fool”) Marty: Really?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1259521/

Whedon, Joss. The Cabin in the Woods. Directed by Drew Goddard. Los Angeles: MGM. 2012

Postmodern Aesthetics in Spirited Away

Aena Cho

In the world of contemporary mass media, many different theories of postmodernism or postmodernistic philosophical concepts seem to be everywhere even in animations or cartoons for young audiences.  While they are mostly western animations, American in particular, including The Simpsons and Shrek, which have been mentioned and discussed in postmodernism studies, I would like to discuss a Japanese animation called Spirited Away (2001) in the light of postmodernism.

As one of the most successful films in the Japanese history, Spirited Away is definitely one of the masterpieces of Hayao Miyazaki who won the Oscar for the Best Animated Feature in 2003.  The film is not about a typical fairy for children but a fantasized capitalistic world.  Chihiro, a ten-year-old girl, while moving to a new neighborhood with her parents enters the spirit world called Yuya which is owned and managed by the witch, Yubaba.  After her parents are transformed into pigs by Yubaba, she takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and escape to the human world (Wikipedia).

st. meji       st yuya

First of all, the whole film is built on the theme of retro, nostalgia, and reconstruction of history; some of the typical features in many postmodernism films.  It stages a modernizing Japan in the Meiji period (1868-1912). Yuya, the mystical town resembles Meiji, Japan in terms of architecture, during which time the style was a mix of Western and Japanese.  In an interview, Miyazaki said that he wanted to portray that specific era which was much different from these days when “the worlds of spirits and of humans have become separated because humans have neglected spiritual values” (Ghiblink, 2001).  In fact, there is no distinct boundary between that historical period and the present in the film, which is also frequently shown in many other postmodernistic films.  Chihiro, the protagonist, is sent back and forth between the two different time periods.  More importantly, this film describes the modern capitalistic world in the historical setting in which there are huge gaps and distinctions in power among different individuals, classes, and countries. This is best played out through the antagonist, Yuyuba.  Yubaba is the only one who does paperwork, lives in luxurious rooms, and owns jewelry.  She is the bourgeoisie who owns the capital to hire lower-class laborers; the other spirits in the film.  Moreover, she symbolizes the western power dominating the rest of the world since she wears a western dress while all other spirits wear uniforms which looks like traditional Japanese clothing.

yubaba

Identity confusion or loss of identity is another major theme featured in this film; and this is definitely one of the ongoing issues in the postmodern world where different races, genders, classes, and religions constantly come in contact with one another and mixed together.  In the film, one’s identity is not a fixed thing since the ways that he is represented is subject to change in Yuya.  For example, Yubaba alters Chihiro’s name to Sen and transforms Chihiro’s parent to pigs.  Haku, another main character in the film, also constantly changes his form from a human to dragon.  However, the most interesting feature would be No-Face man who has only a shadow-like body and wears a mask in order to hide the fact that he has no face.  He makes gold to tempt people and eat those who are tempted; he grows bigger and bigger and hence constructs his outside identity by eating them. According to the interview included in the DVD, Miyazaki explains that the No face man represents the modern capitalist production and consumption; system that grows by feeding upon human greed (Ghiblink, 2001).  In other words, No-Face man’s transformation implies that people’s loss, oblivion, or confusion of their original identities and values in the modern society is often due to the pursuit of greed and materialistic wealth.

no face

Work cited

1. “Spirited Away.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

2. Ghiblink, Team. “Interview: Miyazaki on Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi”. Nausicca. Net. 2001. http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/interviews/sen.html

Zara, a business model based on postmodern consumer demands

Estefanía Tocado

9/17/13

Galicia, in northern Spain, is the birthplace of the multinational textile empire Inditex.  All started in 1964 with a small local store at La Coruña where owner, Amancio Ortega and his former wife Rosalía Mera, two of the richest people in Spain and in the planet, launched the seed to what, many years later, will become the mega productive fashion industry of Zara and sister brands, such as Zara Home, Massimo Dutti (Upper-scale audience) as well as Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, Üterque and Bershka (these last directed to a younger costumer, in most of the cases, or only offering man´s fashion such as in the case of Pull and Bear) (Wikipedia).

inditex_sede_1.jpg

Inditex headquarters in Arteixo, La Coruña.   

