Category Archives: Week 3

The Post-Postmodern Rap God

Few modern musicians can match careers with rapper Eminem. His 115 million albums sold puts him in select company commercially, ahead of legendary acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, and Prince (Billboard, 2013). Not only was he the highest-selling artist of the new millennium, but industry tracker Billboard named Eminem their “Artist of the Decade” for the 2000s (Press Association, 2013). Rolling Stone has featured his visage on their cover more than a half dozen times, and has even crowned him the King of Hip Hop (Molanphy, 2011) and as one of their “100 Immortals” (Rolling Stone, 2003). His backstory about growing up poor in Detroit and with an absent father has achieved such renown, no less than Hollywood luminaries Brian Grazer and Curtis Hanson have printed it for posterity in celluloid in the acclaimed 8 Mile. Eminem even became the first hip hop artist to ever win an Oscar the song “Lose Yourself” from the film (The 75th Academy Awards, 2003).

eminem2

His latest release, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, (released in November 2013), has garnered similar acclaim from the music critic literati. But amongst the claims of “virtuoso application of talent” (MacInnes, 2013), “wittily nihilistic” (Farber, 2013), and “burns with purpose” (Wood, 2013) an interesting critique runs throughout the number of reviews which harkens to notions of postmodernity in a postmodern age.

For example, Christopher Weingarten of Spin writes:

Instead, Eminem is mostly making his version of John Lennon’s Rock ‘N’ Roll, or Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man or U2’s Rattle and Hum or the Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty: one of the biggest artists in the world indulging an elaborate revisionist fantasy where he gets to goof around in the era right before he started making music. In his case, it’s rap’s Golden Era, andMMLP2 co-executive producer Rick Rubin brings an arsenal of the type of glue-sniffer rock riffs that peeled the sod off suburban lawns in the Beastie Boys’ 1986 (Joe Walsh, Billy Squier), not to mention the type of Cold Lava Lampin’ acid-rock kitsch that lured us into 1989’s D.A.I.S.Y. Age (the Zombies, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders). (Weingarten, 2013)

If we consider “All this is to say that a persuasive model of postmodernism requires a constellation of particular styles, features, attitudes, placed in a particular historical context” (Hassan), then what to make of this particular narrative surrounding Eminem’s “elaborate revisionist fantasy?”

From the opening ghetto blaster, to the insertion of the old school mix tape, the video strikes a definitive historical cord. This would seem to imply the model of postmodernism Hassan details above. But while the video harkens to a bygone era, it’s impossible not to note the images of “rap’s Golden Era,” one in which Eminem was not a part of. Bassil (2013) suggests Eminem has undertaken this revisionist track in order to reposition himself in today’s postmodern era.

Eminem realises he has to find a new foothold, perhaps moving back toward the rock infused rap world. In the early 00s, Eminem’s face was plastered across black hoodies with the same frequency as the Slipknot or Korn logo. Alongside Fred Durst, Eminem helped bring rap music to a new audience. It’s not a coincidence that this year he headlined Reading Festival, and weeks later, released the Beastie Boy’s homage “Bezerk”. The track was produced by Rick Rubin, and alongside its “So What Cha Want” inspired video, cemented Eminem’s intention as returning back to heavier driven rap music. If Slim Shady isn’t working any more, maybe he’s going back to another style that did. (Bassil, 2013)

Jameson notes that nostalgia is a “particular practice of pastiche is not high-cultural but very much within mass culture, and it is generally known as the “nostalgia film” (what the French neatly call la mode rétro – retrospective styling)” (Jameson, 1988, p. 18). So in effect, Eminem is reinventing himself through the lens of nostalgia, placing himself in a prior context with a post-postmodern interpretation. He achieves the post-postmodern perspective.

