Friday, 22 August 2014

Intertextuality and Post Modernism

Postmodernism can be defined as the collapse of distinction between the real and simulated and the blurring of boundaries between the physical world and its signification in society and culture. In a simplistic sense we could argue that early man’s use of smoke signals was a form of post-modernism. The relationship between what is being signified and what is actually meant is in this sense arbitrary i.e. only understood because of a common consensus on what symbols means not because there is any connection the form or pattern and meaning. In a more contemporary context post-modernism can be seen in the way in which media texts play with their own status
 and conventions. In this sense, they acknowledge the arbitrary nature of the meaning that is being communicated. 


The music video is often described as a ‘Post-Modern’ form, a slippery term which is often used to describe intertextuality., one of post-modernism’s more easily definable features. Broadly, if we see music promos as frequently drawing upon existing texts in order to spark recognition in the audience, we have a working definitions of intertextuality. Not all audiences will necessarily spot a reference and this need not significantly detract from their pleasure in the text itself, but greater pleasure might be derived by those who recognise the reference and feel flattered by this. Arguably, it also increases the audience’s engagement with, and attentiveness to the product, an important facility in a culture where so many images and narratives compete for our attention.

It is perhaps not surprising that so many music videos draw upon cinema as a starting point, since their directors are often film school graduates intending to move on into the film industry itself. From Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ (Mary Lambert, 1985), which drew on the song sequence, ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in Howard Hawk’s film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (USA, 1953) to 2Pac and Dr Dre’s California Love (Hype Williams, 1996), which referenced George Miller’s film ‘Mad Max’ (AU, 1979). There are obviously many more points of reference. TV is often a point of reference a swell, as in the ‘Beastie Boys’ spoof cop show title sequence for ‘Sabotage’ (Spike Jonze, 1994) or REM’s news-show parody ‘Bad Day’ (Tim Hope, 2003). Which videos can you refer to more recently that use intertextuality?

Visual referencing in video tends to come most frequently from cinema, fashion and art photography. Fashion sometimes takes the form of catwalk references and even sometimes uses supermodels, for example, ‘Freedom’ (David Fincher, 1990). Probably one of the most famous references to fashion and fashion photography (more specifically the fashion photographer Terence Donovan, 1986) is Robert Palmer’s music video ‘Addicted to Love’ (Terence Donovan, 1986), parodied many times  (e.g Shania Twain – ‘Man I Fell Like a Woman’) for its band of mannequin-style females.

John Stewart from the music video production company Oil Factory said of promos ‘The music video incorporates, raids and reconstructs’ which is essentially the definition of intertextuality. In essence, they use something in which the audience are familiar with to generate both nostalgic associations and new meanings. Stewart suspects that the influence of videogames on music videos, particularly for younger audiences, has generated more plasticised looking characters, for example, in Robbie William’s ‘Let Love Be Your Energy’ and the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s ‘Californication’.From Pete Fraser's Book on Music Videos for the BFI

Task: Select one music video and analyse intertextual references.  Post to your blog, linking video and also providing visual evidence of related texts.

1. What makes this MV post-modern?
2. Analyse intertextual references.
3. What impact do the intertextual references have on the audience?

Print off and add to Section A: Question 1a of your exam folder as intertextuality would apply to 'Conventions of real media products'

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