As other consumer brand stores such as H&M, Mango or Uniqlo, Inditex is a clear example of postmodern clothing industry that has based its success in a number of key strategies, as it has been argued by New York Times ‘writer Suzy Hansen: Fast fashion (copying High brand designers), affordability, worldwide access to their stores (they have 1763 stores in over 73 countries).  According to Frederic Jameson some of the main characteristics of the postmodern times are the erosion between the “High” and “Low” culture, the pastiche, the death of the subject, the fragmentation of time and history by speed and the accelerated obsolesce, to what he has called “the perpetual present”, the transnational capitalism without borders, and the consumption of networks (Posmodernism 15-28).  I believe all these characteristics apply to the business model incarnated by Zara, but moreover, I think that their background of commercialization of styles has created a revolution in the fashion business market by being a very consumer-centered company.  As stated by Hansen in her recently in her article, Zara is an example of a business model focused on consumer’s demands, so a jacket is popular in New York and Istanbul, the store managers will inform the headquarters in Galicia, of what items are the most popular so the company will produce more of that particular style, but only by demand.  Therefore, the company avoids having overstock (Hansen).

On the other hand, one of the main selling points of Zara is what Jameson called: “The new types of consumption; planned obsolesce; an ever more rapid rhythm of fashion and styling changes” among some of the main effects that consumer society and multinational capitalism has brought to our lives (Jameson 28).  Zara has erased the boundaries between “High fashion” and “Low fashion.”  With a large team of young designers working in their headquarters in Spain, the majority of their collections are influenced by what is shown in the top designers such as Gucci or Louis Vuitton.  Top designers’ creations representative of is known as High Fashion, which, as we all well know are only affordable by a minority, are now ready to be consumed by an eager middle-class costumer around the world.  By mixing high fashion and consumer´s demands, Zara´s pastiche designing style has proven to be a likeable formula for all sorts of different shoppers, who are being sold that Zara´s clothes as something “individualistic” “trendy”, “unique” and “the latest thing in the market”, but that is far from being true.  By renewing their stock every two weeks, Zara´s clothes are constantly changing, so what it was purchased a month ago may not be “the latest thing” anymore, therefore encouraging costumers to shop at their stores more often (Hansen).  So their individuality and “latest trend” image it is far from reality. As stated by Jameson: “the notion of individualism and personal identity is a thing of the past; that the old individual or individualist subject is “dead”… Today, in the age of corporate capitalism… the old bourgeois individual subject no longer exists” (17).

In the short period of two weeks (Zara´s turnover period) any costumer around the globe can purchase the same garment in any of their stores in Europe, America, Asia… having thousands of people wearing the same jacket or top and creating this idea of a “perpetual present” since anybody can travel from Barcelona[1] to New York and find the same item in any of the Zara stores, and even exchange it.  Otherwise, the costumer can visit any of the low-end Zara stores in the search of last season´s merchandise.  According to Jameson, this could be an example of transitional capitalism without borders.  Despite of the fact that their main production is based in northern Spain and Portugal where their higher end products are made, Zara also produces lower-end items in other parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa creating a distribution chain that supports diversified production, based on a globalized consumption network (Wikipedia).  Nevertheless, Zara´s international network is not only based on consumption of fashion demands but also has created a network of relations with other business enterprises, such as real state investments.  In opposition to many of the top consumer brands that rent their stores, Zara purchases stores in the most expensive areas of town, such as their latest acquisition in Manhattan´s  5th Avenue (Hansen).  At the same time the company has shown a preference for buying historical buildings, increasing the value of their properties (I had the opportunity to shop at a former aristocratic Andalusian palace in the city center of Jerez de la Frontera, in Southern Spain or a magnificent mansion in the center of Prague, in the Czech Republic).

For many years, Zara did not publish catalogues or offered online shopping as part of their commercial strategy, but celebrities have worn their clothes, generating a free advertising for the company.  It is know that British royals, Kate Middleton and her sister, enjoy wearing Zara´s clothes (Hansen). In 2010 Zara launched their online website in the US and Spain, and then in some other parts of the world.  More recently the company has added applications for iPhones and iPads, so shoppers can purchase anywhere and at any time their favorite pieces, garments that in two weeks will be rapidly replaced by some other merchandise, reminding us of that “accelerated obsolesce” that Jameson refers to, and the erosion of differences between space and time (Irvine).  For now, Zara has proven to be a successful business with a commercial strategy based on costumer´s demands, the lack of advertising and real state investments.  It is left to see, if this business model will outcome future global challenges in the years to come.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/magazine/how-zara-grew-into-the-worlds-largest-fashion-retailer.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.zara.com

Works Cited

Hansen, Suzy. “How Zara grew into the largest fashion retailer.” The New York Times. 9  November 2012. Web. 15 September 2013.

Irvine, Martin. “The Po-Mo Site: Postmodernism to Post- Postmodernism” Web. 15 September 2013.

Jameson, Frederic. “Postmodernism and Consumer Society.” Ed. Ann Kaplan. Postmodernism and its Discontents (London-New York: Verso,1988): 13-29.

Wikipedia Contributors. “Zara.” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia.  Web. 15 September 2013.


[1] Zara has a store in El Prat Barcelona airport. It is not necessary to travel into the city.