By harkening back to “rap’s Golden Era” and inserting himself into it all while subverting that text by alluding to his own personal history post-Slim Shady, Eminem is performing an interesting exercise in resurrection. Where once Eminem was the edgiest and most wickedly sardonic rapper around, it seems as if every modern musician plays with the margins for controversy. Bassil suggests “Eminem, like JAY Z, is cashing in on his former success and opting to move toward a comfortable commercial audience” (Bassil, 2013). On the track “Rap God,” his second release from the The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem raps:

You get too big and here they come trying to censor you like that one line
I said on “I’m Back” from the Mathers LP one when I tried to say
“I’ll take seven kids from Columbine
Put ’em all in a line, add an AK-47, a revolver and a nine”
See if I get away with it now that I ain’t as big as I was but I’m

This line is particularly revealing in the post-postmodern projection of Eminem, as he mocks not only his current stature as an aging hip-hop star with less commercial appeal, but the notion of how controversial he was and now, is. He could rest on his laurels, he truly has nothing to prove; but Marshall Mathers has always thrived on his insecurity, that’s what differentiates this persona from the bombastic Eminem and the disturbed Slim Shady. The Marshall Mathers persona has always been the personal and introspective of these personalties, after all, it’s the one who’s over 40 with a daughter in high school. It is this awareness that allows Eminem to perform this post-postmodernist critique, exploiting his past as Slim Shady, with lyrical wizardry and wicked humor, while at the same time, subverting the text in these nostalgic contexts.

References

Bassil, R. (2013). A textual analysis of Marshall Mathers’s Predicament. Noisey. Retrieved from http://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/blog/a-textual-analysis-of-eminems-rap-god

Billboard. (2009 Dec 7). Best of the 2000s: The Decade In Charts and More. Billboard. Retrieved from http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/266420/artists-of-the-decade

Dolan, J. (2013 Nov 3). Eminem ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ Review. Rolling Stone.

Farber, J. (2013, Oct 30). ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’: album review. New York Daily News.

Hassan, I. (1987). From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Jameson, F. (1988). Postmodernism and Consumer Society. In E. Ann Kaplan, ed. Postmodernism and its Discontents (pp. 13-29). London and New York: Verso.

MacInnes, P. (2013, Nov 8). Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 – review. The Guardian.

Molanphy, C. (2011, Aug 15). Introducing the King of Hip-Hop. Rolling Stone. Retrieved from http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/introducing-the-king-of-hip-hop-20110815

Press Association. (2013, Jan 18). Eminem to headline new Glasgow Summer Sessions festival. The Courier. Retrieved from http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/scotland/eminem-to-headline-new-glasgow-summer-sessions-festival-1.66184

Rolling Stone, (2005). “The Immortals: Rolling Stone.” Rolling Stone. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20081016210530/http://www.rollingstone.com/news/coverstory/the_immortals

The 75th Academy Awards, (2003). Nominees and Winners. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/ceremony/75th-winners.html.

Weingarten, C. R. Eminem, (2013, Nov 3). ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ Review. Spin.com.

Fairy Tale Films: Post-Modern Perspectives

There were many examples that came to mind when thinking about post-modernism that we might be in now and how relationships between then and now shape the characteristics of that particular work. The main thing I kept thinking about were Fairy Tales on Film. We have probably seen numerous spin-offs of the various Disney princesses, from Cinderella, to Snow White, to Beauty and the Beast, etc.

First, let me justify why these films (both then and now) are imperative for study. As a young girl growing up, and I’m sure most people would agree, these princesses set the stage for the fairy tale stories that filled our heads, both in books and on tape. Disney was the monopolizing company in what was put into the mind of young girls as far as film is concerned. The messages behind the films especially are what we recognized as the mainstream movie media. As for the boys, I’m sure you all know the stories and watched some of the movies, but maybe you didn’t (or maybe you did) take the stories to heart. It’s the impressionism that took upon young kids when watching these movies that’s important. What messages were represented, and how? How are the messages compared to post-modern films that relay a similar storyline?

