From Megan Fox and cars to Judd Apatow's movies, it seems like anything and everything can pass for postmodern these days. Chris Daley weighs in on the abuse of the use of the term "postmodern" in mainstream media: "When the term “postmodern” is used in major international publications, does it bear any relation to its theoretical roots, or has it been hijacked as yet another hot, empty signifier, like 'iconic' or 'staycation'?"
And Daley should know what she's talking about, as she "pays hundreds of dollars a month in student loans for a degree that certifies she has studied postmodernism extensively ." Ah, the indignation of the Comparative Lit major.
Daley gives us a few things to consider about the term postmodern:
1. It was first used as early as the 1870s, but theorists Jean-François Lyotard and Frederic Jameson are generally credited with making the term "postmodern" popular.
2. When used in an academic setting, “postmodern” usually refers to a sense of style featuring “disjunction or deliberate confusion, irony, playfulness, reflexivity, a kind of cool detachment, a deliberate foregrounding of constructedness, a suspicion concerning neat or easy conclusions.”
3. Postmodernism is more concerned with process than product. This can be seen in the meta “[blank] about [blank]” construction that often identifies the “postmodern”: art about art, writing about writing, architecture about architecture, etc.
It seems like postmodern is the go-to term when you're not sure what else to say but you want to sound smart. I.e., the actress Megan Fox describes her next project, a film written by Juno's Diablo Cody, as "really dark” because Cody’s “like a postmodern feminist or whatever.” Since nobody's really sure what it means anyway, you're free to use it. Ta-dah. Instant smartness.
Elsewhere in the L.A. Times, to ensure that you know what you're talking about when you're blinding us with jargon, they've prepared a list of 61 essential postmodern reads. It comes with a cheat sheet of qualities that pomo writing has.
The list includes David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest (Yep, pomo, that one) but also Shakespeare's Hamlet and Tristram Shandy, which again leads us to ask: How can a text written before the modern period ever be postmodern? (And a tangentially related question: How can anyone say that one of the things they're looking for in a date is "He must be postmodern?" But then again, maybe this is a gay guy thing.) What the hell does that mean? This is why Postmodernism (and I'm tempted to say "and everything connected with theory") is the Root of All Evil.