Tuesday, 29 June 2010

"Life on Mars," Series 1, Episode 2 essay task on postmodernism

 Transition class from AS to A2

Prepare by writing notes for this essay question.
In what ways is Life on Mars a post modern TV drama?
You can watch the first part of the episode again by clicking this link
Find the others so you can fill out your notes further.

Pick up the final intertextual references and contrasts between the reality of 1973 and 2006 in this last part of the episode. Use the info. below to help you make notes and points. ( The 1968 film, The Good, The Bad and Ugly and the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. Why are these references there? What meanings do they add to "Life On Mars" or it characters?)
CLICK HERE for the link to the end of this episode.

Essay Task: how do audiences react to this post modern TV drama?
As you watch the second episode of Life On Mars (2006)  pause sometimes so you can write notes on the following points:

How is reality represented?
1. What is real and what is hyperrealHow does the programme suggest Sam Tyler may be dreaming up the early 1970s while in a coma from his hospital bed? How does the programme show that this may just be an immersive dream?

2. Intertextuality Can you identify references to other texts/programmes/music from the past: the 1970s buddy cop shows, The Sweeney (UK) and Starsky and Hutch (USA). When you spot or hear an intertextual or cultural reference try to explain how to adds meaning to your text.

3. The historical context - How the programme’ meaning(s) for our time comes out of being set in the past. Consider the issues of Sam Tyler’s identity and his political correctness from 2006 and how this clashes in particular with Gene Hunt. Consider also how Sam's ethics and police methods clash with Gene Hunt's: a scientific approach verses instinct.

How does the programme consciously show politically incorrect behaviour and attitudes for audiences to judge them in our time:

• racism

• sexism including the treatment of women

• homophobia and masculinity

• inappropriate language/terms

• smoking

• drinking

• swearing

• references to people from our time ( in some episodes)

• ideology ( out of place beliefs )

• violence

• driving

• police behaviour and other inappropriate behaviour

• your ideas

4. How useful are technical forms of representation for understanding this “text” as postmodern? (Camerawork, mise-en-scene, editing, lighting, etc.) For example, Gene Hunt’s POV shot of the female witness with the close up of her chest.
Here is just ONE of the intertextual links that you might easily miss. The main villain, Kim Trent, triumphantly whistles "Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" (1967) as he leaves the police station. Listen to the song's lyrics and consider why. Identify other intertextual references and think about the meaning(s) that they add to the episode.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Difference Between Modernism and Postmodernism

A challenging read for beginners - but worthwhile.
The difference between modernism and postmodernism

Here's and explanation of post modernism with images from Metapedia

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Key Terms Media Studies Quiz

Drag the term to its explanation ( or vice-versa ) to make it disappear.

Quiz 1 Key Terms Quiz
Quiz 2 for Textual Analysis
Quiz 3 Postmodernism (Too tough for beginners!)

A comedian's view of postmodernism

Postmodernists reject any notion of grand "truth",  such as say belief in God or the narratives associated with God. Similarly,  the idea or narrative that science is going to improve our lives is rejected also. Indeed any grand narratives are held suspect. For postmodernists "truth", if it exists at all, is all relative and may only be found in little stories or micro narratives and experiences of ordinary people and those living on society's fringe. No one religion has the answer as each faith group has its own beliefs - and "may" have some "truth" on its side. The main French theorist who advances this idea is Jean-Francois Lyotard (1924-1998).

Of course, you do not need to believe in any of this, as this comedian makes clear. And in any case, to argue that there can be no "truth" is somewhat contradictory as one is trying to advance a grand "truth" that there is no "truth"!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Revision for the post modern media

                 Don Draper's "Carousel" pitch to Kodak on "The Wheel".

This is the chief examiner's advice on how to write an an exam answer. It's for "Media In The Online Age" but the approach is transferable. Note also his advice for question 1b for the five areas.
  • Audience
  • Narrative
  • Genre
  • Representation
  • Media Language

Most of you did this in class, but there were a few absences. It is certainly easier to argue that the texts you studied are post modern rather than being not. However you still need to be aware of counter arguments: it has all been done before and the arguments are not new - Plato's "Allegory of the cave" (see the earlier post) and arguments from other websites on this page:
 and on this one:

What you need to revise to write about in the exam ( if you answer on post modern media )
Each of the four texts we studied in class lend themselves to being labelled "post modern" in different ways. Sometimes these ways overlap, sometimes, not. For revision you should use the key concept guides you have been given for key terms and your own notes and understanding to help you create a table which identifies four or five key, post modern features of each text. Then be able to ARGUE FOUR detailed examples from at least TWO selected areas in the examRemember that you will only have to answer on two post modern media texts and not all four! 