Hassan states, “I believe it is a revenant, the return of the irrepressible; every time we are rid of it, its ghost rises back. And like a ghost, it eludes definition…I mean postmodernism to refer to the cultural sphere, especially literature, philosophy, and the various arts, including architecture…” I feel as though these films based upon fairy tales can’t be squashed. It’s something that keeps coming back every few years. Whether it’s with one of the Disney Princesses, a film more focused on an evil character in one of these tales, or developing a plot twist, it all relates back to the original storyline, gaining much of it’s plot from original sources many years ago. Two examples in which I feel embody post-modern attitude is the film, “Mirror Mirror,” a spin off of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and “A Cinderella Story,” a spin off of Cinderella. In essence they are a similar performances of the originals, but with modern touches.

Along with Hassan’s theory that post-modernism is a return of the irrepressible, Jameson mentions a specific idea in his theories called Pastiche. He believes post-modernism is a new type of social life and economic order, and pastiche is the theory that all there’s left to imitate are dead styles in the imaginary museum. What I interpret this as, relates to Hassan’s idea that the ghost rises back – just like the plots of these films. He also mentions nostalgia film, which also ties into the fact that many post-modernist film-works are built upon nostalgia, which applies in this case.

Mirror Mirror takes upon new ideas within the film but sticks to the basic story line (after the death of Snow White’s father, she is forced to live with her evil step mother, who tells her to run for her life through the woods in order to escape death because Snow White was becoming too pretty – magic mirror and huntsman included). Mirror Mirror embodies more of a modern approach with it’s humor and woman empowerment. Snow White is more of her own hero, and even saves the prince from being under a spell, not vice versa like in the original film. Furthermore, animation, costume design, real people, and underlying messages are all different (and quite new) compared to the 1937 film. It’s a hybridized and mixed attempt at a new film accentuating different messages and using modern technology while keeping the plot and design in tact. Furthermore, the music is modern but captures a sound of long ago, almost medieval.

A Cinderella Story is also a film that represents the general plot of Cinderella, but incorporates hybrid and more modern techniques(i.e. the setting is a high school instead of just a home, and the “ball” is homecoming, etc.). It is put in a more modern light in order for young girls to understand the story in a way that could be represented in the present time. Similar to Mirror Mirror, the plot is derived from the past, yet the ideas within the film and the “art” used (music, setting, time, costumes, humor) are all post-modern. Furthermore, just like Mirror Mirror, there are messages within the film that represent more technological realizations as well as the promotion of feminism. Just like the times, the bold messages are changing. Socio-economic and historical representations of gender, class, and race are all in a post-modern shift.

Bourriaud’s work mentions that, “By refilming a movie shot by shot, we represent something other than what was dealt with in the original work. We show the time that has passed, but above all we manifest a capacity to evolve among signs to inhabit them.” This is the perfect depiction of what has happened among fairy tale stories today in the post-modernist era. Prior and contemporary relationships are hybridized and mixed in order to get an outcome that will appeal to audiences today, especially in film. It’s all about the entertainment, yet the ideas are solidly rooted in the eras previous to it.

In essence, between Hassan, Jameson, and Bourriad, I have interpreted that art and film of fairy tales is something nostalgic from the past that we choose to represent in a different light to appeal to modern audiences. Today and in the future, this will include technological advancements within the making of the film, as well as representations within it (i.e. social media in “A Cinderella Story”), as well as post-modernist views of society (race, gender, class, etc.). This hybridization of messages and work full-heartedly represents post-modernism.

“Since the early nineties, an ever increasing number of artworks have been created on the basis of preexisting works; more and more artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or use works made by others or available cultural products. This art of postproduction seems to respond to the proliferating chaos of global culture in the information age, which is characterized by an increase in the supply of works and the art world’s annexation of forms ignored or disdained until now. what is clear is that today certain elements and principles are reemerging as themes and are suddenly at the forefront, to the point of constituting the “engine” of new artistic practices” (Bourriaud).

 

Works Cited

Bacchilega, Christina. “Postmodern Fairy Tales: Gender and Narrative Strategies.”Google Books. N.p., 1997. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://books.google.com/books?id=RwAbsnP8F5sC&pg=PA142&lpg=PA142&dq=a+cinderella+story+postmodernism&source=bl&ots=XwYgl3kYYt&sig=Gcs_5pNR90VSSpMQJldOSy4Yv0M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6u7mUtSmEKe72wW0yYHQDQ&ved=0CCMQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=a%20cinderella%20story%20postmodernism&f=false>.

