Unit 4: Post-modernism


In our last unit, students play with notion of film truth. Postmodern film demonstrates not only the reversal of traditional binaries that privileged fact over fiction, but we see in the genre of the mocumentary a deconstruction of the distinction between truth and artifice itself. In this award-winning film, students document our annual fundraiser, participating as actors in the film they create, blurring the real with the ridiculous. Corechella argues that the technology of filmmaking disturbs its own ability to capture, much less record or depict, an objective world.


Many postmodern artists and authors combined (or “pasted”) elements of previous genres and styles to create a new artistic voice. In film, we may see several different styles merge inexplicably to create a single work. Quentin Tarantino’s films often typify this idea; in Pulp Fiction, for example, assassins from the 1970’s step out of his other films (that are themselves created from sourceless stereotypical depictions) to take a 1990’s mob boss’ wife to dinner in a 1950’s tribute restaurant, before going back to her place to listen to her 1960’s stereo equipment! This aesthetic expression of postmodernism is pastiche, a vibrant patchwork of styles and references that come together as a new experience. In Postmodern Times, students play with this idea, setting Charlie Chaplain in a very modern dilemma: getting into college.


One major tenet of postmodern thought holds that our identities are not fixed or the expression of some internal set of qualities: either mental or biological. Rather, our identities are constructions of contingencies and linguistic descriptions. These descriptions come at us from every possible direction: the media, our friends, families, etc. Dominant descriptions are also never fixed; rather, meanings are all ready, always in flux, ever-shifting, and dependent on the dominant discourse of the moment. In Product, one student is forced to realize that he is nothing more than a collection of descriptions and external influences.