You studied advertising, AMC's TV drama,  Rockstar Leeds's video game GTA IV and from film, Paramount's The Truman Show (1998)

As an alternative, Dave did "Contemporary Media Regulation" with you. The post modern media texts that you studied with me were:

  • TV drama - AMC's Mad Men 2007-2009 (Mostly early episodes from the first series).
  • Video games - focusing mainly on Grand Theft Auto IV
  • Advertising - The Cadbury's Gorilla and Sony's TV adverts
  • Film - The Truman Show (1998); some of you also worked on Fight Club and The Matrix (1999)
Go over the key concept glossaries that you have been given so you can identify the ways in which each text can be identified as post modern.  For instance, "Mad Men"'s  opening sequence has extensive intertextual references that provide plenty of post modern food for thought. Go over your notes on this and watch it again. Freeze frame it to make detailed notes. You should also use Check out You Tube for key clips from Series One: good ones are The Kodak scene in episode 12 on nostalgia and an earlier episode in which Don Draper takes identity tag from a dead officer in the Korean war - and later lives a new life as this man. The programme's non linear narrative is notable post modern feature. Historical events, attitudes and behaviour  are filtered through fictional characters for whom few people can have sympathy. See this post:

 Click on this link to see Jefferson Robbins' brief, but excellent video essay on the programme at    It's great for how the programme blurs genre boundries between TV and the Cinema ( another post modern feature ) and for the show's 'visual grammar' and how historical and intertextual/filmic influences and references were assimilated into this TV drama.
Don and Betty Draper try out "Connie" Hilton's hotel in Rome (Series 3)

The programme has also been pastiched and parodied extensively on the Internet, examples of which can be found on You Tube. Consider also the motifs within the programme which are also post modern: the characters' names, i.e. Don and Betty Draper. Don has draped a new identify over his old one as Dick Whitman and Betty Draper once modeled clothes in Italy.  Identity is a key issue for post modern media. It could be argued that when we immerse ourselves in in the spaces found in video games we usually lose our identity and assume that of another. ( An avatar.) There again, when people immerse themselves on the hyperreal world of the Internet they also lose track of time and what we take as the "real world".

Go over all the post modern posts on this blog as you will get reminders and prompts from several posts on each area studied to help you with your arguments.

Don't forget to revise the main theorists and know how you can apply their arguments to the texts that you have studied! (Baudrillard and Lyotard) You might even look up Guy Debord as well as his ideas on "Spectacle" were very similar to Baudrillard's for simulacra.

Dave has sent you revision material by post for the five areas in which you could be expected evaluate your productions from AS and A2. You will find information for Todorov on this site.

This is a link to  generic questions for this part of the paper:

All the best for the exam

Friday, 11 June 2010

"Mad Men": postmodernism and history

In Series 3 Sally's grandfather lets her drive around the neighbourhood!

This post is about an area I forgot to mention during the revision of our post modern media texts.

Several but not all post modern texts draw their meaning from real historical events, together with nostalgia. In literature texts that filter real events through fictional characters' lives are called historiographical fiction. "Mad Men" draws much of its meaning for audiences from real historical events as well as attitudes and behaviour from nearly fifty years ago.

Real events such as the death of Marilyn Monroe, the Cuban  missile crisis of 1962 and the assassination of President Kennedy are filtered through characters' lives and experiences.

Prejudices, behaviours and attitudes are also presented in such a way that modern audiences would find them surprising and perhaps, even callous. Visit You Tube for a range of clips from "Mad Men" in which the following attitudes and behaviours are revealed through characters's lives:
  • Smoking ( pre the health warnng period of our time )
  • Drinking to excesss. Again, pre our concerns with units, etc.
  • Drinking during pregnancy: Betty Draper smokes and drinks her way through her pregnancy for her third child in series three.
  • Sexism and male and sometimes female attitudes towards roles in the workplace, promotion and pay.
  • Attitudes towards children and their safety. Betty Draper is more concerned with her children not creasing freshly dry cleaned clothes than running around wearing the plastic covers for those clothes!
  • Homosexuality and the descrimination and hypocricy practiced against gay people during the 1960s
  • False liberal attitudes: in series 3 Betty thinks people are not ready for equality for black people in 1963!  Paul Kinsey thinks he is a liberal but does not really practice what he speaks.
  • Several characters show no concern for the environment. In an episode in Series One Betty Draper casually throws away rubbish after a picnic in a park by flapping it away from a picnic blanket.
  • There are lots of others!
Of course, all kinds of intertextual references have their own historical and cultural origins which audience either get, if they are either old or savvy enough or they do not. There are also several parodies and pastiches of the programme on You Tube which make fun of the characters's attitudes towards these issues.