“Hayley’s Horror Reviews.” Hayleys Horror Reviews. N.p., 2012. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/the-post-modern-fairytale-of-them-all-a-review-of-mirror-mirror-2012/>.

Ihab Hassan, “Postmodernism to Postmodernity?” and “Toward a Concept of Postmodernism” (excerpt from his book, The Postmodern Turn [1987])

Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society.” From E. Ann Kaplan, ed. Postmodernism and its Discontents (London and New York: Verso, 1988): 13-29. His first statement of the argument that appears in his Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.

Nicholas Bourriaud: An art historian and museum curator’s interpretation of “post-postmodern” art. Remix Culture as Altermodern (his exhibition at the Tate Britain, London): Bourriaud, “Altermodern Explained: A Manifesto” and Video Interview.

Nicholas Bourriaud, Postproduction (2002). (excerpts, read Introduction and last chapter, “Use of the World.”).

Transitioning to Post-Postmodernism: A Look at Twitter & Airbnb

Emily Rothkopf

If postmodernism was a rejection of societal absolute truths, perhaps post-postmodernism, or whatever the era will be dubbed, is about creating our own truths.  Many have come to terms with the fact that capitalism and the American Dream, organized religion and centralized government are not all they’re cracked up to be.  And while society continues to critique and remix modernist ideologies in media and the arts, the pessimism and cynicism prevailing in Gen X and Y have gotten a bit tired.  With advances in technology, and thereby increased access to information and a participatory culture, we may be evolving towards a new ideal of finding our own way, creating our own personalized (yet interconnected) experiences, and ultimately self-transcendence.  Millennials and those adhering to this new ideal seem to be more optimistic despite holding the same rejections of postmodernism – even more so with the recent recession and humbling job market.  With a multitude of new social media outlets, such as Twitter, and consumer-controlled web-based companies like Airbnb, society is transitioning to becoming even more decentralized yet with a cohesiveness and burgeoning enthusiasm.

“You click, you punch the keys, you are ‘involved’, engulfed, deciding … You are free: you are the text: the text is superseded,” (Kirby 2006).

Social media sites have reshaped contemporary culture in unimaginable ways, arguably none more so than Twitter, which currently has almost 650 million active accounts worldwide (Twitter 2014).  Twitter allows users to interact with corporations, media outlets, pop-culture icons, etc., in ways that cannot be ignored and are in fact encouraged.  A “tweeter” can vehemently express a customer service issue inciting a rapid negative word-of-mouth campaign or alternatively get instant access to a customer service rep to resolve the issue.  One can have his/her opinion read live, on-air during a news segment via Twitter.  And if desired, a fan can interact with his/her favorite musician, actor or writer on Twitter, without any bodyguards or hierarchies blocking the way.  Where postmodernism positioned contemporary culture as a spectacle in which the consumer sat powerless (Kirby 2006), post-postmodernism employs technology to render the consumer connected, participatory and influential.

“At pivotal moments throughout history, technological innovation triggers massive social and cultural transformation… unrelated developments, which had been gradually unfolding for years, suddenly converge to create changes that are as disruptive as they are creative,” (Taylor 2001).

With web-based, industry-altering companies like Airbnb, consumers literally control their own destinies.  Airbnb is an online platform allowing individuals to list or book unique and often competitively priced, residential accommodations around the world.  In 2013, Airbnb reported to have doubled its listings to 300,000 globally and served more than 4 million guests – statistics that put it in the ranks with top hoteliers like InterContinental Hotels Group and Hilton Worldwide (Pelletier 2014).  As an Airbnb skeptic turned “host,” I can attest to the revolutionary qualities of the service.  I am not only overwhelmed by the number of quality inquiries I have gotten, but also amazed at the ease of use and control each individual has in the process.  “Guests” get personal and localized interaction in contrast to the depersonalized, often sterile bureaucracy of a standard hotel.  Moreover, it’s typically a win-win for both host and guest money-wise.  As philosopher Mark Taylor speaks to in his commentary on the emerging network culture, I believe Airbnb is lending itself to one of those pivotal moments in history that could not only uproot the hotel industry, but also other similarly traditional and centralized industries.

