I have been thinking a lot about how parody as a postmodern tactic can cause audiences to take a critical look at some of the readily accepted norms and mores presented to them. My initial reaction in thinking about parody is that it may have outgrown its original purpose. Perhaps parody is such a common occurrence that its potency is diminished and rather than seeing the parody for the issue presented, it is instead seen as a venue for comedy rather than informative comedy.
I think there could be some ground to this. For example, I doubt that many people watch the Colbert Report to gain actually useful insights into the political world. Colbert (though very funny) promotes such a strong character that parodies a right-wing pundit, that the valuse in watching seems to be seeing him be overtly ridiculous. But the more I got to thinking about it (and in doing some reading for my 467 class) we take lessons from parody in more places that political news shows. South Park went through a huge revamp after season 4, moving plot line focus from Kenny dieing in every episode to the protagonists engaging current social and political issues. Their heavy parodying of issues such as scientology and the aftermath of the Obama/McCain election enable audiences to look at issues in a reframed context. I suppose that that is important too in parody, that what is presented isn’t a single counterpoint, but rather a single one that can be shown. Either way, I think that post-modern attitude that parody tries to convey is creating an informed and questioning audience member.
I also thought hyperreality was kind of interesting because I didn’t realize that I too would more readily accept something as reality if it is presented with amateurish reporting and camera motion. I think though that even if we could assume that what we were seeing was “real,” what is being shown would still be subjective to the bias of the videographer and the reporter who frame the event through their words, tone, and portrayal of the event taking place. I am reminded of a report of Bush telling a foreign leader that God wanted him to fight the war in Iraq. A photo was provided of Bush cupping his ear and looking into space. The report framed Bush as insane, when they could have framed him completely different. I do not recall which leader Bush spoke to, but in some cultures, it is customary to fight a battle as a part of God’s work or at the behest of God. Bush could merely have been appealing to that leader and their culture. The photo was also likely placed out of context and supported the illusion that the reporter wanted to impress upon the audience.
In Convergence Cultures, Henry Jenkins discusses how old and new medias are interacting and finding new use within our culture. As new and old medias mix and groups find new uses for these medias, it is only natural that culture will be affected as well. Jenkins discusses examples of this in his book.
I thought that Jenkins had some good ideas about the future of transmedia story-telling using the Matrix. No I won’t babble on in this blog about the Matrix, mainly because I believe that this film and its corresponding media are not the first in new media to present a transmedia narrative. Jenkins pointed out of course that transmedia narration or storytelling is not a new concept as stories such as the Odyssey have been told and retold through print, but also stained-glass windows, tapestries, and paintings. But if we are going to give a new media credit for being the main trunk off of which the branches of transmedia have grown, I think that videogames are another example worth considering. Video games represent Jenkins’ idea of growing a world for a narrative to take place. Consider Final Fantasy VII. Final Fantasy VII shares roots in previous Final Fantasy games not because it uses the same protagonists and antagonists or has the same geographic world, but because it builds on previous traditions and knowledge established by games in the franchise. For example, people who play the Final Fantasy games know that the crystal or crystals (when there are multiple there are four) are sources of life, the behemoth is a strong monster, and if you have less than 1,000 hit point, you should avoid Cactaurs. But with even less subtlety, Final Fantasy VII has grown its world again and again. Final Fantasy VII has spawned three additional video games, not necessarily sequels or prequels, an anime, books, a full length CGI movie, and other forms which have built the world. I think that video games are different in comparison to films such as the Matrix or Star Wars in that the core of the franchise or world built, Final Fantasy VII, requires characters to traverse the world completely before completing the game. Before finishing the game every nook and cranny designed into the game will likely be explored, every NPC of the world will be spoken to multiple times, and every antagonist will have been given a thorough thrashing. So while a film may start with a small in-depth look at a geographic are of a world and then build to a look at the larger world, a video game may begin with a look at the larger world and then use the idea of a transmedia to grow the world into a deeper more layered place by looking at specific locations and cultures.
I really enjoy the idea of transmedia, but do offer some criticism for critics like Roger Ebert who said that persons such as “Johnny Popcorn” will not care to engage in such a fragmented experience. I say that Ebert should consider that most of the main trunks of these medias can be enjoyed without understanding all of the branches that hang off of it. A transmedia experience does give audiences who want a more in-depth experience an opportunity to explore and understand that world on their own terms. It is a choice, not a necessity.
Postmodernism seems to be at the hear of use for converging medias, at least in the ways in which consumers assign meaning to the finished product. When Jenkins was talking about spinning, I couldn’t help but think of framing. In the Bush/Kerry debate where Bush has the infamous outburst, one media was used to frame another media. Even if it was a television media framing the television produced clip, extra meaning was added with the framing. To some, Bush showed his passion for an issue and that as president he would do what he believed rather than be bullied and hindered by rules. Others believed he showed impatience and a temper by ignoring these rules. Either way, the framing added altered the depiction of what was shown. Would Jenkins consider medias to be converging or spinning taking place when he discussed Jon Stewart’s appearance on Crossfire? In reflecting on that passage, I remembered seeing that exact incident. I read carefully in anticipation in seeing how Jenkins used his agency as a published author with his own book to frame the event. He described it truthfully as I remember it, but this left me with something else. Had Jenkins framed the incident in any sort of biased way, he would have lost that agency with me, and the rest of his book (granted that would only leave the conclusion) would have been viewed under an eye of extreme scrutiny. It kind of brings to light that the use of these technologies to form communities and make a difference can be done across new medias without a great deal of agency, but if not done correctly, agency will be lost, and the audience along with it.
- Crossing the Digital Divide
- Mouse pad rhetoric
- Sarah Palin rhetoric
- Chapter 9 Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture
- Convergence Culture
- Digitizing Race and the Matrix
- Modules in video games
- Weather channel
- Figure/ground, framing, and grids
- Grids, layers, hierarchy, transparency, modularity, patterns
- Readings on disability
- Rhetoric of Walls