“…we need to cultivate a keener, livelier, more dialogical sense of ourselves in relation to the diverse cultures, diverse natures, the whole universe itself,” (Hassan 2014).

What Twitter and Airbnb exemplify is decentralization at its finest.  Consumers are in control of their experiences and are connecting with others in ways that are both creative and progressive.  This provides a sense of optimism in that there are better means to an end and technology will continue to enhance and improve upon those means.  While we are still a long way away from achieving the spiritual project of postmodernity that philosopher Ihab Hassan describes, the interconnectedness seems to be leading us down a path towards self-transcendence.  And perhaps post-postmodernism will be considered a monumental stepping stone in that societal, spiritual journey.  For now, it will remain as a state of transition.

 

Works Cited

Hassan, Ihab. “From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context.” From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Kirby, Alan. “The Death of Postmodernism and Beyond.” Philosophy Now. 2006. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Pelletier, Sue. “Is Airbnb Becoming a Threat to Your Room Block?” Meetings Net Home Page. 7 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

Taylor, Mark C. “An Excerpt from The Moment of Complexity – Emerging Network Culture.”University of Chicago Press. 2001. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.

“Twitter Statistics.” Statistic Brain RSS. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.

Kogi Korean BBQ, “postmodernism” and “postmodernity”

Layan Jawdat

For this week’s discussion of “postmodernism” I would like to turn to food as a possible illustration of “postmodern” culture. Ihab Hassan’s “From Postmodernism to Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context” maintains a distinction between postmodernism and postmodernity. The development of certain foods and cuisines today, I think, is an interesting case study for looking at these conceptions of postmodernism and postmodernity, which refer to the cultural sphere and geopolitics respectively.

One example of a food culture that comes to mind when thinking through “postmodernism” and “postmodernity” is the phenomenon of Kogi Korean BBQ food trucks in Los Angeles, which I learned about on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” in which he explores Koreatown in LA, and its history and cuisine. The food truck–itself a mixing of “high” and “low” culture, if you consider the cuisine to be high culture, and its serving, price and transportation to be for the “masses”–also mixes Korean tastes and dishes with the Mexican taco. This is an illustration of Jameson’s conception of postmodernism in “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” particularly his description of architecture: “the effacement in them of the older (essentially high-modernist) frontier between high culture and so-called mass or commercial culture, and the emergence of new kinds of texts”(Jameson 2). In terms of the geopolitical term “postmodernity,” enumerated by Hassan, Kogi Korean BBQ illustrates both “globalization and localization” (Hassan 3): Korean food traditions are mixed with the food traditions of Mexicans,  a more established immigrant group in LA. The Korean taco therefore represents local LA culture, itself a mix of various groups and traditions from all over the world.

Considering food traditions and contemporary combinations of cuisines is a really interesting way of thinking through some of these ideas related to culture, “postmodernism,” and “postmodernity” . Food is so central to culture, and often contested among nationalities and other cultural or ethnic groups: to whom does hummus belong, for example, and who makes it best? Do these arguments even make sense anymore?  Homi Bhabha’s discussion of postmodern mixing up of the binary logic of otherness in the Introduction to “The Location of Culture” is another interesting perspective from which we can consider food traditions and their (increasingly shaky) ties to identity, national culture, and their ties to “postmodern” and “postmodernist concepts of remix and re-appropriation.

 

Works Cited

“About Kogi.” Kogi BBQ Taco Truck Catering. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Bhabha, Homi K. “Border Lives: The Art of the Present.” Introduction. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, 1994. N. pag. Stanford Presidential Lectures. Stanford University. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Hassan, Ihab. “From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context.” From Postmodernism To Postmodernity: The Local/Global Context. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Jameson, Frederic. “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” American Studies at the University of Virginia. University of Virginia, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.

Wheeler, Carolynne. “Hummus Food Fight between Lebanon and Israel.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 11 Oct. 2008. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.